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What We Learned This Week: Watson on Technique, Von Wong on Promotion, and VII on Fake News

By David Schonauer   Thursday November 30, 2017


It was a week of insights at PPD:

We recently took note of a new book from Taschen called KAOS, which celebrates the illustrious career of photographer Albert Watson. At Dazed, meanwhile, Watson, a master of technique who has worked across almost every genre of photography, from portraiture, fashion, music, celebrity, still life, landscape, and architecture to advertising and fine art, made a surprising admission:

Learning the technical aspects of photography, he admitted, “was painful.”

“People say, ‘But you’re so fluent’, but it wasn’t like I loved it,” Watson said. “I was not one of these photographers where they love technical things. I was interested in the end product.” The key, he noted, was finding a balance between technique and vision.

“When I am talking to young photographers,” he said, “I have this analogy: When you first get into a car it seems impossible. You’ve got to look in your mirror, switch on, coordinate clutch and breaks, be aware of what’s behind you and what’s in front of you – so it seems absolutely impossible and just too difficult but if you want to drive, you’ve got to learn it.” Becoming fluent in the technical “makes it much easier for you to solve problems and to be able to work under different circumstances,” he added.

We found other kinds of insights at the YouTube channel of photographer and social-media star Chase Jarvis, who discussed brand-building with another photographer and social-media star, Benjamin Von Wong (below).

Jarvis and Von Wong offered three takeaways: 1. Put work into your portfolio that you’d like to be hired to do; 2. Create projects with a headline in mind; and 3. Design the life you want to have. What does that mean? “[F]ocus on what you want and design your life around that. If you love traveling, you can focus on that and build your career on travel photography. If you like being on social media, you can create the social media content. If you hate it, don’t try to become a social media influencer,” noted DIY Photography.

We also spotlighted insights by photographers from the VII agency, who took to Vantage  to answer questions about fake news as it relates to photojournalism. Photographers Anush Babajanyan, Ashley Gilbertson, Ed Kashi, Ilvy Njiokiktjien, Nichole Sobecki and John Stanmeyer offered thoughts about modern news coverage. “Unfortunately, these two relatively newly joined words, fake news, are being used by some to create a type of ‘us against them’ approach to foster division,” noted Stanmeyer.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1. Never-Seen Photos by Ryan McGinley


In collaboration with WeTransfer, New York Times Magazine Director of Photography Kathy Ryan combed through the archives of the noted photographer Ryan McGinley to curate a digital gallery  of fifteen previously unpublished images. McGinley, who, noted Feature Shoot, has been compared to a “confident, truant teenager,” shared details from his childhood in a discussion with Ryan. “I think the essence of where all my art comes from is rebellion,” McGinley says. “That’s the heartbeat of it.”


2. Bill Henson Investigates Mortality


Nineteenth-century German poet Friedrich Rückert’s grief-stricken verse about the death of his two children later inspired composer Gustav Mahler to write his song cycle “Kindertotenlieder.” Australian photographer Bill Henson was just 19 when he first heard the music, which, he says, made him start thinking about taking pictures. AnOther looked at Henson’s new book, Kindertotenlieder: Mahler, Henson, Rückert, which pays homage to the poet and composer while investigating mortality through haunting imagery.


3. College Classmates, Then and Now


In 2000, when the photographer Josephine Sittenfeld was a junior at Princeton University, she shot portraits of her classmates on medium-format film and, after exhibiting the prints on campus, consigned them to a closet in her parents’ home. As her 15th class reunion approached, Sittenfeld launched a new series, called “Reunion,” in which she has recreated the original photographs with her old classmates. The resulting then-and-now diptychs are both moody and satisfying, declared The New Yorker.


4. Dreams Captured on Light-Sensitive Paper


Photographer Vanessa Marsh’s series “Everywhere All at Once” is an elegy to the stars, noted Feature Shoot. Marsh creates the negatives for her dreamlike images of the night sky in the darkroom, carefully setting her own acetate drawings over photographic paper and exposing them to light for precise periods of time. She removes and replaces elements at just the right moment to create a make-believe foregrounds and backgrounds in an entirely two-dimensional world.


5.  Flea Market Photo of Billy the Kid May Be Worth Millions


At a flea market six years ago, a North Carolina lawyer named Frank Abrams paid $10 for a photo that experts now say shows Billy the Kid (second from left) relaxing with Pat Garrett, the man who would eventually kill him. The picture, noted The New York Times, could now be work millions. William Dunniway, a tintype expert, says the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. A similar tintype showing Billy the Kid playing croquet with friends was valued at around $5 million in 2015.
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At top: From Ryan McGinley

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