Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blogged Down

I was paging through a relatively new blog about photography the other day when I came upon this statement of the author’s method: “When blogging you go through a huge number of artist’s portfolios looking for content to post.” Really? It kind of struck me. But I guess that’s right, at least if you’ve got one of those blogs devoted to bringing the world the latest in contemporary photography.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I look at some of them myself. It's just that sometimes all those undifferentiated pictures are a little dispiriting. It’s what I imagine it must be like to live in Nebraska, with nothing to see but miles of corn punctuated by the occasional pig. Or cow. Or whatever they have. And the same is true of what passes for critical commentary. Like an endless loop of Home on the Range, where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the sky is never cloudy all day.

The problem, I suppose, is in the numbers. Think about the history of photography, or of the arts generally. How many interesting figures are there, looking back? Let’s go wild and say: five a year, on average, in any given art. So if you’ve got a blog on which you have to post five new portfolios every single week, it’s easy to see that at least some of it will not be of the very highest quality. An unsatisfactory situation made worse when there’s no real attempt to distinguish between what's good and what's not.

Is there an alternative? Well, consider a blog like Stacy Oborn’s The Space in Between. Ignoring the introductory incantation from Walter Benjamin - I can’t remember who posted recently about how off-putting Benjamin’s ubiquity is these days - you’ve got to love her post on Sophie Calle, in which she tells us in the very first paragraph that Calle “represents everything I maintain to be totally, totally wrong with photography and, by extension, the artworld-at-large.” Even if you disagree - and I do - at least it’s not more of the same old sycophantic shit. If only she hadn’t quoted Benjamin again at the end.

On the other hand, The Space in Between is a little difficult to get into, and is published only every other month, if then. So after you’ve read the current post, you’re back to the depressing thought that our insatiable desire for novelty and entertainment has probably given us just the blogosphere we deserve.