Three Years, Nine Hundred Posts
This is another of those tl;dr self-deprecating, self-congratulating posts.
Back in 2009 when I started this blog, I would have laughed if you told me I would still be updating this 3 years later. But not only that day has arrived, but another milestone — 900th post mark — is also just around the corner.
1. I am still single; some of my readers still racist; and I still receive ads for some mail-order Slavic brides, but a few things has changed since the last time I posted a sappy self-serving post. Now I tweet (although I have always called been a twat) and my email is posted on this site which leads to….
2. Some quite interesting emails. I have been invited to some photo galleries and conferences, asked to talk at a few, and offered a book-deal. I work full-time (65h+) so I am mostly unable to go, and as for the book-deal, I cannot imagine any profits after copyrights.
3. Last time I ranted about people inquiring to buy poster-sized photos off IP. They still inquire, but worse are other emails — including one from a lawyer of a wealthy collector — which ask me to hunt down who own whose copyrights. As romantic as the image of me wearing a homburg and a trench coat might be, I am not running a detective agency out of IP. But creme de la creme was that one where a high-school student asks me to do (not help with, but do) his school project.
4. In these three years, I have become more introspective, and consequently I have asked myself a few times that why I blog — especially in those dreary rainy days. Perhaps it was because collective wisdom of internet was often dubious. Initially it was because no one site has thorough analysis I wanted in an age where you can find anything scattered about online. Since then, many magazines have made great effort towards archiving photojournalism, making my retiring easier when that comes. Especially throughout last year, I seriously considered giving Iconic Photos up finally, although a famous photographer’s death would always draw me back in — partly because of some incompetence and penny-pinching refusal to re-publish the deadman’s photos by most media these days. Blogging is like me trying to give up smoking — not so easy to quit, easy to relapse.
5. History today is visual, and careless use of photos is all the more lamentable because of that. I see mislabeled, misattributed photos in textbooks and magazines all the time. Copyeditors are fired when there are many factual and typographic errors but with photos, editors don’t know better, and the reading public doesn’t know better either. That makes me sad, and makes lives of photomanipulators and propagandists so much easier.
6. Another attack towards sanity comes from armchair history books such as Collapse and Why Nations Fail — the latter being the flavor du jour of the faux intelligentsia. I’m fine with people reading such simplified versions of history, and of making equally tenuous assertions and bending the long arc of history to suit my own hypotheses, this blog is oft guilty, but when Harvard or MIT professors start doing that, it spells trouble.
7. Tweeting often makes me first to respond to many photography stories, but the proudest I was was when I published a year in photography review a day ahead of TIME magazine. Take that.
8. On copyrights, that perennial thorn, I just want to say this: when this site was smaller, no one cared, but now, I have to (a little). Now, I am doubly careful when I post about living-photographers, but I am not going to change my postings because of it. While I can’t say I approve of all hacktivism going around, and I will be the last person to support incoherent psuedo-intellectual justifications for either side of the copyrights issue, I embrace the fact that internet remains an anarchic place. And, I don’t know whether this will come out as arrogant or not but I believe IP does some photographers service by introducing their work to people who would not otherwise know about them.
9. Like all great stories, this one is perhaps apocryphal: an English literature professor getting fired because he admitted that he had never read Hamlet. I had a moment like that a few weeks ago when I admitted that I have never heard of Robert Frank until six months into this blog. People were mildly surprised, and some asked what my qualifications are for blogging here when I haven’t heard of Frank before. Snobbery much? I recognize certain photos, without knowing their photographers — a condition I believe shared by a lot of people here.
10. I have said before that the best thing about this blog is the looks I got from friends (at times some girl I am trying to impress) when I say in a understated tone that a few thousand people read it everyday. In these three years, blogging has gone from nerdy to kinda passé, kinda cool (they: you are still doing what?). But the story I want to share was about a brag backfired spectacularly only last month — a hipster I was trying to impress took one look at the blog, and became quite unimpressed with the blog (presumably realizing that Iconic Photos are not made for Instragram or Pinterest generation) and with me by extension. I literally heard her thighs snapping shut.
Finally, I will leave you with these words of wisdom from Time magazine:
We hear it sometimes that photographs are losing their power. In a world where every other cell phone has a built in camera and and all the people you know just posted their summer vacations, their snow angels, and their tonsillectomies online, there are just too many pictures out there. Plus, those picures are so easily manipulated and photoshopped, how do you know when to trust them anymore? And anyway, we’ve seen it all before. You can almost believe all that, right up until that moment you come across one picture that speaks to you, the one that takes your imperfectly formed feelings and judgements and snaps everything, if you’ll excuse the expression, into focus.