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David F. Gallagher, one of the panelists in the upcoming Rhizome blogging event
, wears two hats: committed photoblogger
of his own punchy, artfully composed images (I linked to him
a few weeks back when discussing the artists "trashing" Terminal 5) and media journalist covering the controversies and mutations of the emergent blogosphere. If you knew about the schism between crazy right wing "warbloggers" and the rest of us, which became apparent when they got a book deal and we didn't, it's possible you first learned about it in an article of his in the New York Times
. Ditto the failed attempt by Warner Bros. to co-opt .mp3 bloggers
. As I mentioned earlier, the first appearance of the term "web log" in the Grey Lady was in an article of Gallagher's, on December 28, 2000.
Occasionally his interests converge, as in this Slate piece
on photoblogging. He invokes the image of cigar store owner Harvey Keitel taking daily random photos of the same section of city street in the movie Smoke
as a metaphor for the demotic, "anyone can do it" aspect of photoblogging. That definitely comes across, but I've often thought about what a novelistic contrivance Keitel's picturetaking was. Within the film's own logic, he has this slightly kooky personal hobby that just happens to resemble a rigorous conceptual art project. The purpose of the conceit--besides the obvious plot point of Keitel "accidentally" photographing William Hurt's late wife, and thus ending Hurt's period of grieving--was, I think, to present Brooklyn as a place so steeped in renegade art style that even the man on the street had internalized it.
Photoblogging, on the other hand, isn't local, or particularly bohemian--it's a worldwide, bottom-up phenomenon, where practitioners are as arty or as artless as they want, or have, to be. The conceptual element comes in deciding on the parameters of the blog (on the practitioner side) and what value
the practice has, on the consumer or curatorial side. Is the photoblog factual documentation or personal vision? At what point does a John Cagean interest in the aesthetics of random urban phenomena ("I am standing on this street corner shooting these buildings") intersect with the need for accurate images experienced by, say, a historian or a police investigator?
Photoblogging is photographing but it's also "databasing," and changing the subject slightly, I note that ex-Walker Art Center new media curator Steve Dietz has an exhibit
coming up on that subject, which looks to be the typical analytical, anecdote-driven new media event. My general beef
with such shows is that they privilege the rational over the intuitive. Instead of flouting viewer expectations, looking for disobedient, ecstatic, Dionysian uses of the computer, curators love to emphasize the data-crunching everyone already knows it does well. Whereas the more interesting story is how it's misused
as an art-making tool, in hiphop, "dirtstyle" web design, etc. Fortunately, at a certain point homegrown, tribal, "amateur"
efforts begin to overwhelm more earnest, grant-conscious, faux-sociological production. "Life finds a way," Sam Neill marvels in Jurassic Park
, on discovering mating dinosaurs in a supposedly sterile environment. And so does art.