0xa8A3
December 10th, 2021

Why mint an NFT of a photograph? This question has bugged me all year. Even the moniker “NFT Photography” has bothered me – what does that mean? Is that categorization comparable to “Film Photography?” No, at least insofar as many NFT artists are concerned (as they’re minting images that were captured on film). And obviously it isn’t exclusive of “Digital Photography.” The photograph minted as an NFT isn’t produced by or on the blockchain. It merely exists there; it’s commensurate, in my mind, to a physical print. But in that context, it seems prima face insufficient for the aesthetic experience of an image. The physical dimensions of a photograph have always been an inseparable component of the artwork. A Gursky functions very differently in a gallery space than on your phone.

Andreas Gursky, Times Square, New York, 1997 / Chromogenic print / 6' 1 1/4" × 8' 2 5/8" (186 × 250.5 cm)
Andreas Gursky, Times Square, New York, 1997 / Chromogenic print / 6' 1 1/4" × 8' 2 5/8" (186 × 250.5 cm)
Andreas Gursky, Times Square, New York, 1997 / Viewed on my iPhone 13 Mini / 2.923" × 3.937" (7.425 × 10 cm)
Andreas Gursky, Times Square, New York, 1997 / Viewed on my iPhone 13 Mini / 2.923" × 3.937" (7.425 × 10 cm)

This of course applies to all images viewed digitally, whether in artistic, illustrative, journalistic, or any other context. The device used to view the image is part of the aesthetic experience of the image as object.

0xa8A3
September 16th, 2021

The timeline of human development is a spring. Sometimes the coil is more compressed.

My undergrad photography program, like most liberal art programs, was built on a structure emphasizing fundamentals as a first step along a path of cumulative experimentation–in intellectual development, in visual style, and in tools used. The cornerstone was analog: shooting black and white 35mm film, developing the negatives yourself, and making prints in the darkroom. Later years had time devoted to large format view cameras, lighting, studio setups–all the stuff that’s been around for 50-100 years–and, of course, digital capture, editing, and printing.

In my last two years at school a department-wide debate emerged: whether to still require incoming freshmen to learn the wet darkroom or let them go directly digital. For a lot of younger students it made no sense to grok a skill and set of equipment they didn’t want to use. For a lot of older students it made no sense to experiment at the cutting edge without appreciation for the art’s history. Faculty, who practiced in a wide range of media, seemed caught in the middle.

0xa8A3
September 16th, 2021

“Shelf of a field, green, within easy reach, the grass on it not yet high, papered with blue sky through which yellow has grown to make pure green, the surface colour of what the basin of the world contains, attendant field, shelf between sky and sea, fronted with a curtain of printed trees, friable at its edges, the corners of it rounded, answering the sun with heat, shelf on a wall through which from time to time a cuckoo is audible, shelf on which she keeps the invisible and intangible jars of her pleasure, field that I have always known, I am lying raised up on one elbow wondering whether in any direction I can see beyond where you stop. The wire around you is the horizon.”

From Field, by John Berger

I’ve spent countless hours this year clearing land. The property where we live in New York was owned for about 30 years by a couple that rarely used it, and they long ago stopped mowing the fields that used to be cattle pasture. Trees have marched forward from the edges of the woods. Most of them are pines that grow a foot taller every year. Because we’re working to re-establish a farm on the property, a lot of these young pines have to go.

Clearing land is slow work when done alone with simple tools. Becoming comfortable and familiar with the chainsaw was easy enough; the thrilling part is when you see the trunk begin to lean away from you ever so slightly and then quickly snap with a gutteral creak. Very slowly and then all at once. The hard part is cleaning up: removing each small limb, moving them into a pile to burn or chip, then bucking the larger limbs into shorter pieces that can be piled into or dragged behind the pickup. The slowness of the cleaning is characterized by a certain zen. The removal of a living thing from the land, for something new to grow, is bittersweet.

There are a few chores that continue to feel like chores. Re-baiting the mousetraps is one. Unfolded laundry another. Maybe they’re the chores that are most familiar from the pre-farm days. Over time even the chainsaw, even the tractor, will sit unused, I guess.