The Roundup for February 17-23, 2018 Edition

Midnight sunrise by Christopher Parsons

I find it really hard to identify the stories in my photographs, prior to actually pushing the shutter button. When I look through, say, my best photos of 2017 I can see which ones have stories embedded within them but it’s a pretty rare thing that I saw, and decided upon, the story before taking the shot. In part, I think that my challenges are linked to only taking my photography more seriously for a relatively short period of time.

But some of the difficulties I’m encountering are also linked with my still learning to take ‘technically’ good photos, after which I think I’ll be more comfortable with more ‘narrative’ style shots. And I want to get better at the latter because I take Martino Pietropoli‘s statement pretty seriously: “Good photos tell stories. Average photos are just beautiful.”

Pietropoli’s article is excellent, insofar as he spends the time to walk through not just the importance of building a story into a photograph but because he also shows examples. In choosing examples he doesn’t merely say ‘here are narrative photos’ but, instead, he spends the time to spell out some of the narratives which might be bundled up in the shots in question. For me, his article was a particularly clear and poignant way of thinking through what stories might be in any given shot, and also as a way to differentiate between what he identifies as narrative versus ‘merely’ beautiful shots.

If I have one critique of the article — and I think it’s pretty minor — it’s that there’s an assumption that someone understands how to take photographs competently, and using this basic competence they can take shots with story. Put another way: I think that a lot of the efforts to create popular stylistic shots are very helpful in teaching people how to use their cameras and lenses, and to think through the importance of framing. Does that mean the people may end up with a series of ‘generic’ skills that many other photographers can roughly approximate or precisely imitate? Absolutely. But just as it’s important to learn how to write the five paragraph essay before breaking into longer-form writing that breaks all the rules of that high school essay format, learning the high-school format in the first place is an important skill that leads to more advanced writing.

I think that spending time looking at Instagram or Flickr or other places which hold ‘beautiful’ images is entirely appropriate for those who are learning to take photographs, and take them seriously. But I also tend to agree with Pietropoli that a photographer must eventually come to a decision: will their photographic style focus principally on technically beautiful shots or, instead, try to engage with the world by evoking emotions and reactions linked to the stories contained in their photos.

New Apps and Great App Updates from this Week

  • Cypher – a puzzle game about the history of cryptography

Great Photography Shots

I was really impressed with a range of the shots which won in the 2017 International Photographer of the Year contest.

Wave Crashers’ by Emily Kaszton. First Place, Nature: Aerial (Professional).
‘Neon Desert’ by Stefano Gardel. International Fine Art Photographer of the Year
‘Battersea’ by Giulio Zanni. Second place, Open Category: Long Exposure (Amateur)
‘Untitled’ by Pedro Diaz Molins. Second place, Fine Art: Photomanipulation (Amateur)
‘Lighting Clothes’ by Ramon Vaquero. Third place, People:Fashion/Beauty (Professional)
‘Desert Essential’ by Giovanni Canclini. First place, Open Category: Open Theme (Amateur)

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week



It’s unseasonably warm out at the moment, which is causing an amazing amount of mist to form as snow and ice melt off. So rather than go home and have a meal — and I was starving! — I decided to haul my butt down to a series of light sculptures that have been installed by the waterfront. I had the place practically all to myself and after a few hours, and one dead battery, I’m finally on my way home. And I’m super jazzed that I took the time working my camera instead of eating and lounging around the house!


The Forgotten History of New York’s Bagel Famines

Natasha Frost haswritten a really great piece on the history of bagels in New York:

The men of Bagel Bakers Local 338 were not to be trifled with. Founded in the 1930s, all 300-odd initial members were Yiddish speakers who descended from these hardy early bakers. Joining required a family connection—though this wasn’t sufficient on its own. Only after three to six months of apprenticeship, once a “bench man” had attained a minimum rolling speed of 832 bagels an hour, could members’ sons and nephews be grudgingly brought into the fold and given labor cards.

But Local 338 was different. Bagels were acquiring a special cachet among Jewish Americans, and bakers grew wise to the value of their special skills. Within eight years of formation, the union had contracts with 36 of the largest bakeries in the city and New Jersey. They had a ferocious reputation—non-union bagel makers were few and far between, and the holdouts experienced threats and day-and-night picketing until they toed the line.

I had no idea just how political bagel making was, nor how significantly the union was brought to its knees following the creation of Thompson’s ‘bagel machine’ in the 1950s. If you love your morning bagels — and spend the time to hunt down places that still make them by hand — you’ll love the article that Frost has put together.