Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I'm to London tonight. And after, Madrid, Rome, Cologne, Amsterdam and on to Paris for PARIS PHOTO. As always when I'm away there is little chance for me to make blog postings. Will be back in the digital saddle November 20 with lots to report!

DEVELOP Tube - a valuable photographic resource

DEVELOP Tube is an educational photographic resource which features interviews, profiles, lectures and films about photojournalism, documentary and fine art photography. You can browse DEVELOP Tube through the main Vimeo and YouTube channel pages as well as through its catalogue of albums containing videos, bios and web links to individual photographers and organizations.

There is a  carefully selected and growing content on both channels, with a combined catalogue of over 400 playlists and albums.

Well worth a look. Check it our here:
DEVELOP Tube on Vimeo / DEVELOP Tube on YouTube

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Alec Soth - The Ballard of Good and Bad Book Titles

Here is and old post from Alec Soth's archived blog. Posted in 2007, never a truer word has been said about the importance of great book titles.

Men might think about sex every seven seconds, but I think about project titles. There is no greater pleasure than lying on the couch, closing my eyes, and daydreaming about the perfect title.

I guess this isn’t much different from teenagers dreaming up names for their rock bands. While I suppose this sounds silly, I think it is actually worthwhile. Titles are important. When I review student work, one of the first questions I ask is “what is the title?” More often than not I’m met with no answer. This is remarkable. I’d have a hard time getting started on anything without having some sort of working title.

This need to wrap an idea in a few, well-chosen words isn’t limited to creative projects. I’m currently working with a non-profit organisation that is putting together a large event centered on creative responses to life-threatening illness and death. It is going to be a great night with some legendary dancers and storytellers. But we’ve struggled to find the right name for the event. For awhile the working title was “Dance with Death.” But it started to leave a bad taste in the mouth. For some it was too corny, for others too bleak. And we weren’t sure if it was good marketing. The producer of “Death of a Salesman” once said the play would have had a much longer run on Broadway if ‘Death’ wasn’t in the title.
Titles are important. They affect the way people read the work. Take Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. The title is so urgent and unexpected. Imagine if the book was just called ‘Downtown.’ I doubt we’d think of the book in the same way.
It is a shame when a great book gets a bad name. One of my favorites of the last few years was Jem Southam’s Landscape Stories. The title is generic and lifeless – just the opposite of his sensual and complicated pictures. (I much prefer the title of Southam’s latest book, The Painter’s Pool).
Sometimes photographers get corny. David Heath’s Dialogue With Solitude is an example. But I’d rather have a corny title than a boring one. I’m a sucker for DeCarava’s Sweet Flypaper of Life.
William Eggleston is the title champion. He has the trifecta with Eggleston’s Guide, The Democratic Forest and Los Alamos. I love them all in different ways. Eggleston’s Guide is funny and playful take on the generic author title (Diane Arbus by Diane Arbus). The Democratic Forest is good example of a title that suggests the photographic process (much better than Helen Levitt’s Ways of Seeing and Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment). Finally, Los Alamos is sly and subtle. The pictures were taken all over America, not just Los Alamos. But rather than using the generic adjective ‘American,’ Eggleston chose the name of the town where the atomic bomb was developed.

 One of my favorite recent books is Tim Davis’s My Life in Politics. What a great title – and what a relief he didn’t call it American Politics.
Ray’s A Laugh by Richard Billingham, Why Mister, Why by Geert van Kesteren, Yesterday’s Sandwich by Boris Mikhailov – these are titles that match the originality and excitement of the pictures inside. Great marketing? Perhaps not in the short term. But like Death of a Salesman, these titles burn into the brain over the course of time. Does anyone remember Eugene Richard’s book Americans We? What was it about? It might as well have been called Untitled (wait, that is another Arbus book). But then consider Richard’s recent monograph, The Fat Baby. If you are like me, you can instantly recall the whole thing – the weight of the book, the images and stories, the feeling.
I’m not suggesting that a title needs to be wordy and poetic. One of the most memorable titles is Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful. It’s so dumb that it is smart. It sticks.

The lineup of books above are all Steidl publications and among them is one of my favorite books, Paul Graham's A Shimmer of Possibility. A great book(s) and a great title, by a great photographer.