Photographing disaster is complicated. In her pivotal work, On Photography, Susan Sontag described it as ridden with shock value, numbing and almost touristic. Later in her career, in her final book Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag revisited these ideas, arguing that war photography, despite its problems, provided a necessary documentation for the world to see. Contemporary photography of natural disasters can be colored by similar problems, often with skepticism around the photographer’s gaze and intents. New York City based photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel confronted these issues when he flew to Puerto Rico in early December to make pictures of the destruction of his hometown paradise at the hands of Hurricane Maria. He transcends the clichés of disaster photography with his direct connection to those impacted, and his unconventional approach to visualizing it all.
A perfect snow day cliché: sitting by the fireplace with a nice cup of cocoa. Maybe a whiskey. Pajamas all day. Quality family time. Hygge AF. For artist and photographer John Pilson, however, being homebound during the northeast "bomb cyclone" storm meant a different kind of cabin fever. Pilson began finding hilarious and terrifyingly spot-on similarities between stills from The Shinning and photos from Donald Trump's life first year in office and created quick and dirty low-res mashups of them, which he's been posting on Instagram.
"These resemblances snowballed during a fit of snow day/cabin CNN fever," says Pilson. "My son and I had actually just watched John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is probably even MORE of a trenchant snowbound political allegory, but The Shining is the gift that keeps giving. I don’t know what to say about Instagram but it’s a good place for a bad case of pattern recognition.”
We are longtime fans of vernacular photography: the often strange and sometimes hilarious snapshot gems once intended to commemorate personal mementos, that are now often repurposed or collected for their unintentional artistry.
Humble's first online exhibition of 2018 will take this fascination a step further, with an appropriation-loving nod to DADA and the Pictures Generation of the 1970s and 1980s. Group Show #56: Source Material will look to artists who reimagine vernacular snapshot photography -- not just as something to collect or recontextualize, but as source material for new creations.
Cut, folded, torn, sewn, digitally altered or something else: whether it's one of your own family photos or something you've found with author unknown, we want to see your hand in the transformation process.
As images and video become a predominant tool of communication, it's often easy to let eyes glaze and live the old "1000 words" cliché. And as more and more "content creators" (rightfully) flood the internet, it can be difficult to keep up with significant photography and criticism. We Humble editors have been overwhelmed by the smart writing on photography this past year, from "a single paragraph on a single photograph" pieces to essays that unpack race and cultural construction in pictures, to in-depth interviews with accomplished but often under-recognized figures.
While we could likely populate this list with more than 100 stellar pieces of writing on photography, below are twelve of our favorites, in no particular order. If we're missing any that stood out for you, drop us a note in the comments.
XO - Humble editors
Robert E. Jackson has been collecting twentieth century American snapshots for decades, amassing more than 12,000 pictures. From photographic gems like unintentional visual decapitations to outer-space themed Christmas cards, Jackson's collection highlights the unique anonymity of his subjects. For years, Jackson was interested in only snapshots from the late 19th century to the middle of the 1970’s, but recently he has begun to collect 4 x 6 borderless snapshots. This format was popular from the late 1980’s to around 2007 and signaled the last generation of analog vernacular photography.