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.
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Combat Photographer's Last Photo a Resounding Media Failure
Author: Michael Shaw
Publication: Reading The Pictures
Date: May 9th, 2017
The skinny: Shaw pulls apart the cataclysmic last photograph of a U.S. Army photographer, Hilda Clayton, shot in 2013 during a joint U.S.-Afghan military training exercise, and the controversy that surrounded its publication.
Insider/Outsider: Photographing the Other
Author: Abbey Hepner
Publication: Strange Fire Collective
Date: October 19, 2017
The skinny: Hepner's excerpted essay examines what it means to be "inside" vs. "outside" as a photographer in analyzing critical texts by Linda Bolton and Ariella Azoulay. Arguing that photographers have both the power and responsibility to minimize harm to vulnerable, 'otherized' populations, Hepner adds to an evolving body of work that addresses the ethics of photographic practice.
Q+A with Karl Baden
Author: Blake Andrews
Publication: Blake Andrews' Blog
Date: April 6, 2017
The skinny: Widely appreciated and viewed as an influence, but perhaps not as much as he should be, Karl Baden has been making significant photography for decades, ranging from self-portraits over 30 years to "thermographs" and street photography that breaks all clichés. Blake Andrews' much much-needed interview with Baden covers his trajectory.
The History of Photography is a History of Shattered Glass
Author: Teju Cole
Publication: New York Times
Date: November 2017
The skinny: Starting with the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Teju Cole looks at the significance of "broken glass" as a recurring metaphor for how we experience historical tragedies. What imagery stays with us and shapes our memory of horrific events?
THE GREAT I AM. YOUR IPHONE PHOTOS ARE YOU
Author: Laura Mallonee
Date: June 29, 2017
The skinny: In an essay that reflects on the history of photography as much as it does Kim Kardashian, Laura Mallonee looks at how iPhone photos and selfies represent the self and the need to say "I exist."
The Many Shades of Glen Ligon's 'Blue Black'
Author: Antwuan Sargent
Date: July 24, 2017
The skinny: Antwaun Sargent discusses Glenn Ligon's recent exhibition, which through photography, painting and sculptural work, explores the idea of “blue black” as it manifests not only in black identity but also in American culture.
One Picture/ One Paragraph
Author: Silvia Malagrino
Publication: Saint Lucy
Date: September 2017
The skinny: 2010 Guggenheim Fellow Silvia Malagrino's contribution to Saint Lucy's "One Picture/One Paragraph" addresses an unattributed World War II photograph she purchased on eBay. This first-person meditation on the moments before death's violent arrival speaks to the potency of our imagination, as well as the cruelty of which we all are capable.
Stephen Shore: "Pop" Artist
Author: Tim Davis
Publication: Photograph Magazine
Date: November/December 2017
The skinny: Tim Davis' thorough review reaches beyond popular and critical praise of Shore's work and the mammoth retrospective currently on view at MoMA. As Davis articulates, Shore's practice and overall aesthetic are shaped by seeing, by making what is mundane important in a disposable, social media-saturated world.
Why Photography Can't Get Woke
Author: Claire Suddath
Publication: Bloomberg Businessweek
Date: October 6, 2017
The skinny: Using as context Nikon Corporation's frustrating yet predictable selection of 32 photographers (all men) to promote the newly released D850 camera, Claire Suddath identifies the hurdles faced by women and artists of color in finding work in the industry. Being "woke" is definitely a distant mile marker, but as Suddath suggests in this well-researched and reported piece, we may be on the right path.
Annie Leibovitz's Capitalist Realism
Author: Joerg Colberg
Date: November 13, 2017
The skinny: In a long-form essay that at first glance, might seem like a tangential stretch, Colberg poignantly discusses the parallels between the visual heroism of Annie Liebowitz's portraiture and the (problematic) Germanic ideal represented in Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda.
Why Aren't There Any Famous Asian American Photographers?
Author: Will Matsuda
Date: November 2017
The skinny: Author Will Matsuda interviews Mary Kang, Tommy Kha, and Jessica Chou about the histories, struggles, and complexities that make Asian American photography a crucial part of American culture.
Obituary: George Pitts
Author: Marlaine Glicksman
Publication: American Suburb X
Date: May 31, 2017
The skinny: VIBE Magazine's legendary first photo editor and all-around polymath George Pitts excelled in a highly competitive industry that does not embrace racial diversity. Marlaine Glicksman dives deep into what made VIBE a revolutionary publication, and Pitts' embrace of blackness as a venerable state long before the current moment.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock