PDN Photo of the Day

Gold Dust


“Over the past four years I have been spending a great deal of time in New Orleans, where I have begun to photograph details of the city as well as its people. Lush with plant life that is not native to the city, and rich with many non-native people that thrive there, New Orleans is, as geographer Peirce Lewis called it the ‘inevitable city on an impossible site.’  The wildlife that flourishes mirrors the human wildlife that flourishes. The photos are a collection of these metaphors – weeds push through the cement, vines crawl through fences, and friends’ and acquaintances’ characters shine through the dust and sweat that makes up the city.

“I see the city as magical hub of growth, hope, and resilience as reflected through its landscape and its people. Whether my subjects are native to the area or come from other places, they each contribute to the life and culture of New Orleans making it a vibrant place in which to live and create. I am constantly inspired by their strength and eccentricities, and each image is a gesture of admiration and an opportunity for me to celebrate their beauty.”

Lauren Silberman

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  1. I’m sorry to have to post this, but it seems there’s only one type of person that leaves comments on PDN – those with a lack of understanding of the ‘passively observed’ conceit rife in contemporary photography. It goes without saying, for anyone relatively well-read photographically, that we’re still living in a post-Eggleston world. This is simply the visual language most work speaks today. That’s something to keep in mind when looking at this type of image. You have to move past that initial “bleurgh” response which admittedly, is sometimes an intentional stylistic provocation by the photographer. Here however, (which has led me to comment) I don’t think that’s the case.

    This is aimed at both photographer and editor. I see PDN as a pretty high profile platform for upcoming photographers – I’ve certainly been directed to and bought work as a result of the site.

    I’ll say first that any effect these images may have, for me, rests on the optics of the camera and the use of film, and that’s not to belittle the photographer, but I’m sure she’s conscious of this informing her approach to an extent. Try to imagine this type of work on small format digital for example – would it be featured here for a start? I’m not so sure and I think that’s an important consideration when assessing the *real* content of the pictures. This partly has to do with the larger formats becoming more accessible in recent years, resulting in amateur sensibilities being carried over – that ‘wow’ factor of the sheer rendering power can almost creatively stifle a developing photographer. In the recent past of course, the use of LF meant the work, almost by default, was mature and fully accomplished. The photographer developed *through* the formats incrementally, up to this level. There isn’t a professional ‘culture’ attached to large format photography anymore, it’s anyone’s territory. An effect of consumerism – if we can have the best, we want it now. This seems to go for putting underdeveloped work out in the world too – “success now please, I’ve got the camera!” I have to wonder if this photographer would have spent more time developing her eye sticking with 35mm – to which this style of image making naturally lends itself. It begs the longstanding question then of quantity (or size/detail) over quality. The biggest criticism levelled at contemporary work.

    There isn’t a sense of composition, but that’s the least of my concerns. It’s more the apparent indifference to the place – despite an understanding that it IS a subject worth representing. There isn’t a sense of the nature here, no communication of the ‘otherness’ of the wild places photographed (see Jem Southam, Joel Sternfeld, Adam Jeppesen). I’m not a naturalist or even much of an outdoorsman, but I do make most of my own work in (or on the fringes of) the landscape. I feel that getting to the essence of these places is vital, if the work is going to revolve around it. That seems to be lost here. I should also say (to prove I’m not simply biased) that I’m not a blinkered romantic landscape photographer. I promise I’d be saying the same thing if this was another of those abandoned urban environments. If you concentrate on place, you must surely have a sense of it to respond fully, otherwise the work can only ever be a smug and detached intellectual conceit. I find it remarkable that photographers continue to be driven in this way and never burn out, yet visually, are clearly running on empty.

    The only sentiment that seems to be expressed through the people themselves is “we’re bohemian and proud”, which to put it lightly, is narrowcasting to that very specific ‘hipster’ audience. The insistence on only ever working in flat light – another dragging contemporary trend – works against the images too I feel. It feels affected – aesthetically conforming.

    Maybe within the context (not evident here) of the rest of the work, we might get a sense of some kind of narrative, but because of the presentation/selection I’ve been put off seeing it. They’re certainly not standalone pictures – which is probably what riles most people up, as ‘Photo of the Day’ sort of implies they should be.

    I hope what I’ve said isn’t completely unfounded or disparaging.

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