Saturday, May 14, 2016

La Noir Image

This post will take a familiar format. I'm going to gripe about some things I disapprove of, and then try to segue into some sort of generalized commentary that might be more generally interesting.

This Chris Gampat character already has an online version of his "Magazine" which is just a tumblr, it turns out. You can submit to it, (using a Contact) link, but there's no discussion of copyrights or anything you'd expect from an actual publication. The prototype magazine available through his kickstarter indicates that photographers retain copyrights, images used with permission. No discussion of payment, although his kickstarter makes some sly remarks of the general form "don't you think it would be fair to pay so and so and such and such?" which, because it falls short of actually being a committment to pay anyone, I interpret as "me too, but obviously I am hoping to get away without paying them a penny" because I am a cynic.

ETA: Actually his kickstarter is completely silent on where the money might go. It's the announcement on his phoblographer site that makes the sly remarks. Inquiring directly via his kickstarter, I find that his $35,000 is divvied up: $5000 for video production, $450/month for Mag+, and $1550/month to pay some helpers, and the rest is misc fees and taxes. The whole operation appears to me to fall into a half-assed zone between Going Big and DIY.

Having now spent some time with his little (incredibly unpopular) tumblr, and his prototype magazine, I can tell you this much. He's not finding any fresh new voices, he's finding people copying tired old voices, incoherently. The only "voice" exhibited in the black and white work he's showing is "shall I print on grade 4 paper, or grade 5?" His prototype magazine is a mess, with stupid layout problems, and weird inserted hyphenations that indicate some problems formatting text. A totally unprofessional looking mess.

This only bits that don't look unprofessional and messy are the dummy ads. Hmmm.

In short, this is some kid on the make, who cannot be bothered to get anything right. He's just slapping up free pictures that people send him, and hoping to get a job running a magazine out of it by networking with Internet Photography Bigwigs. A bold dream, Chris, but not a very savory one.

Onwards to the more interesting general observations.

One could claim, and I have seen it claimed, that there's no harm in trying to get more work out in front of more people. Indeed, I see one or two people arguing, the more the merrier. I take specific exception to this idea. There is more excellent work out there than we can possibly look at. While some jamoke trying to shove more third-rate stuff down our throats is not a sharp stick in the eye, he's not helping. He's actively making things worse.

We need more curation, not less. We need expert curation, and a lot of it, not tasteless amateurs just hucking whatever shit they get sent to them up.

We need, in fact, smaller communities with higher signal to noise ratios. This, of course, is me rationalizing what I am doing while simultaneously cutting down people doing other things, but damn it, I think I'm right. There is more value in a small community of like-minded people sharing carefully considered bodies of work. Trying to reach the world with work is almost a dead concept. There are too many artists, too many superb artists, trying to reach the world. If a million artists try to reach everyone, the result is chaos, cacophony. If a million artists each try to reach 10 people nearby, the result is that everyone gets to experience some excellence.

We need small communities of artists targeting small communities of art consumers, creating small local ecosystems. But, you say, nobody can make a living that way?!! And I reply, "nobody can make a living the other way either, and mostly they never could." The internet and digital technology enable extremely small costs of production, if you want to make money you do it not by generating massive amounts of revenue but by minimizing your costs. There simply isn't much revenue to be had, and trying furiously to pry large chunks of it loose from one another is a game in which everyone loses.

A second, completely unrelated remark. Several of the artists Chris has featured on his tumblr are primarily color photographers, and some of them are excellent. The black and white work is phoned in. Boring, generic, "street" or "abstract" or whatever. Nothing we haven't seem 1000x before and much better. Often, though, I found really fresh and wonderful color work on the artist web site. Skateboarders in India? What the hell? How awesome is that!

I have to wonder if this is some general theme. Is it common for serious photographers to, for whatever reason, go off and check some boxes in the land of black and white? Is this to make themselves seem more credible, more serious? "Look, I am so a real boy. Look, here's a some bullshit pictures of guys leaning against a shadow-dappled wall, smoking. It's b&w! I am a Serious Artist!"

Anyways. Here is Chris's Kickstarter page. Don't take my word for it, go check it out. If the prototype magazine speaks to you, by golly, back that kid.


  1. When I saw that title, I was wondering what language this guy was emulating. Could it be that this is supposed to be French? But, even on the wrong side of the pond, there must be some possibility to find out that 'image' is a masculinum. And also that in languages like French the adjective tends to move to other places than in English.
    Ties in with other things mentioned in your piece...

    1. He has some story about that, his weird wording is easier for anglos to spell or deal with, or something, and it rolls off the tongue better? It could be an after-the-fact rationalization, I dunno.

  2. You should have a look at the comments about the article on the lula forum:

    1. Ah, still bubbling away, I see, over there. But I agree with AM that both Gampat's blog and his magazine concept have a looong way to go before either will be worth reading. There is indeed something odd in the way LL has embraced this project.

    2. Yeah, I saw. I was amazed that several people claim to have downloaded the sample mag and said nice things about it. I can conclude only that they didn't actually look at it, and are simply following Kevin's lead.

      As a guy who occasionally designs print publications I am personally offended when people say stuff like "looks great!" about a piece of crap like that.

  3. Thumbs up to your comments on both particular and general, AM.

  4. It kills me to see some of the things people will throw money at. I see Chris is over $7K so far. Recently I shared on Facebook my nephews struggles with being able to afford to stay in college and try to finish. I put a link to his go fund me page and I was the only one to give him any money. A local coffee business had been vandalized the same weekend and thousands poured in to help them with the clean up (and they have business insurance for such things). Peoples "sink or swim" mentality is selective I guess. Maybe he should of mentioned he was born deaf or his struggle with drug addiction as a teenager.

  5. And then on the other hand you get something like The Inspired Eye which is doing something very similar, only better, and has reached Issue 33 based on hard work, peer to perr word of mouth, and no begging.

  6. AM, have you looked at Adore Noir - which has been around for a few years now? Don't see the point of Fauxblographers, when we already some great choices such as Lenswork, etc. A recent trend now includes brand specific mags from Fujilove, etc too. A mimic of Leica's mag app? All seem like rehashed topics that have been around since paper mags.