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Michael Shaw has been conscientiously restructuring BagNewsNotes over the past six months or so. Here’s how he describes the rebranded Bag:

• An almost hypnotizing archive featuring hundreds of ways to sort through our over 3000 image posts.

• A dedicated photojournalism section, BagNewsOriginals, steered by long-time BNN contributor, Alan Chin with a powerful lineup showcasing BAG’s distinguished contributor, Nina Berman, fresh off her Whitney Biennial success; World Press and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Suau on the economy; and much, much more.

• A Salon section managed by the talented photographer and multimedia producer, Sandra Roa, formerly of the NYT Lens Blog, mixing audio slideshows and live chats, all focusing on key images of the day. We kick off on Wednesday with an audio slide show featuring Ashley Gilbertson’s look at the bedroom shrines of fallen US soldiers.

•  Our mainstay news image analysis by BAG publisher Michael Shaw, with new contributors, including: acclaimed photojournalist Chris Hondros conducting exclusive interviews; leading visual academics Bob Hariman and John Lucaites deconstructing visual culture; and former White House photographer, Stephen Ferry, on media’s pictorial stereotyping of the third world.

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The Bag is all about demystifying (political) imagery and helping people along with visual literacy. Yes, audiences are more savvy, more sophisticated, but there is still a distance to go.

The Bag is the most persistent contributor to this ongoing analysis. The importance of the Bag’s ever critical eye cannot be underestimated in a world that sinks deeper into the swell of images every day.

The new look by designer Naz Hamid of Weightshift is super navigable and I think it is funny (humorous) that the Bag has made use of the same font used by the New York Times’ arts and media blogs.

The font choice is a cheeky nod to the subtle echoes of form and type that run through our daily visual experiences! It’s as if the Bag is testing its own hypothesis from within the permanent elements of its own visual architecture. That, and it doesn’t hurt to have subliminal associations with the Grey Lady!

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MY CONTRIBUTION?

Last year, Shaw contacted me and at the same time as describing Bag’s sweeping changes asked me if I’d come on-board as a contributor.

Writings on US prisons here on Prison Photography will be cross-posted to the Bag in order to bring images and issues of America’s prison industrial complex to a wider audience.

I’ve a got a couple of posts coming up this week so stay alert for those and for all that the Bag offers consequently.

A29

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Why?

There have been two prevailing attitudes toward the proposed conference/symposium dealing with issues of race and diversity in photography:

a) That it is absolutely necessary & b) It is a terrifying prospect.

The first point speaks for itself, and the second point becomes clear when one considers the kerfuffles, misunderstanding and (dare I say it) vitriol that has accompanied much online discussion.

I have been in contact with some, but by no means all, people who could contribute to an extended dialogue. These include Amy Stein, Ben Chesterton, Colin Pantall, Daniel Cuthbert, Daryl Lang, Jean-Sebastien Boncy, Joerg Colberg, John Edwin Mason, Mark Page, Matt Lutton, Michael Shaw, M. Scott Brauer, Nathalie Belayche, Qiana Mestrich and Stan Banos. They have been very generous in response.

Originally, I suggested mixing things up by means of an in-person meet. This was intended to directly address the inadequacies of online discussion. However, when Qiana Mestrich of Dodge & Burn alerted us to SPE‘s conference in March, 2010: “Facing Diversity: Leveling the Playing Field in the Photographic Arts” it was clear that we may just end up replicating (on a smaller scale) SPE’s efforts.

The early feeling was that to piggyback on the back of an existing photography festival could leverage most involvement and impact. Boncy has had good feedback from Houston Fotofest and Lang believes that PDN would want to collaborate and lend a hand for an event at New York Photo Festival. These are very, very encouraging early signs.

In terms of organisation, these prospects are a far cry from the normal activities bloggers. Bearing in mind that this idea was conceived to challenge the tried and tired modes of photography blog discourse, it is difficult to conceive of good reasons to forsake our collective blogging strengths (wide-reaching audiences, maximum engagement, a breadth of coverage and investigation and first rate methods).

We haven’t abandoned a desire for a face-to-face meet and indeed we’ll continue to lobby established photography festivals and industry expos for the inclusion of extended discussions about race and diversity.

But, we are aware of our strengths. Simply put; a focused and concerted online effort will impact and forward dialogue more than a bunch of bloggers gathering in a single room could.

Early plans

This will be an Online Symposium. I would like see a concerted effort among photobloggers: I offer an open invitation to all those who wish to get involved.

The online symposium will look something like this:

– Occurring mid/late spring 2010
– A one week long, coordinated series of photo-features, interviews, op-eds, inquiries and articles.
– All written works will aim to compliment and build upon one another, not repeat or needlessly criticise.
– All written works will be subject to peer-review (a grand term for “read by another blogger”) prior to publication.
– It will incorporate the widest mix of experiences in the industry as possible. Discussion may vary from academic speculations on representations to the everyday experience of the working photographer.

Aims

– To communicate the wide experiences, attitudes, facts and myths in photography as they relate to race and diversity.
– To achieve respect and understanding among photographers, contributors and readers.
– To test the reach and strength of blog-networks as they relate to photography.
– To be progressive instead of reactive in our tone and objectives.
– To leave a legacy and record of this community action that will be of use and reference for continued learning.

What Should You D0?

– Please think seriously about your experience and knowledge and if you’d like to share that as part of this community project.
– Spread the word. If you don’t wish to get involved, perhaps you know someone who would have a valuable contribution?
– Share your ideas, initially through comments below, or directly with me [prisonphotography at gmail point com] and later on a devoted website.

Thanks! Please don’t hesitate to be in touch/throw ideas about. The projects’ outcomes depend on the quality and commitment of your input.

BBCPressPhotographers

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In the interests of full disclosure, DuckRabbit and Prison Photography have become virtually-close these past couple of months, beginning with an acknowledged shared politic, via encouraging support, to a mention in DuckRabbit’s announcement of a daring competition that I feel I had only a small part to do with.

duck

I am not advertising DuckRabbit’s $1,000 competition for brevity’s sake. I am promoting it because:

a) Stan Banos had an excellent point in the first instance
b) DuckRabbit has not been shy to challenge inequalities before (including MSF – opening dialogue, discussing visual ethics and celebrating consequent positive representations on MSF’s photoblog)
c) PDN, with an all-white 25 juror panel has a valid charge of passive racism to answer.
d) I think it is a ballsy move, and I want to see what comes of it.

Up for the debate?

FOR $1,000 YOU MUST;

“Come to PDN’s defense and answer the question, What possible, plausible excuse could exist for an all white jury from a publication of such influence?’”

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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