I have two BFFs in this world…Koichi and Ken, this is Ken sleeping on the kouch……!
Jörg Colberg, interviewed below, in a two part series by APE(A Photo Editor) and the venerable Andrew Hetherington (What’s the Jackanory). I had originally intended to edit and scramble their questions, including mine, which will appear tomorrow but this turned out to be far longer and involved than I had expected. Part one, unedited:
APE: If you discovered a collection of photographs, that in your
esteemed opinion represented the pinnacle of fine art photography and
that discovery was yours alone to reveal to the world and you learned
the photographer was none other than George W. Bush. What would you
JC: You mean what have I done with them?
APE: Are there any laws or nature that govern the popularity of fine
JC: I wish I knew! But whatever they are, hand-wringing about whatever
is popular or sells well at any given moment in time is basically
APE: Artist statements seem to be a bunch of hooey. Are there any that
you’ve particularly enjoyed?
JC: I think artists’ statements are just part of the whole show. You
could probably add those texts that galleries/museums write about
their shows to that or many of the texts/reviews in serious art
magazines. I wouldn’t necessarily say that each and every one is bad,
but unfortunately, there is quite a trend. So usually, I don’t read
them. I only read them if I can’t figure out what the work is all
about (which might or might not say something about the work). As for
a particularly ridiculous one, I don’t remember the details any
longer, but I do remember it was a couple of years ago, and I think it
was a statement written for one of those Whitney Biennials or whatever
those events are called. I remember I laughed for maybe ten minutes.
Pure comedy gold.
APE: Is there a style of photography that you would add to The United
Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
JC: I’m glad you’re asking about a style and not about a photographer.
“Street photography”. Puh-leeease! I mean if you want to see street
photography, take a walk! At any given time, if you walk around and
look what there is to see you’ll see a “street photo” right in front
of you! Oh wait, how could I forget about “fashion photography”?
APE: You have uncovered thousands of talented photographers whom I’ve
never heard of. How do you do it and where are they hiding?
JC: Most of them are hidden in full sight! You just have to look
around. And that’s really all I do. For example, sometimes I look
through the lists of students at photography schools. I also do read
quite a few blogs regularly. A few years back, when there were very
few photo blogs and when I had run out of links, I would Google for
categories that I’d make up spontaneously. For example, I remember I
once started looking for Finnish photography, simply because I didn’t
know anything about it, but I thought it would be neat to find out
what was out there. It’s interesting to note that while a few years
back stuff was often hard to find because no one had linked to it,
stuff now is hard to find because there is so much, and one has to
sift through a lot of it.
WTJ: Am I at a disadvantage or an advantage seeing as I am the only
one of us who has met you?
JC: You’re obviously the only one who knows for a fact that I’m not a
15 year old with an acne problem who is pretending to be a photo
blogger at his parent’s computer – but I can’t tell whether that’s an
advantage or a disadvantage.
WTJ: What do you think is people’s biggest misconception of yourself?
JC: I have come across people thinking that I’m “intense and intellectual”.
WTJ: How did you feel about ‘The Bitter Photographers’ Conscientious posting?
JC: I don’t care about anonymous posts or comments. If you have an
opinion or if you feel like you have to make fun of something or
somebody, be an adult and stand for what you have to say. Don’t hide
behind “anonymous”. So I didn’t spend much time thinking about it – it
would have been like thinking about graffiti in the bathroom of a
public high school: Not much to be learned. No argument to be had. And
even the kind of fun to be had is very limited, for the same reasons.
WTJ: Are you and Alec Soth tight?
JC: For some reason people appear to think that Alec and I are very
close. But in reality we don’t know each other all that well – apart
from what we know from our email exchanges and from meeting once and
saying hello (at the opening of the portrait show last Summer in New
York). I have to say, though, that he’s an incredibly nice guy.
WTJ: Why do you think he stopped blogging ?
JC: I think he stopped blogging for the reasons given in his last
post. I really regret he did, because he provided such a unique and
dedicated voice to the blog world. But who knows – maybe he’ll be back
WTJ: What does your wife think about you being such a player on the
photo scene? I know she got a kick out of it when I referred to you as
the ‘godfather’ in my first ever posting.
JC: When I started my blog, I never thought someone would seriously
use the terms “a player” and “godfather” about me. Very odd. As for my
wife, I never figured out whether she thought of “the Godfather” as in
the movie or as in when referring to James Brown. With her Italian
family background it must have been the former, whereas I was amused
since I’m about as un-James-Brown as one could possibly get. In any
case, I think she is somewhat less surprised than I am about me having
some sort of role in “the scene”. I do know that she’s happier about
me being active in the art scene than in the academic scene.
WTJ: You are a player right ? Do you feel like a star maker ? After
all you are now a harbinger of taste and people look to you for an
JC: Is that some of that famous humour that you non-German people
always talk about?
WTJ: I am thinking that a posting on ‘Conscientious’ can seriously
help someone’s career?
JC: The scientist in me would probably say that there’s enough data
out there to test this hypothesis. Just poll the people linked to on
my blog! Given that so many people visit the blog regularly I think
that a post could indeed help someone’s career. There are a lot of
photographers out there whose work is not as much appreciated as it
should be. If I can change that a little bit by posting about the
work, that’s great.
WTJ: Have you seen people’s cache rise ?
JC: I have. I know for a fact that Chelsea gallerists follow the blog,
and I know of a few cases where a post on the blog had a direct impact
on people getting a show or getting assignments to shoot for
WTJ: Have they thanked you? Sent a print, bottle of whiskey, bag of cash?
JC: I often get thank-you emails when I have someone on the blog. I
also sometimes get books in the mail (which I love). Getting an actual
print has been a very, very rare occasion, though. Likewise for the
whiskey (I like single malts) or bags of cash (no coins and only hard
WTJ: Oh and have people sent you a little shall we say bride in an
attempt to guarantee a posting?
JC: Bride or no bride, there is no guarantee. It’s really very, very
simple: If I like the photography – regardless of the photographer’s
name – I’ll post about it.
WTJ: I once got an email from a photographer who shall remain nameless
who said that one mention on your site and he went from obscurity to
some serious New York gallery representation in a matter of days. How
does this make you feel ?
JC: I was/am genuinely happy for the photographer, because I thought
that his show was well deserved. Assuming, of course, that we are
talking about the same person. Maybe there is more than one?
WTJ: American Photo named you as one of their Innovators in 2006. Did
you notice a change in your self love following this accolade ?
JC: No, it didn’t. I don’t want to tie me ego to whether my name
appears in a magazine or newspaper.
WTJ: Nice to be acknowledged by the establishment right?
JC: What is genuinely nice is to be acknowledged by photographers.
That I like. When a photographer, known or unknown, tells me she or he
enjoys the blog, that is very, very nice. And to be able to talk to
all of the photographers I had in my “Conversations”, that’s something
else that I have enjoyed a lot. As for “the establishment”, I haven’t
fully figured out who is part of that and who isn’t.
WTJ: How do you feel you are perceived in the hallowed halls of ‘Fine
Art Photography’ ?
JC: I am not too concerned about that. Instead of thinking about stuff
like that I rather look at photography.
WTJ: What photo blogs do you read ?
JC: My RSS reader contains a large number of blogs – too many to list
them here. They’re all linked to on “Conscientious” (I do need to
update that list, though!). I will mention one, though, “Mrs Deane”,
which is one of my favourite photo blogs.
WTJ: You have a big birthday coming up! So lets say you could invite
10 photographers alive or dead to your party, care to name names ?
JC: You mean apart from the ones that I already invited?
WTJ: And while we are at it 10 non photographers alive or dead to make
the conversation more interesting ?
JC: I have the feeling that the people in such a list would not get
along very well with each other, even though it would be fun to have,
say, Philip Roth and Mark E Smith in the same room with me. Hard to
imagine those two striking a conversation. So that might end up being
a bit tedious: Ten idiosyncratic personalities in the same room. I’d
probably find that amusing for only ten minutes.
WTJ: What is the future for ‘Conscientious’ ?
JC: I don’t know. We’ll see.
WTJ: Do you think your own photography is judged on its own merits or
because of who you are?
JC: I don’t think it’s very well known I actually do take photos
myself – and I refuse to toot my own horn on my blog. I’m no
photographer with a blog, I’m a blogger who takes photos. To be
honest, I am slightly worried about the “Oh my god, now he’s trying to
take photos, too” reaction once I will try to get my stuff out there;
but I usually work on my own photography trying to achieve something
that I personally like and not so much worrying about a possible
viewer. As for how it is being judged, the answer probably is “I don’t
know”. People don’t really talk to me much about it.
WTJ: How many submissions a day do you get on average?
JC: It’s about two or three.
WTJ: You must see some crazy stuff that doesn’t fit your aesthetic?
JC: I’m not very fond of blurry photos of pretty, naked, young white
people (think Leni Riefenstahl meets David Hamilton). That’s just
terrible, terrible kitsch.
WTJ: How does it feel to be so powerful?
JC: I’m still working on the diabolical laughter that appears to be so
popular with people in power, but I’m afraid I can’t really pull that
DL: Photographers out number editors a million to one but given the fact that you may well be the one and only photo editor who did it, what does that “intuit” about your esteemed colleagues?
RB(AKAPE): I think there’s a huge misconception about the number of “professional” photographers in this industry. I’d say 20 maybe 23 tops. Everyone else is just vying for one of those slots by shooting jobs for free as marketing material. So, as you can see there’s absolutely no reason for photo editors to do anything with the internets.
DL: Something tells me that you are trying to sell us something, are we all unsuspecting pawns in an elaborate marketing scheme of your own making?
RB(AKAPE): There is absolutely no obligation to buy but I think once you hear the stories of people making 1000, 2000 and even 10,000 dollars a week you will want to buy my 10 disc set turning your vacation photos into cash. Money back guarantee except in the 50 states not available outside the US.
DL: OH. MY . GOD…! Is that expression learned, or innate?
RB(AKAPE): I normally say “holy fucking shit can you fucking believe how fucking great that fucking photo is a just want to shit myself and donkey punch my mother.” Oh. My. God seemed more user friendly.
DL: There was a lot of brown nosing the APE over the past four months. What does that say about photographers or the biz?
RB(AKAPE): If NY Times Magazine Director of Photography, Kathy Ryan were to suddenly come to a screeching halt the entire photo industry would find itself lodged up her ass.
DL: Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give”, care to elaborate?
RB(AKAPE): No. That makes my brain hurt.
DL: You once had a dream, what was it?
RB(AKAPE): A reoccurring dream where the CFO and I enter a caged octagon.
DL: Why do you think you were so successful, so quickly?
RB(AKAPE): See above, they all thought I was Kathy Ryan.
DL: Anyone else that you know following your careless lead?
RB(AKAPE): I’ve poisoned everyone who tried. Anyone seen George Pitts lately?
DL: Photography is now a commodity like wheat, pork bellies or soy beans, care to disagree?
RB(AKAPE): Is this where you tell me I have to pay a digital processing fee and a digital transfer fee and a fee to ftp and a fee to burn a disk and a digital package fee and a digi-tech fee and a removable storage fee and a post processing fee?
DL: You share your life with a special someone, an ego, a wife, a pet monkey. What did they think of all this? Did you ever have to defend your compulsion and if so how could you and how did you justify it?
RB(AKAPE): Look Olivier I’m tired of calling your wife and telling her that blogging is anything other than online masturbation.
DL: Some may say that your taste in photography are rather safe, care to elaborate?
RB(AKAPE): Are you referring to my habit of saying in meetings “I’d like see what Annie Lebovitz would do with that” even though I’ve asked her agent 144,000 times to shoot something for me and the answer has always been no?
DL: Have you found your voice and is this it?
RB(AKAPE): No, I’m thinking more Backstreet Boys with choreographed dance but I just can’t seem to get Contientious, Jackaonary and A Visual Society to show up for practice.
DL: How do you like your feminine side shaped?
DL: Off the record and just between you and me, what made you do it?……guilt, shame…? and if so, are you easily intimidated?
RB(AKAPE): Interesting, I’ve never thought of it that way but now that I’m lying on this comfortable couch and you’re talking to me in that soothing voice I’d have to say there’s a fair amount of guilt involved in figuring out how many ways you can screw photographers out of a couple bucks on a daily, wait no, hourly basis as a chosen profession. This is my atonement.
DL: ….ever been gang banged by the Keebler elves…?
RB(AKAPE): Oh. My. God… is that where all these cookies came from… Olivier… Olivier… why can’t I move my arms… I can barely see you… it’s like I’m looking through a lens baby attached to a kaleidoscope.
DL: Anything to loose and if so, when will you loose it?
RB(AKAPE): Close to loosing my lunch every time I hit publish.
DL: Successful blogs tend to slowly become overwhelmed by their own successes. The audience becomes more and more self absorbed and see the “Top Blog” as a tool to generate traffic to their own site or start posting to turn the conversation unto themselves, as opposed to furthering the discussion. How will you negotiate success, has this already happened?
RB(AKAPE): Ultimately my goal is to turn the photo blogging community into a giant donut where all links and conversations lead back to the original post. The conversation will repeat itself in perpetuity throughout the universe in every medium known and unknown without additional payment.
DL: Please, be brutally honest!
RB(AKAPE): When I pee in the snow I write my name.
DL: (This Space left unintentionally blank).
DL: Unlike a painter, a photographer starts with something finished and works backwards….what about a “A Photo Editor”?
RB(AKAPE): Did you know aphotoeditor spelt backwards is rotideotohpa?
DL: I have to ask you this, how many Horse ladies in your apocalypse?
RB(AKAPE): She’s pullin’ six white horses.
DL: Favorite three layered cake?
RB(AKAPE): Ho hos.
DL: An old chinese proverb states: ” It does not matter if it’s black or white, as long as it catches light”, care to dignify this pronouncement with a reply?
RB(AKAPE): It matters if I shine a flashlight up your ass.
DL: Many of your fans had assumed, wrongly, that you were a lady, any thoughts, rebukes or responses?
RB(AKAPE): Not the first time someone told me “you write and photo edit like a woman.”
DL: “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention”, what exactly does that mean?
RB(AKAPE): In the FAQ section of my blog it states that by loading aphotoeditor.com in your web browser you are hereby signing a work for hire contract that governs all previous and future work as a photographer throughout the universe in all mediums known and unknown in perpetuity.
DL: The US department of Labor states that the Employment of photographers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2016. Photographers can expect keen competition for job openings because the work is attractive to many people. Could this be?
RB(AKAPE): Sure, who doesn’t want to hang out with Mickey and Goofy and snap pictures of screaming kids all day long.
DL: There are currently 122,000 professional photographers in the US alone, with a median hourly income of $12 dollars and 58 cents. Please explain ?
RB(AKAPE): And with expenses of $12 an hour that leaves a pure profit of 58 cents an hour.
DL: Which of the following would cause the unemployment rate to increase?
I. A man who quits his job to spend more time with his children
II. A woman who has not looked for a job in two years and begins looking again
III. A woman who quits her job and begins looking for a new job in another city.
RB(AKAPE): IV. Blogging for a living.
DL: And to conclude this interview please explain:
1- Definition of social stratification
2- Social class in terms of wealth, income, education, occupation, and lifestyle
3- Concepts of power, prestige and status, both ascribed and achieved
4- Social inequality involving race, gender, class, age, prejudice, and discrimination
5- Functional and conflict theories of stratification
6- Horizontal, vertical, inter-generational social mobility
7- Poverty/life chances
RB(AKAPE): Ask someone who cares.
Image: Perkin Lovely.
Julian Richards is a “top tier” artist representative in New York City. After a mutual acquaintance introduced us, I thought it instructive to follow in MDM’s footsteps, and start running “Dear Leader” interviews. I was not disappointed by his responses but rather felt that I, should have worked a little harder on the questions. But if you feel that the interviewer’s job is to make the interviewee shine through, then I must have done a good job of it; or was it an inevitability, given the personality.
To put it mildly, few things are more entertaining than intelligence, eloquence, self confidence and comedy, all wrapped up in one lusciously human representative.
DL: Describe your kitchen sink?
JR: A single piece of concrete carved by our friend Trevor Heatherington into a dynamic reenactment of the Tiresius myth. He’s prodding the fornicating snakes with a stick, mid-way through his metamorphosis. It’s like a Bernini, but lumpier. The hot and cold faucets are particularly arresting – realistic arrangements of his male and female genitals, respectively. It’s kind of a rite of passage at our home for visitors to be photographed drinking directly from the orifices (ordinarily men from the cold, women from the hot) whilst grinning libidinously at the camera. We have a gallery of polaroids on the wall by the fridge. Hilarious, eh?
DL: If you could choose to come back as a prairie, which one would it be, and would you let anybody till ye?
JR: I’m not really clear what a prairie is. If I were to come back as a fairy it might be WH Auden.
DL: What living person do you most admire, be specific ?
JR: It changes. There’s this actress Natacha Regnier who is the right shape. She occasionally gets my aching admiration.
DL: Do you love all your children equally?
JR: Over an extended period, probably. But there are huge fluctuations over the short term. They offer very different challenges.
DL: Is there something photography is lacking, if anything?
JR: I can’t help thinking that it lacks so much, simply because of its inherent limitations. In that sense you can’t blame it. But you can feel a bit embarrassed observing it’s importance being inflated to laughable proportions. Photography is the homeland that flocks of itinerant charlatans have spent generations seeking. It it so replete with the ordinary pretending to be extraordinary … and I’m as guilty as anyone of lionizing mediocrity – my home-loan company requires it of me. I suppose there’s an academic argument for it being the art form of our age … shabby times, given to a relentless stream of product rendered quickly for an audience of glazed eyes and dull, lazy minds. As such I suppose it becomes relevant as a kind of cultural emblem. This relevance, however, doesn’t go far in offsetting the paucity of the experience of dealing with what is frequently required of us on a day-to-day basis. But like anything, if you suspend disbelief and confer special status upon material which is deeply banal, you can quickly build yourself a new hierarchy of value whereby bad is good and okay is wonderful … and ten minutes later you can confidently pontificate upon such things as ‘greatness’ and ‘beauty’. People will apparently know what you’re talking about and nod accordingly. Maybe you can even sell some stuff.
DL: If you were to be given just one print to give to former Senator Joseph McCarthy, what would it be and how would you deliver it?
JR: I don’t think I’d bother, really. Maybe if it was simply a matter of emailing him something off one of those Amatrice Francaise sites. It’s nice to have a reason to poke about in there for a half hour.
DL: What do you dislike most about bakeries?
JR: Most of the women in them aren’t naked.
DL: If you could change soft core pornography, how and who would it be?
JR: I guess make it less content to be soft. I like the tension between soft straining against the impulse to be hard. Who? Some of my friends’ girlfriends, probably. I’m interested in tinkering with the unfamiliar/familiar equilibrium.
DL: Are you in it for the money?
JR: Yes, naturally. There are other ingredients, but the absence of any one of them alone wouldn’t be reason alone to stop. Without money though, it would be over in a heartbeat.
DL: Any further penchants you’d like to reveal, unofficially?
JR: They are so prosaic I think it would be hard to stifle a yawn. I like to think I have my own unique niches in the canon of the commonplace, but perhaps I don’t … and anyway it’d take too much time and penmanship to state them prettily. They tend to wiggle about.
DL: Is there anything else you need, besides money?
JR: I need objects for the unholy bits of my imagination to alight upon.
DL: Favorite childhood cheeses?
JR: I remember discovering that camembert sometimes smells like semen. Still tastes good though. I’ve since noticed that day-old pancake mix has a similar quality.
DL: Which talent would you most like to have and how much would you pay to get it, Euros please?
JR: I can’t afford to shop in euros, I earn my crusts in dollars which are currently equivalent to the Namibian Lucky Bean. I have always aspired to possessing talents which might alchemise me into a state of irresistibility. Hypnotism, manufacture of persuasive pharmaceuticals, knot-tying, those kinds of things.
DL: If you were one of those emoticons, which one would you be, and how big?
JR: The sunny vagina, 1:12
DL: What is your most treasured possession and would you give it to me, if I asked nicely?
JR: If I lived in a land where spouses were still considered goods and chattel I might entertain a loan or a swap under very special circumstances. What you got?
DL: What is “clam happy”?
JR: See response to emoticon question above.
DL: What are the upper body qualities you most like in a woman, or a man, if that doesn’t do it for ye?
JR: Modest dimensions, please.
DL: What is the greatest love of your life and will it love you back, eventually?
JR: Overall I’m happy being the less loved in the greatest love equation. The inequality keeps the horizon line in view and the mystery of the other side intact. Who knows (or wants to know) what the landscape looks like once you crest the hill? Some fetid bog pocked with slag-heaps and sulfurous chimneys? Or just a flat expanse of featureless nothingness, like fucking Holland? Even if it’s better than that, it’s hardly likely to outdo the euphoric pornography of my imagination. So better to keep panting and chasing.
DL: How many horse-ladies in your Apocalypse?
JR: A brace of small-breasted ones.
DL: Who are your heroes, and do they even know you exist?
JR: I’m not sure I have any. Which isn’t as cynical as it sounds, it’s simply a matter of age and cheerful skepticism. Given time, most heroes seem to acquire feet of clay. Possibly I have a few dead ones, but I’d be irritated to see them stated as such, especially by me. Obsessions, however, would be a different story, although they might not be whole human beings. Just bits.
DL: Is this mildly annoying?
JR: Not at all, it’s mildly flattering to be asked.
DL: Chicken or fish?
JR: I’m afraid I need a url to answer this.
DL: How’s thing?