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 do?
JC: You mean what have I done with them?
APE: Are there any laws or nature that govern the popularity of fine art photography?
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 pointless.
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 some day?
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 endorsement? 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 magazines.
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 denominations, please).
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? Any examples?
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 off.