Artforum named Eliot Shepard "the best snapshot photographer you’ve never heard of" in a review of his first solo exhibition at SoHo’s jen bekman in March 2005.
Shepard, from Brooklyn, NY, doesn’t have an art background–he has a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and is a computer programmer by training. Though he enjoys writing and music, he modestly said he didn’t have enough talent in those areas.
As digital cameras became more popular, he invested in a Canon S-30 and starting ‘shooting’ as a hobby. Around the same time, his interest in Internet publishing bore Slower.net, a blog (or web log) that displays his snapshots on the Internet.
Shepard and other online photographers are part of an increasingly interesting development in contemporary photography. It goes without saying that most photobloggers are not getting much attention from established institutions (though it’s easy to forget that not long ago there was a dialogue focused on whether any photograph should be included in these very institutions).
Since photoblogs popped up in the late 1990s, and online photo collectives like Flickr and Fotolog have since gained in popularity, they have attracted two camps of users. Some contend that their endeavor is a hobby and others stamp their photoblogs as virtual galleries of photographic fine art.
There is, however, concerns about the seemingly endless stream of images that flood our visual culture, its voyeuristic tendencies, the temporary nature of images on the Internet and that the work is just isn’t that good.
"There are alarms that go off. We see our lives as framed images and it’s about form and not about content," said Carol McCusker, curator for the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. "People are in roles. What happens when the camera is not on? The legacy is going to be just as fleeting as it is in how it regards life."
In 2003, Shepard began meeting with likeminded New Yorkers who had also taken to photoblogging–including Scott Hiefermann of Meetup.com, New York Times photojournalist David Gallagher, and Williamsburg artist Lauren Holzer among others–to bounce off logistical and technical ideas. He diligently continued to shoot, but something changed for him along the way.
"I operated under the method which is to go out and see what comes to you, sort of take pictures of what you see. That’s something I guess I got a little of tired of. I found out that by doing a little more editing, by elevating my standards and constantly thinking about what was interesting in my own photography, I realized that I needed to have more of a conceptual idea," Shepard said. Now, he is listed as number 43 in a Photoblogs.org ranking of favorite photoblogs.
Brian Ulrich, who teaches at Columbia College in Chicago, tells all of his web design and photography students to have a web presence but stresses that the work needs to be polished.
He considers blogs to be the printing press for the photographer. Unlike Shepard, he was trained in the arts, holds an MFA in photography and prefers to shoot with film. He attributes much of his visibility to his blog. His work, which deals with the excesses of consumer culture, has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Festival d’Arles in France and the Minneapolis Center for Photography among other places in recent years. He’s also a regular contributor to AdBusters and has also done editorial work for The New Yorker, New York Times, Wired and other magazines.
A gallery owner told him recently: "Website traffic doesn’t translate into sales." His opinion, "I think it’s short-sighted to say that. The truth is that the work has a bigger impact than it would if it went through the galleries."
Ones to watch for:
Eliot Shepard’s seemingly spontaneous photos of the everyday
Brian Ulrich photos remark on our consumer culture
Queens web developer, Todd Gross, captures the richness of urban landscape
Powell takes to the streets of Mexico City
John Perkinson’s landscape and portraiture journal from Janesville, Wisconsin
Canada-based Catherine Jamieson plays with motion blur and shadows.
Photo dispatches from Valerie Cochran, a former photography student and full-time waitress in San Francisco.
David J. Nightingale operates from Blackpool, UK, shooting objects, advertising and strangers
Jeff Laitila as a foreigner living in Japan.
Alexandre Rito’s abstract photographs from Paris.