Roger Bruce

I suspect that my photographic works are relics of accident and good fortune. My purpose here is to understand them as worthwhile privilege.

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Photography’s Brief Philosophy II

Noting that Part One, in two words, was “Notational System,” I will attempt another brevity: “Locational System.”Silver-Lake-Location.jpg
Social media’s appetite for your location information is insatiable due largely to the fact that you are a consumer. Merchandising and marketing data are more precious if they are rich with comprehensive location information on consumers, so naturally, we are incentivized to share as much of the stuff as possible. Using online maps, the nifty functions of Facebook or Flickr reward us daily by showing that our photographs occupy increasing portions of the earth’s geography. Behold my mighty footprint! For a price, you may obtain a fancy camera that captures GPS information at the moment of exposure, writing it into the photographic file. But more significant, your smartphone likely does the same thing to all of your photos – and without any added gizmos or cost. And the number...

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Photography’s Brief Philosophy

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In the early 1970s I heard the most succinct philosophy of this medium I would encounter in my career. A grad student at RIT, I was employed by George Eastman House and after work, had crossed the street to hear Nathan Lyons address a fresh cohort of students at his recently founded Visual Studies Workshop. For an innocent, Nathan’s speech could seem puzzlingly oblique. I had yet to understand that his delivery was the foundation of a pedagogical method, forcing as it did, students to squeeze out meaning phrase by phrase. Pupils had to work so hard to comprehend, that they could be excused for feeling authorship for all they heard. In this way, Nathan created generations of autodidacts.

Most of the audience had fine art ambitions and the students had enrolled to study photography – so when Professor Lyons said that it was time to define photography, pencils were ready. The speaker...

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Photography Dies, Long Live Photography

Totem of film-based photography, a copper mixing vat for the silver halide emulsions used to coat light sensitive photographic media. –Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson University, Toronto, March 1, 2014.Totem-of-Analog-Photography.jpg
The death of photographic film was an event that spread over years sufficient in number to obscure its social and industrial rupture in history. And, digital photography arrived the way progress arrives or the way a child grows to maturity – well remarked, observed and reviewed. In less time than it took for Americans to learn to dip their bread in olive oil, we were reaching for digital devices to make photographs.

But surely somewhere, when an entire industry so thoroughly ubiquitous as film-based photography, implodes, the event will scar the surface of our planet, dislocate populations, and realign fortunes. The Canadian artist and educator, Bob Burley had the insight to know this...

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Urban Confection

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One of several commercial streets comprising downtown Greenville, South Carolina, Saturday February 15, 2014

This winter view shows the polished restoration typifying Greenville’s downtown re-development completed within the last decade or so. In the 1970s this street had four lanes and its storefront retail was in decline and supported no nightlife. Today, reduction to two lanes accommodates free parking and regular bump-outs for well-groomed micro-parks with trees, benches, and shrubs. Later on this winter day, the sidewalks filled with people and the shops and restaurants were busy. The Greenville city center is not the work of any invisible unregulated hand of the real-estate market. It’s the product of pre-visualizing leadership and lots of money, private and public. The streets are confections.

In this brief visit I found no real contradiction to the southern cultural norms...

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Photographer or Visual Artist?

Today the phenomenal curator and networker of photography, Andy Adams (http://flakphoto.com/) posed the above title as a question for his many thousands of followers. I do not have the skill to craft a tweetable response so I leave you with this note.

First with digital production, and increasingly with many-to-many online sharing, both terms are so fluid as to shape shift with the slightest variation in their context. But the terms may still convey meaning, and the designations are most significant when corollaries such as “craft” or “art” are applied by the maker to her work. If the maker says or implies that she will show us an artwork, then, in a sense, we are about to receive a gift. We may find the gift to be great or small or odious – but we have been provided a viewer’s cue. And our response depends on what we are able to bring to the reading. I find a useful analogy in...

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Seeing Authenticity

Do click to enlarge…
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I have been looking for visual indications of authenticity in photographs I’ve taken in neighborhood coffee shops. The establishments depicted here are of the anti-franchise. They are all wonderful, and for me, each one – restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, features particulars that characterize authenticity. Particulars revealing a temporary repair or spontaneous signage or the accommodation of fire suppression equipment or new wiring. Particulars may grow like a reef or pile up as accretions in layers and lumps and a little bump-out for the cash register.

All of these exposures seem to have been made in winter – likely due to my need for a cozy refuge and desire to crawl up inside a living thing.
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Personal History Machine: Scanning the Old Negative

In 1971 a young couple and friend dine at the Gate House of Cobbs Hill Reservoir, Rochester, NY.

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I had recently begun my first tour of duty at George Eastman House, Rochester’s museum of photography, and was encouraged by example to take up the view camera. I remember thinking that these machines earned their name from the necessity of hauling their lumpy bulk up to some proper view or vista prior to the elaborate procedures of assembly and exposure. Unexpectedly, I found that my fussy ceremony of bellows and meters made it easier for me to insinuate myself with human subjects. What could be less surreptitious? Or, as it developed, more personally invasive than the probing resolution of a camera with a sharp lens and large film? Forty-two years on, I can scan such negatives, as would an astronomer checking her plates for planetary motion. Here, progress is marked only by...

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Archives of the Born Digital

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I made this exposure of my father and my son, Carter, in June of 2004 near Busted Rock in the mountains of Patrick County Virginia. Today I opened this digital file hoping to craft a photograph that would have been unobtainable, by me at least, ten years ago.

I abandoned film in 2003 due to the personal economies of time and money. I did this understanding the shortcomings of my little digital point-and-shoot. Its RAW file-type notwithstanding, I knew that my 5mp images would possess artifacts characterizing a technology that was not yet ready for professional results. I remember thinking that using this consumer digital camera required a hopeful scenario of rapidly evolving post-processing tools like Photoshop to correct for the shortcomings of the camera that I could afford. Similar logic supports those of us who plan to be cryogenically preserved, believing that a medical fix...

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Good-Will Parking

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Looking West on the outskirts of Geneseo, New York with the commercial strip of route 20A visible through the trees, January 13, 2014. As shops close, this woman and her children are crossing the Good Will parking lot at the end of the day. For me there is poignancy in the deserted clutter of such places at such times.

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The Job of Photography

For decades I’ve been fascinated by photography’s job. It is unknowably large and ever changing. Making my own photographs allows me to crawl inside the medium and look around.
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