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Susan Glover

Photography and the Black Art [Printmaking]

The Network Photographers Agency

NB. This is a post pulled from my archives (seven years old). Happily, The Network Photographers Agency –and its rich history– has found a home online at Network Photographers Online.

Last week, I caught the tail end of BBC Radio 4’s five-episode “Picture Power”, radio interviews with five different photojournalists. Delicious irony that radio can do more to describe a context for photography in ways that a photograph will sometimes obscure.

Mike Goldwater was sharing his experiences in Rwanda; the horrors of genocide somehow more attainable in his quiet and unassuming recounting. Laced within the absorption of the awful things we do to each other, and coupled with audio recordings he made of some of the subjects retelling their stories; I heard something else that sparked another tiny twinge of despair; Perhaps not comparable to the horrors a  depiction of genocide can create, but related to how we discover such things.

In 1981, Mike Goldwater, along with eight others, co-founded a press agency The Network: a boutique agency seeking to provide stock photography of a unique and high quality. By 2006 the Network was looking at final dissolution, unable to compete with digital stock giants taking over the industry.

This agency had over a million photographs in stock that were made using film. A million photographs from some very compelling photographers stored in an archive because they are not in a digital format that appeals to our desire for instant gratification. The despair is that we have come to expect a certain quality from photography as media presented digitally, a bright and fabulous quality. But we are losing a rich and detailed record.

In the instance of The Network Photographers Agency, one million details, one million negatives, one million prints, we may never see.

The photographers appear to be philosophic. To their credit, many have embraced digital presentation and continue to bring us compelling images. In browsing Mike Goldwater’s site, I see he is still shooting for print, in film, and for the story rather then Internet Wow Factor. Which is likely why his work graces magazine covers, and he was one of five photojournalists selected for a radio show about photojournalism. And maybe why he’s the one telling a story using any media possible to get the point across.

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