May 28: Sojourn

Date #28May 28: Back in 2016 I started this blog after recovering from serious illness and being forced into unexpected retirement.

I envisaged for this blog a series of posts that would open up world photography to those who share my passion for the medium and increase my contact with such people, to broaden my own horizons. Indeed, in the process I was rewarded with some interest from like-minded individuals, a little positive feedback and the knowledge that many were viewing these pages and revisiting them…such is the nature of blogs.

Strangely, despite being a blog published every day, each post only garnered a handful of views on the day it was uploaded. So much for being ‘of the moment’; clearly I wasn’t meeting a demand, or not reaching the right audience.

Nevertheless, the principle of writing about something in photography linked to the day’s date was an excellent stimulus and discipline for writing. Consequently, I’m pleased to have achieved the tally of some 430+ posts each of some 1000-2000+ words, at least 500,000 words in total, or around the same as Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and approaching the length of Xavier Herbert’s Poor Fellow My Country, though I cannot pretend to producing writing that is the quality of any of those!

walking.jpgRecently, seeking a challenge of a more physical kind and a true change of pace, I ventured out on a week’s walking trip of 200km camping by back-roads and tracks and in forests across Victoria, out of the Central Highlands and onto the flat plains and salt lakes to the foothills of the Otways.

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 9.12.23 pm

I took no photographs, but I vividly recall what I saw. All would have made merely ‘scenic’ pictures if I’d used a camera right then and there, but in memory, with the addition of the full sensation of being in those places, my impressions are indelible, an inspiration to return to make an attempt to render them photographically.

Early in my absence, on May 18, an old October post, for unknown reasons, attracted my ‘highest ever’ number of readers. It was titled Vision and was about a photographs in a newspaper report of a religious apparition witnessed by thousands, in the middle of nowhere in Portugal, who had come to see it at the urging of peasant child shepherds. The photographs at first glance record nothing, so to the prosaically-minded, it may be dismissed as a prominent instance of mass-hysteria. On the other hand, what they do reveal is overwhelming evidence of a leap of faith.

Realism and faith, as embodied in those photographs, are relevant here. My journey gave me plenty of time to think about things, amongst them being this blog which occupies several hours of my day in researching and writing.

Consequently I have decided to give it a rest for a bit, attend to my family, house and garden and to reassess my persona as a ‘retired academic’, to reinvent myself, to eschew any sense of having to live up to the expectations of the academia of which I am no longer a part, a world that has moved on to become corporatised, mercenary even, and much less interested in learning for its own sake.

In the meantime, OnThisDateInPhotography will remain as a useful resource, I hope, and will inform my ongoing contributions to Wikipedia, and you can find more of my thoughts on the medium over at Camera/Eye.

I continue to feel passionately about the medium of photography, to enjoy writing about it, and to get a thrill from my readings of others’ blogs, none necessarily mainstream but all of which, in the following selection, satisfy my particular curiosities and fascinations, like Dr Marcus Bunyan‘s photo exhibition reviews in Art Blart; Alison Stieven-Taylor‘s informative and newsy Photojournalism Now; Running Past in which ‘Paul B.’ investigates, in extraordinary depth and often through photographs, the histories of the parts of London past which he jogs; Katherine Anne Griffiths‘ fun-filled Photobooth Journal in which the phenomenon of an immobile, automatic camera, a kind of camera-trap for people, is shown to reveal so much; Forgotten Ancestors whose owner exercises quite brilliant research skills to bring to light the meanings and histories of found photographs; old friend Greg Neville‘s occasional insights (he’s busy teaching, with little time for writing) are eclectic but always generously enlightening;  Nihilsentimentalgia, photography lecturer Dr. Sofia Silva’s web-based platform about contemporary photography and visual discourses originally created for her students, and now, as it celebrates its 10th year, a cornucopia for all photo-lovers; photo educators Jon Nicholls’ and Chris Francis’ bounteous, richly stimulating Photopedagogy blog for other photography teachers and their students; Martina Kormaz‘s the depth of now, in which sensuous photography is the illustration of an honest autobiographic commentary; while the anonymous owner of Mírame y se color regularly presents constantly surprising and varied reminders that I still know so little about photography and those who make it.

There are many others to keep you reading until you find me back here again, in a while…

17 thoughts on “May 28: Sojourn

  1. Hey James… Always great to dip into your posts, and when there’s time more will be read. We enjoy the thought of your walking trip… we envy you. The pace and the therapy we yearn for…
    All the best and we’ll catch up again soon at the Old Goal unless the new owner’s ‘art centre’ plans have done away with catering for chatting flaneurs….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you guys, it’s wonderful to have your support amongst the many other things you do for photography and especially the photobook. I look forward to a catch-up in Castlemaine…not sure about what the new owners of the Gaol have panned for food outlets up there, but they can surely not just abandon that fantastic view to the crows!


  2. Dear James
    Since I discovered your blog last year I’ve been a regular reader and huge admirer of your work. I love the way you combine care and attention to particular photographs with a rich conceptual framework and stimulating ideas. The variety and volume of your writing in the blog are remarkable. After half a million words I’m not surprised you need a rest! Many academics I know – indeed all of the ones I admire – have a distinctly ambivalent relationship to ‘the academy’ – whatever that is nowadays. Your blog is great because it seems to have evolved as a way to write and think about photography that isn’t compromised by conventional academic structures – and is also genuinely open to anyone. I’ve recently moved from a university to the V&A Museum in London where I’m running the MA History of Design and looking after PhD students. This September we launch a photography pathway on the MA programme, to connect with the V&A’s amazing photographic collection and to coincide with the opening of the V&A’s new Photography Centre. Your blog is up there on my reading list for our students so I am sure it will acquire a new and growing audience.

    Thanks again for sharing your wonderful work. Enjoy your family, house and garden – I’m sure they will be appreciative of your time.

    Best wishes
    James Ryan
    V&A Museum, London

    Liked by 2 people

    1. James, thank you your reading and for taking the time to write so encouragingly about this blog. I’m thrilled to know of your addition of it to your postgrad reading list and I look forward to seeing the fruits of your work at the V&A and in its new Photography Centre. Its photography collection is comprehensive, unique and world-class…an enviable resource for you and your students. I’ll certainly return here once refreshed and after having more time to do my own reading, especially now that I have copies of your own excellent texts “Photography and Exploration” and “Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire”, both of relevance to thoughts about my recent travel and I look forward to hunting down your contributions in “21 Stories’, Cultural Geographies”and the intriguing “Mrs Harris Photographing in the Forest”.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mate, there are cultural journals crying out for this stuff. With your academic background you would blitz formally publishing so many of you posts. Particularly if you picked up on some of the major themes and brought some of these together.
    Just a thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The other thing to mention is, your blogs come into my email, so I read them there. I don’t usually go to the site itself. I would assume that is the same for others. So the stats on the site do not necessarily reflect the activity of readership.


      1. HI Michael, thank you on both counts…I am happy doing this writing for its own sake here rather than in academic publications as I can do it on my own terms. It’s just wonderful to know you think it worthy of that, and that you and others whose work I respect and admire are reading it. I’m giving the brain cells a bit of a break, attending to some other writing as well as the domestic scene, but to return to the blog, wth some reformatting of it perhaps, will be irresistible!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope we haven’t lost your for good James!
    I echo James Ryan’s thoughts above… your erudite and always passionate postings where I highlight I always looked forward too.
    You knowledge of art and photography is unsurpassed – and have such a stimulating, and willing way, of writing about the history, subject, context and analysis of the photographs themselves.
    I really hope you do some more – j’adore
    Art Blart

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marcus, many thanks, as always, for your encouragement.
      No, its impossible for me to resist looking at photographs, thinking about them and writing, and your own awesome stamina in continuing to produce your copiously and generously illustrated ArtBlart is a constant inspiration.
      More strength to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your kind words and for linking to my blog – I was drawn to your blog posts as soon as I came across them. I think you had left me one of your excellent and insightful comments? And (selfishly) I realised how much I could learn from your writings, which I dip in out of as time allows. I hope you’ll return to blogging at some point. In the meantime, thank you for sharing your knowledge, for your helpful comments and for extending the hand of friendship. And I wish you continued good health, and enjoyable family time! Till you return!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I loved this post – and then I saw my name 🙂 for which I am very grateful. Thank you for the mention. As I was reading your post a book came to mind that I thought maybe you would like. Have you read ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rebecca Solnit? You may appreciate it if you haven’t. I wish you plenty of rest and inspiration and I am looking forward to you returning.


    1. Yes, I’ll have to return to Solnit…a couple of years ago I was reading her book in the shade of a cliff by the beach (on opening it again, sand grains fell out) but the surf was drumming and the sand fleas biting, so I put her down…you’ve reminded me to pick her up again. Love your quote from her The Faraway Nearby – “…without a story is to be lost…” Thank you…and keep your inspiring posts coming!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She is the best when you feel so alone in a crowded world. Bits and pieces of her are enough to find a new footing. To embody our unknown again. I am glad that you have read her and that you will read her again. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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