We asked two of our favorite writers and well-respected critics of photography to get together to talk about photography. Here are some topics, thoughts and talking points from their discussions.
On their personal introduction to photography.
Robert Hirsch: I learned the rudiments of photography from my dad in his basement darkroom at age 11. This set me on the path of earning my BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and MFA from Arizona State University and pursuing a life in the field as an imagemaker, curator, gallery director, professor and writer.
A. D. Coleman: My introduction to photography as a serious creative medium and communication sys- tem came in my 20s, working as an assistant editor in a publishing house that had a line of photo books. The thinness of the literature at that point, the ab- sence of a critical dialogue, surprised me. Culture abhors a vacuum; I thought I might have something to contribute.
About their experience first writing/critiquing.
RH: I am an accidental writer with no formal education in the field. As a professor of photography in the mid-1980s, I received a book designed to instruct people about color photography. I was so frustrated by its parochial approach and uninspiring content that I threw it into the trash and said, “I can do better than that.” In the ensuing 30 years, I am still trying to write “better than that” from a maker’s perspective.
ADC: People in the field were unaccustomed to the presence of a working critic, and xenophobically suspicious of any writing about the medium not done by a photographer. Over time they got used to me, and those who came after me, but it was strange all around, especially in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I had no long-range plan when I started, certainly no expectation that I’d still be at it 45 years and several thousand essays later. It’s an extremely passive readership, which I didn’t anticipate. With that said, writing about photography has sustained my interest for all these years, despite the absence of a supportive readership, the erratic income, the fluctuating availability of periodicals interested in such material.