Brooks Jensen on niches and APUG

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    If you have a chance to listen to BJ's last podcast, he talks about the development of market niches, and talks about APUG & Emulsion (without naming the latter, though).

    In a nutshell, he argues against the over-nichification (word?) of photography, and proposes instead a more inclusive approach to marketing, and a Renaissance man-like development model for the artist.

    I was wondering, if you had a chance to listen to it, if that made you think at all about the question of niches. They have become a very solid and almost dominant mode of marketing in the recent years, and I don't see them going away. But they also pose the problem of being potential cul-de-sac, should they become too hermetic.

    For me, the thing that rang a bell was the Renaissance-man part, the need for a few more structured discussions on subject between photography and lounge chatter. I'm sure many of you have interesting things to say about painting and literature, and no, I don't really want to go to a painting forum to talk about them, because I find many people here to be interesting persons.

    So, what do you think Poussin meant by "Et in Arcadia ego", then?
     
  2. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I dont podcast so I can only guess at the content. Feel free to tell me how far off base I am, I'm just ranting from memory.

    I suspect Brooks and others like him who have made similar decisions away from tradition in their photography and/or business feel the need to justify those decisions, and attempt to get others to "see the light". We see it all the time-big name goes digital; big name issues statement explaining how much more enlightened they are now. Yawn.

    Frankly, without niches such as APUG and Emulsion there would be little to keep my interest in photography at all. This doesnt matter in the big picture of the overall market- we arent doing any harm to anything, especially ourselves, and we are too small to matter to the larger market. Some people just dont like the idea of us existing at all. We are troubling reminders of what they once were. They dont like it. They want to bring is in from the cold, to homogenize us into one big happy enlightened analog-digital melting pot where distinctions in craft are non-existent.

    Wayne
     
  3. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Wayne, I wouldn't put Jensen in the New Enlightened school completely, simply because he still publishes analog photographers, but he does have a fair share of appreciation for the digital workflow.

    I think his idea is not that people should stop using film and See The Light(tm), but rather take a more holistic approach to their thinking: not just film and digital, but also music, painting, current affairs and so on.

    In sum, he just thinks Emulsion is going nowhere.
     
  4. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Oh Sean! You evil man! You and APUG are "dangerous to our culture"!

    IMO Mr. Jensen has certainly missed the boat on this one. How many of us are also painters, writers, composers, sculptors, scientists, psychologists, poets, doctors, politicians, etc, etc.? A great many of us, judging by past posts. And he calls us narrow-minded?? I, for one, do not avoid looking at digitally created photographs. I don't, however, give at rat's a$$ how it was done or what it was done with (which seems to be the focus of many sites and magazines that include digital). That is why I am here at APUG, why I subscribe to Emulsion. And yes, I buy LensWork (no tech-talk!)

    My love is for analog. What makes that so dangerous?
     
  5. david b

    david b Member

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    As much as I respect Mr Jensen, he's a big niche-wit on this one.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    In the ultra pluralist world we live in I believe that building wals and or creating niches are the only way for any group to maintain cohesion and purpose.
     
  7. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I totally agree with you on this. I don't think that there is any way to get the same level of detail that a focused group provides without that specialization.

    - Randy
     
  8. highpeak

    highpeak Member

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    That, really pushes the lenswork to become just another digital photography magazine with a better print quality plus restrictions on talking about which digital camera is better. So sad, but people need survive, who can blame him.
     
  9. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    If I were only to read one periodical about photography, I'd agree that too narrow a focus wouldn't be a good thing. But, I don't, and from threads here about what periodicals are read by 'puggers neither do most of us. In fact, a great many of us read Lenswork, which is a niche publication in that it offers black and white images only, right? Sometimes, though, I truly am grateful to have niche publications (I think many call them 'zines), and the narrower the better. I can always pick up Popular Photography if my 'art world view' becomes overly eremitic! :tongue:
     
  10. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I just listened to the podcast, and it sounds to me like Brooks is making a prediction on the future based on a too-limited sample and is likely taking things to an extreme based on this limited view, without regard to all the factors involved.

    Take me for example. I am a paying member of APUG. I paint, draw, and photograph. I go to museums, galleries, and show of all types of artistic media. Last year I bought mixed media, photographs, and paintings (all from living artists). Just because I prefer to work with my physical hands to create what I create doesn't mean that I will continue to focus inward ad infinitum. I appreciate craftsmanship and skill. I feel that people can exhibit craftsmanship, and that machines cannot. How do I fit into his view? Am I destined to become a hermit because once I have started to exhibit a dislike for certain aspects of my world I am locked into that path forever, unable to react further or have any change in my world view? Am I to forgo future visits to any museum that shows art that is not %100 hand made simply because I choose not to use computers in my own creative endeavors?

    Life is so complex that no one person can understand much more than a fraction of it at any given time, so how are we to begin to understand any given concept without breaking it down into more manageable parts? If I want to learn more about the intricacies developing film, would I ask here, where the focus is clearly on that subject, or on a site that focuses on photography in general, where I could get any number of repeated misunderstandings from those who have little or no practical experience? It would be like going to the library and looking down every isle for what I want rather than looking up the section that covers my subject and going there directly.

    Focused group exist for a reason - they provide depth and details on their specific subject area and inclusion in one group does not by default require exclusion from all others. Without a site like APUG, I would know far, far less about the methods that I use in my own photography, yet I still participate in groups that have a photographic theme which are not analog-only.

    Just as with any study, specialized groups of people form naturally to explore the aspects of their interests in greater detail – a level of detail that requires focus. While I believe that all things should be taken in moderation, there is no reason not to pursue your interests to the level you feel like pursuing. Nor do I feel that in doing so we jeopardize anyone else – everyone is free to do what they want. If they feel that they need external justification for what they choose to do, perhaps they should rethink what they are doing, and why they are doing it...

    - Randy
     
  11. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Niche's aren't built, they happen. When the broader marketplace loses incentive to serve a shrinking market (for both products and ideas), "communities of affinity" coalesce. They're inevitible. Whether or not someting like APUG is better than magazines or not (and to me, it is), they are both an inevitible use of technology and a reflection of the instinct of the die-hards willingness and ability to bootstrap it's own sources of information and motivation. With no insult to Sean intended, this site responds to a need, it doesn't create one. It may help perpetuate the need. At base, it serves a market that's been abandoned by older, larger, traditional players.

    APUG is irrelevent to the broader photographic industry and it's about as dangerous to it as rennaisance festivals are to modern urban planning. It's also as meaningful to its participants. I mean that in a good way.
     
  12. catem

    catem Member

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    Thank goodness for the niches I make use of in my life. All of them.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I thought that was pretty off-base.

    Wanting a resource that is focused and detailed like APUG doesn't entail not looking at other things. Analog photography is a pretty wide subject, I think. It's much wider than, say, the subject of another site I sometimes follow, www.trombone.org, and yet there are hundreds of people on www.trombone.org who are interested in music in general of various styles and periods as well as other art forms and cultural phenomena and who do things other than play the trombone, but they want a resource that will provide detailed, specific information about this topic, more specific than they might find on a website about music in general or art in general.

    Would it be so bad to have a magazine devoted to large format landscape photography, which Brooks Jensen proposed as an extreme example? There is quite a wide range of things that people are doing in that area--documentary, spiritual, personal, rephotographic projects, environmental, political, historical, architectural, color, black and white, etc. There could be photographs and essays about the landscape by scholars and writers who study issues related to the landscape. There are university departments of landscape architecture and "landscape studies" is becoming an increasingly well defined academic field. Is it a niche within a niche within a niche? Well maybe, but sometimes you can learn something by considering it carefully.

    I spend most of my life writing and teaching about literature and culture. I'd rather read a variety of websites, magazines, journals, and books that discuss various topics in depth than one thing that tries to be all things to all people.
     
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  15. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yup...

    My own work improved so much when i focussed my energies on doing one thing, and comitting to it. From time to time, I look for technical help here. I read a number of different magazines, and look at photographs on a number of different websites and magazines because I am interested in what folks are doing in other areas of photography and imagemaking.

    Making a sustained comittment to a process can yield excellent results. Hardly dangerous ones.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2007
  16. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Exactly so. But I wonder if the "danger" is not to photography...it's not like people will get all confused and stuff and stop taking vacation snaps...the danger is that all this specialization dillutes and fragments a business opportunity. If everyone is making a little money serving a niche (presumably, brilliantly), how the heck is anyone going to make a ton of money?
     
  17. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Another way to look at it is that ships need harbors every once in awhile, but a ship that never leaves the harbor is limited in its usefulness, also.

    Vaughn
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    If you find out, let us all know.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  19. catem

    catem Member

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    No - most often it would be adapted. To a restaurant, a winebar, an art gallery, a museum (I know ships along The Thames which have become each of those). A smaller boat - a home. No more limited in their use (and often a darn sight more interesting :wink: ) than a ship at sea.
     
  20. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Dang...caught at at sea in an allegorical storm!:wink:

    Vaughn
     
  21. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I'm afraid Mr. Jensen is rather missing the point. Most people belong to multiple interest groups. Always have done, always will do. Nothing new to see here, move along please...

    Technology, most conspicuously the Internet, has allowed dissemination of highly specialized information and the gathering together of special interest groups in one virtual space. There are some 13,000 NTTP newsgroups - admittedly many are inactive or full of porn... erm... or so I am told... and gawd-alone knows how many special interest websites and forums exist, some of which live for a few glorious years, and then burn out, to be replaced by two or three sites based on portions of the old site (shades of the Judea People's Front (warning: naughty words) ).

    It has always been the case that people gravitate towards things that interest them. That is a truism (and blindingly obvious). The only difference now is that groups such as APUG, or the LF.info site, or the rangefinder forum etc allow more finely grained interest groups to form. The idea that we are all going to dedicate our lives to one niche within a niche interest is not tenable for anyone not inflicted with crippling autistic monomania.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    [​IMG]

    Next question?
     
  23. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    It would be nice if you could show a little more sensitivity to us C.A.M. sufferers. In the spirit of friendship I give you a month's trial, supporter status on CAMS.org
     
  24. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Well, most everyone has said about what I would so I'll leave it at that.

    I did buy a copy of lenswork once about a year ago and could see it was headed to the d-world.

    They make their choices just as I make mine.

    I just pulled a roll of HP5 out of the freezer because, if tomorrow is as nice in NYC as today was, think I'm gonna carry the CV R2S on my walk to and from work and do some "niche" analog photography! :D
     
  25. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Not quite the CAM I had in mind, but the glazed and vacant looks on some of those young ladies' faces (I had to investigate several in the interest of research you understand) seemed typical of the affliction... The videos were quite low resolution so it was difficult to tell what they were doing exactly, but many seemed to be suffering from repetitive stress disorder too. Still, it's good to see that so many are receiving the therapy they need...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  26. dphill

    dphill Member

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    Bob F and jstraw,
    Would this just be an indication of the true confusion of the CAM era?

    Dan:D