The Philosophy of Photography with Amir Zaki on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #61

Amir Zaki teaches at UC-Riverside and has had his work displayed in numerous galleries, in his recent book California Concrete: A Landscape of Skateparks, and profiled via a short film.

Amir joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider this common act that can stretch from the mundane to the sublime. How have our various purposes for photography changed with the advent of digital technology, the introduction of social media, and the ready access to video? What determines what we choose to take pictures of, and how does taking photography more seriously change the way we experience? We touch on iconic and idealized images, capturing the specific vs. the universal, witnessing vs. intervening via photography, and more.

See more of Amir’s work at

A few of the articles we looked at to prepare included:

Learn more at This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Follow Amir on Instagram @amir_zaki_.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts

Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

In this video created by the Guardian, writer and award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris talks about the nature of truth, art, and propaganda in photography. He draws examples from the photographs of Abu Ghraib and the Crimean War, both cited in his book Believing is Seeing, and he asks the viewer to consider a most fundamental question: how does a photograph relate to the physical world? Unlike a verbal or written statement, a photograph cannot be true or false. It simply is.

Then comes another argument worth considering — the idea that all photographs are posed. By way of example, Morris cites an instance where a photographer (in this case Roger Fenton) omits an elephant standing outside the frame. And it leads Morris to suggest  that we shouldn’t take photos at face value. Rather we should do our due diligence to find out whether there isn’t always a metaphorical elephant looming beyond the frame. As Morris states, a photograph decontextualizes everything. It reveals to us a two dimensional reality that’s “been torn out of the fabric of the world.”

This video is part of the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” series, in which the world’s top thinkers, newsmakers, and people with stories to tell are interviewed. For more meditations on photography, give some time to Errol Morris’ speech at the Harvard Bookstore. Find the transcript here.

Eugene Buchko is a blogger and photographer living in Atlanta, GA. He maintains a photoblog, Erudite Expressions, and writes about what he reads on his reading blog.

Related Content:

Werner Herzog Loses a Bet to Errol Morris, and Eats His Shoe (Literally)

“They Were There” — Errol Morris Finally Directs a Film for IBM

Pete Eckert: Blind Photographer, Visual Artist

Pete Eckert is blind, totally blind. But his disability (if you can call it that) hasn’t stopped him from expressing himself visually. As Pete explains in the video above, he has always been a visual person. And photography has become more than a creative outlet for Pete. It’s a personal form of artistic expression, the way he sees the world through sound.

Eckert was named the Grand Prize recipient of Artists Wanted: Exposure in 2008, an international photography competition. You can learn more about Pete Eckert in this video and on his web page.

Eugene Buchko is a blogger and photographer living in Atlanta, GA. He maintains a photoblog, Erudite Expressions, and writes about what he reads on his reading blog.

Alcohol in its Microscopic Splendor

Who knew that alcohol could take on such beauty? What looks like abstract art above is actually your everyday Cosmopolitan. And, within this larger collection, you will discover the microscopic beauty of The Bloody Mary, Dry Martini, Pina Colada, Sake, Tequila, Vodka Tonic, Whiskey, and White Russian. For more micro photography, check out the winner of the 2010 Nikon International Small World Photomicrography Competition, and our post earlier this week, The First Snowflake Photos (1885).

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.