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.