It’s that time of year when the news is full of stories about great events of the past year. Regarding photography, there are quite a few stories out there right now about the greatest photos of 2013. These images are fun to look at, and since I spend some time every week looking at the work of great photographers, I recognize some images from the past year.

I got to thinking about what items of photography in 2013 had been good enough that I remembered them now at the end of the year. What follows is a list of my favorite items of great photography from 2013. Great meaning good enough to be remembered. What follows is a list of personal favorites from the past year.

Bruce Davidson Los Angeles 1964-2012, the exhibition at the Rose Gallery, and the related article on Time Lightbox caused me to stop and think about landscape photography and what it really is. Mr. Davidson’s use the term landscape to include people photographs and urban scenes seemed at odds with the classic definition of landscape photography. As I thought about it I realized that we live in the Modern and Post Modern eras of art.  Modern art and by extension modern photography is about the personal expression and vision of the artist. The definition of landscape photography as the sharp rendering of a pastoral scene is a concept rooted in an earlier time and mindset. Mr. Davidson’s vision is what makes the work landscape. It’s also interesting that in the exhibition at the Rose Gallery he combines his contemporary photography with images he created in Los Angeles in 1964 while on assignment for Esquire Magazine.

The Elliott Erwitt interview on the New York Times Lens Blog was interesting. The article celebrates the release of Mr Erwitt’s book Kolor and his lifetime in photography. The interview was very lighthearted and fun. The insight on photography as Mr Erwitt approaches it was interesting. For example the quote “Black and white is a reduction of things. Color is an illustration of things…” was enlightening.

Robert Capa at 100, Get Closer is a celebration of the life and work of this inspirational photographer. From the web site for  the Robert Capa at 100 project:

For the 100 days between October 22nd — Robert Capa’s 100th birthday — and the opening of “Capa in Color” at the International Center of Photography in January, Magnum Photos and the ICP are asking photographers everywhere to Get Closer. Every day, we will post a Robert Capa image, a renowned photographer’s visual “response,” and then give the floor to you. Contribute your visual response(s) by uploading an image of yours on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and tagging it #GetCloser100

The gallery of images is great to browse. The social media response, not so interesting, but it’s there.

Bill Eppridge, one of the greatest photojournalists of his generation, died on October 3, 2013 at the age of 75. Mr. Eppridge was the photographer who famously captured Robert Kennedy’s assassination in Los Angeles in June 1968. That was only one of his many photographic successes.  He was a staff photographer for Life Magazine from 1964 until the magazine’s end in 1972. Time Magazine Life has a wonderful collection of Mr. Eppridge’s work from his years at Life Magazine. If you are old enough to have been alive during the 1960’s and 1970’s then you may remember some of Bill’s greatest photographs.

Brian Schutmaat: Grays The Mountain Sends, winner of the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize. A realistic portrayal of the landscapes of the American West. “The images describe a series of mining sites and small, hardscrabble mountain towns. Also portrayed are the people who have worked in them, built them, and a few younger people who might—or might not—be looking for a way out of them.”

The inclusion of portraits in the portfolio reminded me of  In the American West by Richard Avedon. In the case of Avedon’s interpretation of the American West, the landscape was omitted. Avedon chose to let the faces of the people he photographed tell the story of the land. Schutmaat chose to incorporate the portraits of the residents of the hardscrabble mining towns he photographed to add further insight into the culture of the region.  Schutmaat’s depiction of the West is in conflict with the idealized West portrayed by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. The work of Weston and Adams is still out there for anyone that wants to see it. The time and the influences that directed the creation of their work has past. To imitate that sort of work today would lack originality and it would not be compelling.

As I looked at the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize winner and the five runners-up I noticed the lack of digital manipulation in their work. Could it be that the heavy use of digital manipulation known in the vernacular language as photoshopping, HDR, and all the other over the top image manipulations are now relegated to fashion magazine covers and amateur photographers. Brian Schutmaat has a portfolio website with more of his images available.

Carrie Mae Weems – Photographer and Video Artist: recipient of the 2013 MacArthur Fellowship.  From the MacArthur meet the class of 2013 page:

Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African-American identity, class, and culture in the United States. Her intimate depictions of children, adults, and families in simple settings document and interpret the ongoing and centuries-old struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.

Use the link above to visit the MacArthur page for Ms. Weems and to read about her work and to view the YouTube video. If you look at the personal website for Carrie Mae Weems you can find Galleries containing an extensive sample from her body of work. What’s interesting is how you can look at her work and see it evolve over time. Most professional photographers don’t show you their early work. You can look through Weem’s galleries and get a sense of the evolution of her work over time.

There it is. I hope you enjoy some of this, and that you visiting some of the links I have provided. Best wishes for your new year.

Sam