Sentences on Photography by Torbjørn Rødland

  1. The muteness of a photograph matters as much as its ability to speak.
  2. The juxtaposition of photographs matters as much as the muteness of each.
  3. All photography flattens. Objectification is inescapable.
  4. Photography cannot secure the integrity of its subject any more than it can satisfy the need to touch or taste.
  5. Good ideas are easily bungled.
  6. Banal ideas can be rescued by personal investment and beautiful execution.
  7. Lacking an appealing surface, a photograph should depict surfaces appealingly.
  8. A photograph that refuses to market anything but its own complexities is perverse. Perversion is bliss.
  9. A backlit object is a pregnant object.
  10. To disregard symbols is to disregard a part of human perception.
  11. Photography may employ tools and characteristics of reportage without being reportage.
  12. The only photojournalistic images that remain interesting are the ones that produce or evoke myths.
  13. A photographer in doubt will get better results than a photographer caught up in the freedom of irony.
  14. The aestheticizing eye is a distant eye. The melancholic eye is a distant eye. The ironic eye is a distant eye.
  15. One challenge in photography is to outdistance distance. Immersion is key.
  16. Irony may be applied in homeopathic doses.
  17. A lyrical photograph should be aware of its absurdity. Lyricism grows from awareness.
  18. For the photographer, everyone and everything is a model, including the photograph itself.
  19. The photography characterized by these sentences is informed by conceptual art.
  20. The photography characterized by these sentences is not conceptual photography.
January 14, 2019 · quotes · Torbjørn Rødland · photography

So this blog has its first confirmed reader, which means I ought to post more regularly again. Which I will do soon. Lots of things cooking these days, especially in the cyanotype arena.

January 10, 2019 · news · it's been awhile I know

Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and the equinox! This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep blooming in our civilized vase on the table.

DH Lawrence

December 22, 2018 · quotes · DH Lawrence

dehisce de·​hisce | -ˈhis dehisced; dehiscing

intransitive verb
to split along a natural line also : to discharge contents by so splitting Ex: seedpods dehiscing at maturity”
December 22, 2018 · good words · definitions

There is a Japanese word for things made more beautiful by use, that bear the evidence of their own making, or the individuating marks of time’s passage: a kind of beauty not immune to time but embedded in it.

Mark Doty /  Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy

December 21, 2018 · Good words · mark doty · japanese · quotes

I am no longer sure, although once I was, that we can improve the world with a photograph. However I’m still convinced that bad photographs make it worse.

— Ferdinando Scianna
December 21, 2018 · quotes · Ferdinando Scianna


An ongoing fear of mine is that my most successful projects come about by accident: that they are a last resort, or an experiment, or a mistake of some kind, that I end up following through with and come to find that they’re truer or more authentic-seeming than my more intentional or carefully-conceived work.

For example: when I had the idea for my most recent project, A Formal Feeling, I was reacting to a set of circumstances over which I had no control. Last summer I was coming towards the end of my Masters, and I had been in the beginning stages of the final assessment Major Project I’d originally planned to work on, when various family losses began to pile on top of one another to the extent that I could no longer see my way ahead. In late August I kept returning to the opening lines of a particular Emily Dickinson poem, and so eventually I decided to make a project about the traumas that were clouding my view, with the poem as its basis. I had a title and nothing else: no imagery, no idea of what shape the project might finally take.

Starting out, I thought the project might be a lot more abstract than the way it ended up. This was the first image I took for the project that communicated what I’d been envisaging. The bewilderment, the slight blur of the body against a dark, still, natural backdrop; more impressionistic than my usual work, but it represented my experience at the time with accuracy.

As time went on, I shot many different kinds of imagery for the project, and some patterns began to emerge. The project began to hold its own shape. As it transpired, this image didn’t fit with the rest, didn’t speak to the title in the same way as the other images, and it wasn’t hard to make the decision to exclude it. Still, I return to it now, and am reminded of those first harsh days of striking out afresh, into the unknown of the project and of the new circumstances I was in, and how valuable image-making was to me then in a very tangible way. The ability to give shape to the raw strangeness of unfamiliar and deep-lying emotions by way of a photograph felt like a kind of release: my feelings could be named, even if not in words.

A Formal Feeling ended up being, amongst other things, an exploration of distance, of remnants, of the ways we choose to preserve certain things rather than others: how often we privilege the preservation of fictions over blunt, material reality. I had thought the project would convey my feelings: in fact, it was a way of pushing my feelings away, of holding them back behind the glass of a camera lens. This first image, in all its oblique honesty about myself and my experiences, was irrelevant, just as I myself was to the project at large.

You see what I mean about my fear that my best projects are accidental: the eventual work had very little to do with me, and I was only ever following its thread. (Or rather: the work is mine, but is based on a series of impulses that I cannot verbalise to myself, and so feels beyond my control.) The extension of this fear is that I’ll never find a formula, and that my projects are things I alight on by virtue of blind luck, and I may never land upon another. And so the image means something different to me now: where once I saw in it my confusion and trauma, I now see my creative predicament: my grasping around in the dark for a new thread to follow.


Link is dead now, probably because of the Tumblr purge

December 7, 2018 · Quotes · Alice zoo · accidents


Earlier this year, I did a The Setup”/Usesthis interview, discussing all the tools I like to use. It was fun to do, especially since it is one of my favorite blogs to read. I’ve adopted loads of tools of all kinds myself having read about them there.


December 4, 2018 · elsewhere · usesthis · interview · tools · my work


Honored to have a print up in the Bakery Photo charity auction again this year, with that image from my Life at Waist Level series. So many great images in the show, looking forward to getting up to Portland, ME to see them all in person soon.

December 1, 2018 · Life at waist level · joshua tree · show


So I shot my first zone plate images the other day, using the Pentax 67 zone plate cap (f64) that I made using a Pinhole Resource zone plate. For fun and for reference, I shot lensed images alongside each shot, using the 110mm 2.5 lens. The camera was mounted on a tripod and the zone plate exposure was 8-Mississippis long (using Pinhole Assist as a meter).

The film was Ilford HP5, developed in Cinestill Df96 monobath, scanned using a Nikon D610 and Negative Lab Pro.

Pretty happy with this, though I need a better black background to have it go fully dark, which is what I intended.

November 30, 2018 · zone plate · pentax 67 · kitty collins · hp5 · monobath · my work

There is an old lyric that says the brushwood we gather and tie it together, it makes a hat. Pull it apart, a field once again.” Such is a way of thinking in old Japan, one finds beauty not in the substance itself, but in the weave of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates….A noctilucent jewel which exudes its glow and color in the dark, and loses its beauty in the light of day. Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty.

— Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

November 29, 2018 · quotes · shadow · Tanizaki

Izu - Blue Series

The act of making a photograph is challenged constantly by the seduction of making a nice picture,” instead of the purpose of capturing the spirit” of the subject and expressing my vision through photography. For me, the word spirit” may also be replaced by the word life.” To hold myself at the very edge of admiring the beauty of a subject before falling into that seduction, and still maintain the discipline to remain focused on the spirit,” has been the most interesting challenge of my creative life. Whether it is a flower, a pear, or the human body, beauty always invites me to step into that seduction…

…I choose instead to be seduced by the shadows, because these may be the very places—between the human and the spirit worlds—that the life” of a subject comes into existence.

— Kenro Izu, from the introduction to his book Seduced.

November 28, 2018 · quotes · photography · kenro izu

Lloyd Squires, owner of Myer’s Bagels in Burlington, VT, is my new baking hero:


Link: A day in the life of Lloyd Squires, Vermont’s best’ bagel maker

November 26, 2018 · bread · bagels · bakers

And no list could hold what I wanted, for what I wanted was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together—radiant, everlasting.

—Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women

h/t Sarah Hendren

November 26, 2018 · quotes · Alice Munro

parrhesia - n - (Rhetoric)

boldness or frankness of speech; the act of asking forgiveness for speaking in such a way

November 24, 2018 · good words · definitions


I’m excited to have one of my images included in this online exhibition of historic process photography at Analog Forever Magazine. The winning 30 images were chosen by Niniane Kelley—whose own work I love—and one of the other photographers included is Diana Bloomfield—whose work in pinhole and alternative process printing is an inspiration to my own. Not to mention all the other wonderful artists and images also chosen.

This is my image, a cyanotype I made from that pinhole of Anna I posted about earlier:


November 22, 2018 · alternative processes · group show · exhibition · cyanotype · pinhole


Took this shot of my pal John at the top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree last April. As with all of my Life at Waist Level” series images, he’s captured in the process of looking into the waist level finder of his own camera to frame a shot.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this image, it’s been in or will be in 4 different shows so far.

Camera details: Mamiya 7, 65mm, Kodak Portra 400nc, asa 50

November 20, 2018 · mamiya 7 · Joshua tree · life at waist level · my work

A photograph is a universe of dots. The grain, the halide, the little silver things clumped in the emulsion. Once you get inside a dot, you gain access to hidden information, you slide inside the smallest event. This is what technology does. It peels back the shadows and redeems the dazed and rambling past. It makes reality come true.

— Don DeLillo, Underworld

November 20, 2018 · quotes · photography · delillo

Whatever ideas you have in advance about the subject you want to photograph are just that - ideas. They are not the work itself, but rather the things that lead you to the work. They give you a reason to show up. Usually once you start working, other things happen, you see something else, or you might even find something quite different from what you set out to find. 

If you allow your preconceived ideas to be a ball and chain around your ankle, so to speak, the results can often be nothing more than a lifeless illustration of an idea. The ability to improvise and respond in the face of the unexpected is what will make your work interesting, what will make it more resonant and meaningful for you, and probably for the viewer as well.

— Dawoud Bey, from The Photographer’s Playbook

November 20, 2018 · quotes · Dawoud Bey · photography

Anoush Anou and the Sunflowers

Anoush Anou and the Sunflowers, September, 2018.

Shot with an Ondu 4x5 pinhole camera with a Graflex 6x7 back on Kodak Portra 400, handheld.

Pinhole Assist Log Info: EV 11.4, f225, 400asa, 7 second exposure.

Another image that shows me the way with pinhole. Seven seconds is not so long that I can’t get a legible image handheld, and the wind-tossed sunflowers help create shallow depth of field.

November 19, 2018 · Anoush Anou · sunflowers · pinhole · handheld · Ondu · my work

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