Jacob Aue Sobol - Arrivals and Departures

Jacob Aue Sobol

Arrivals and Departures

Arrivals and Departures chronicles Jacob Aue Sobol’s travels across the Asian continent by train during 2012-2014, with stops in Moscow, Russia; Ulan Batar, Mongolia and Beijing, China, and numerous rural communities along the way. During three separate month-long trips, Sobol photographed the changing landscape from his window seat, as well as encounters with inhabitants of the locations where he disembarked. Using the camera as a tool to create contact, closeness and intimacy, Sobol’s approach to photography is personal. His voyage along the Trans-Siberian Railway was, he says “an investigation of the emotional states that control us, inspire us, and keep us moving.” The images capture life’s complexities: people, places and the relationships between them.



Sobol shoots in black and white, creating stark visual and emotional contrasts. Using a digital camera for the first time, but retaining the tight cropping and grainy imagery that characterize his Sabine and I,Tokyo series, the photographs are intense and immediate records of his subjects. Young couples in bed, animals traversing icy fields, stark corners of temporary lodgings are all depicted without reference to a specific place or time, reflecting the inter- connected, universal story that Sobol strives to tell.



Arrivals and Departures, as exhibition of nearly sixty 20” x 24” gelatin silver prints from the artist’s most recent body of work, will open today Thursday, July 16, and close on Friday, August 28 with a reception for the artist on Thursday, July 16, 5:00 – 8:00 pm at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.




Jacob is a member of Magnum Photos. Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, Rita Castelotte Gallery in Madrid and RTR Gallery in Paris also represent him.

Jacob Aue Sobol was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1976. He lived in Canada from 1994-95 and Greenland from 2000-2002. In Spring 2006 he moved to Tokyo, living there 18 months before returning to Denmark in August 2008. After studying at the European Film College, Jacob was admitted to Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Documentary and Art Photography in 1998. There he developed a unique, expressive style of black-and-white photography, which he has since refined and further developed.

In the autumn of 1999 he went to live in the settlement Tiniteqilaaq on the East Coast of Greenland. Over the next three years he lived mainly in this township with his Greenlandic girlfriend Sabine and her family, living the life of a fisherman and hunter but also photographing. The resultant book Sabine was published in 2004 and the work was nominated for the 2005 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

In the summer of 2005 Jacob traveled with a film crew to Guatemala to make a documentary about a young Mayan girl’s first journey to the ocean. The following year he returned by himself to the mountains of Guatemala where he met the indigenous family Gomez-Brito. He stayed with them for a month to tell the story of their everyday life. The series won the First Prize Award, Daily Life Stories, World Press Photo 2006.

In 2006 he moved to Tokyo and during the next two years he created the images from his recent book I, Tokyo. The book was awarded the Leica European Publishers Award 2008 and published by Actes Sud (France), Apeiron (Greece), Dewi Lewis Publishing (Great Britain), Edition Braus (Germany), Lunwerg Editores (Spain) and Peliti Associati (Italy).

In 2008 Jacob started working in Bangkok and Copenhagen. 


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Jacob Aue Sobol


71 thoughts on “Jacob Aue Sobol – Arrivals and Departures”

  1. Wow! That was my reaction from the first image to the last. Truly intimate, amazing image making. Truly great, I believe.

    David I read your words about the judges. I believe all you say and appreciate what they do, but still see the job of judges as nigh on to impossible.


    i agree with you on juror bit 100%….but alternatives? aren’t any…..subjective calls are what they are…figure skating, academy awards, epf…all same

    i must say it is so so refreshing to see a top notch photographer here …we see all the emerging and i support the emerging of course i do….but then when you see somebody NOT EMERGING it does put things in perspective, yes??

  3. “when you see somebody NOT EMERGING” this really shows that ability to connect with audience, artwork artist and world.
    That’s a great way of accessing a community a still photographer and video
    ps That is s great train trip especially if one takes a series of stops to places like Tuva Novosibirsk that mix with the Turkic and the old soviet regime is quite fascinating.

    pss I lost 3 sheep last night they succumbed to an unknown parasite

  4. Yes, I have loved this work for a long time as well. There’s a mix of pictures I adore, and pictures that make me uncomfortable in their rawness in A&D. It’s exciting to see another edit.

    I remember seeing an interview with Jacob on Vimeo somewhere — I’ll try to find it — where he says he would shoot around a thousand pictures a day, edit them down to about a hundred each night and from those try to find a selection of maybe ten with the help of his wife. The final edit is then drawn from those batches of 10. Or something like that — I’ll try to find the video and post it here.

  5. I got to know Jacob Aue Sobol’s work when I bought his prize-winning Tokyo book. My reaction to the book was that I liked the look of many of the pictures for the same reason that I like Moriyama Daido, but essentially felt as if Sobol had gone to Tokyo and was seeing the city through the eyes of Moriyama — too much similarity, considering that there are so many ways to see and express Tokyo. While I like Sobol’s work my feeling is that, sometimes, there is still sometimes some of Moriyama’s and Anders Petersen’s way of looking in it. And some of the shots me feel that they are staged, such as #34. On the other hand, the idea that some of the pictures make people “uncomfortable”, as Steve Caddy says, is a thing that I like.

    Overall, I see that Sobol is not static in his point of view, which I view as a good thing for any photographer, and look forward to his new work and new directions.

    As an aside, I’ve never been fond of the expression “emerging photographer” (which of course Sobol is not) because it strikes me as a cliché-type of word, but I guess it’s short-hand…

  6. For me, it’s a few of the compositions, especially the landscapes #’s 2 and 28 and the more pure compositions like #’s 5, 6 and 29. I’m not much enamored with most of the more intimate nude pics. Not that I’m a puritan or anything, but at this point in my understanding of photo history, it feels more like those kind of shots are more an achieving a necessary sticking of a level of difficulty, like a triple lutz in figure skating or something like that, than they are a real, personal work of art. A necessary part of the routine a pro has to stick if he she wants to earn a high score from the judges. No question Sobol stuck the highest level of difficulty with those intimate photos and deserves a 10 or very close to one, but that achievment strikes me as more of a technical formality these days than an innovative technical triumph or an art. It’s like how Olga Korbut shocked the world with her backflip on the uneven parallel bars in the 1972 Olympics, and now every top gymnast incorporates that move into her routine.

  7. Thanks Ross – fun for sure, although it spent too much time showing him making the pictures and not enough on the pictures themselves.

  8. MW – I turned 65 on Tuesday and I have never taken a single intimate completely nude shot. No, not a one. Not even a completely nude non-intimate shot. It has nothing to do with being a puritan, either. Just about being shy. Guess I’m doomed for eternal obscurity. Oh, wait… I almost forgot. Once I was driving north from San Diego and I wanted to stop and walk on a beach, chose one at random, and it turned out to be a beach where some men like to walk around naked. When I’m on a public beach with a camera in my hands I’m going to shoot what draws my eye. They didn’t like it much. They turned their heads away and placed their hands over their previous proud personal displays, but I got the shot. So I guess I got a remote shot at greatness, after all. But then they weren’t intimate shots. Humorous, but not intimate. So no shot at greatness after all.

    Damnit. And I’ve worked so hard!


    i think Sobel freely admits to “staging”…this is not all street work…..documentary and “fiction” are blending more all the time…it’s the ONLY thing that holds my interest for the future for sure….yes Sobel follows Peterson and Moriyama and yes as Imants says a bit of Ballen in his character selection….as does Gilden…so they are all in the same Moriyama “school” so to speak, although they would probably all disagree!! certainly “influenced by” is fair i think…

    i don’t really love the word “emerging” either…so please give me a better word…we used “young talent” for the Fuji grant…it’s one of those things i think where there really isn’t a great one word description…language fails….

    we all know what we mean conceptually…a relatively unknown photographer who is just starting to evolve and develop as an artist or storyteller or both….as opposed to somebody like Sobel who has already make a mark….

    hopefully everyone is evolving, growing, and emerging on some level..Sobel et al included….

    cheers, david

  10. better word for ’emerging’:

    Photographer, period.

    I find that term obnoxious and unhelpful ;)…and i know it is kind of substitute for ‘young’ ;)…

    not David/Burn’s fault at all, hahahahahahah….it’s just the language of the bit and wish it were rid of what, well, it is just a word, so who care if it’s used ;)…

    as for Jacob’s work…well, i’ve written about it here and in publications elsewhere (long before Magnum snatched him up), after see Sabine exhibited….

    so, nothing to write: just to savor it, simply that :)

  11. and it’s great to see, alsways, how his work has trained from Sabine to Tokyo to Arrivals and Departures…(someone i know is one of the nudes, but shall keep silent :) )…and also, viewers might be interested in knowing that Jacob also works his butt off to help ‘young/emerging’ photographers, as he did in Greece :)

    great to see the work here for a readership that might not be familiar with it :)

    big hugs to all


    absolutely….just PHOTOGRAPHER……agree

    labels always suck….

    i have thought many times of dropping the whole premise of Burn towards the “young and emerging” and simply giving a grant for a PHOTOGRAPHER a la Gene Smith awards etc…HOWEVER, every time i go to a photo fest as i just did at LOOK and at Arles and i see all those young eager faces out there who see Burn as some kind of hope or guiding light, then i realize we must keep this up even with our broken down website and lack of funding to do what we really could do…our Burn team often toys with the idea of just stopping Burn….its a lot of work and we all often think we should or could simply focus on our own respective works and forget the “emerging”…cést la vie….i could simply do one or two workshops a year and mentor just a few in that environment…it is odd, but what keeps us going is knowing that we can quit at any moment….

    no matter where i travel in the world now, Burn is known….i can find Burn followers anywhere who will buy me a beer, but of course i end up buying them a beer!! it is a very strange phenomena this Burn bit….

    since i took money out of my own pocket to give Sean Gallagher what was originally called the DAH photo grant (5k) we have granted in the last 7 yrs readers of Burn around $125,000. Not super big bucks, yet jumpstarted some real photographers with no strings attached grants…so maybe the wording doesn’t matter?

    the Burn commentator squad has dwindled with Instagram and Facebook…Burn exists mostly on Facebook and Instagram ….while our audience grows, few actually come here to the site…however were we to have a Burn seminar in New York or Barcelona or Paris or Los Angeles or Bangkok or Sydney , we would have a full house….if we decided to have a “family reunion” in my loft in New York 90% of the Burn crowd would show up for sure …i think i have personally met almost everyone who has ever written a word here…yes even Akaky this year!

    it’s great Bob to see you here again….we come , we go, but somehow there is some kind of collective WE….PHOTOGRAPHERS all….

    abrazos, david

  13. DAVID, Amigo! :)

    agree completely. Yes, no matter what the EPF grant is ‘called/label’, it doesn’t matter. It is the grant, the giving, the inspiration that matters :) It has done so much good! As has BURN and the entire crew. Happy and Proud of y’all and happy to have been there at the beginning :)

    As one of the finalists of that 1st grant that Sean won, I can tell you how important and good it did for my own life/work/exposure! And i know how much good work Sean has gone on to do as a result! :) And I think how much great work has been done by that first group and how many of us remain friends, publish books, drawn upon each other. :)….

    the EPF Grant and BURN itself has done so much good and inspired so much….let the world NEVER forget that DAH Blog put his own money up to show the work of us at a time long before magnum and other outfits :)…you, in your generosity was way ahead of the curve…

    we all admire and love you and dig you for that! :)

    Be proud and excited by all y’all do and the team and the inspiration both the ‘undiscovered’ work and by the ’emmerged’ work like jacob :)

    and i always read :)…even if not enough time these last 2 years to write much :)

    some anonymity is good too, :)

    grande abrazos amigo :)

  14. DAVID

    Burn is unique and is doing a great job and providing a fantastic service. I think most of us understand and appreciate the context and the difficulty in providing the time and funds to this endeavor — but it is an important one. Having had the good fortune of meeting you and some of the Burn team at LOOK3 makes me understand all this even more.

    I agree with you that providing grants to “emerging” photographers is generally more appropriate and important for Burn than simple giving a grant for a PHOTOGRAPHER in the manner of the Gene Smith awards. When I wrote about the word “emerging” above I did think I would be asked for an alternative — and the only ones that I can think of are “unknown” or “unrecognized”. I suppose many people will not particularly like either of these two words but, it seems to me, that they ring more true than “emerging” — and don’t have any “age discrimination”, which also seems appropriate.

  15. “….but alternatives? aren’t any…”

    David, I understand this of course. I wasn’t criticizing the process, just making an observation.

    Are you going to be able to stay home for awhile, go bike riding and such as you wanted? Or are you soon headed off on another trip?

  16. Frostfrog; funny; it’s the picture taking, and the process of doing so that I find the most interesting! :-) I love watching the way others work….

  17. the same Moriyama “school” so to speak,…..digital has a lot of influence particularly programs such as alien skin, silver fx etc that simulate film emulsions and the ease of creative access to that type of imagery.

    The advent of the smartphone and images with limited dynamic range that lends itself to gritty b&w conversion played it role as well. One must also remember Alex Majoli’s work with the small sensor Olympus C-5050 back in 2003 the list goes on ….. the old Bob Black stuff (grin) etc

  18. Ross, I do too and I did – I truly did enjoy watching – and also wondering a bit how I must look out there shooting. I just thought the ratio was a little off. The idea of how he worked quickly came across pretty good.

  19. I remember watching a doco about Magnum and it followed Martin Parr around as he shot. It was a revelation to me to see how many people actually didn’t mind being photographed. It seemed all about his approach to people. :-)

  20. Great work and nice to see a couple of new photos from this series, very refreshing. A few years ago I really, really got quite obsessed with this essay, studying absolutely everything to do with it. There’s about three or four videos up on the web which show him at work. Great stuff, you get to see little extra bits of information and clues on his thought process. It’s a pity Sobol has kind of given up posting images on his instagram account. I found it really interesting, watching him jam around with his phone camera, just grooving away capturing little slices of his personal life. A real free soul having fun. A great antidote from all the obsessed gear related crap.

  21. A few years ago I really, really got quite obsessed with this essay, studying absolutely everything to do with it

    I did too! It really drew me in, but Sabine and I Tokyo did nothing at all for me. Weird huh?

  22. Steve Caddy…
    Oh I really enjoy “I Tokyo”, I find Sabine is a much more subtle work. Just go through it very, very slowly and you’ll see the magic it holds. It’s a real lesson on observation and everything surrounding us that usually goes unnoticed.

  23. JOHN….PAUL

    i think he was chimping because of the strobe more than because he was shooting digi….just my guess….strobe always required some sort of double check for the most part….chimping with digi/strobe is the new “polaroid test”…..because you are not seeing exactly the effect of the light as you would without a strobe , it is very tempting to take a look….wise as well…

  24. Lots of photographers chimped before digital, they just did it with Polaroids.

    Though I do have a somewhat grudging respect for certain people who purposely handicap themselves by unnecessarily emulating old technology. Don’t see the point in it personally, though. For the most part, I figure if you’re not chimping, you’re not really trying.

  25. The cinematography on the Arrivals and Departures videos by Sun Hee Engelstoft is great: there were five or six of the on the Leica company blog and are worth seeing because — as I recall, some of the other ones are better than the one linked above although this one is good as well.

  26. David…
    I’ve always wondered how you doubled checked your flash in the days of Divided Soul with your M6 and Velvia. Was it always just a lot test shots back at home before leaving for Cuba? Anyone who’s shot colour transparency will remember how unforgiving it generally was and if we add that you also always seemed to underexpose slightly for those deep blacks…

  27. It was just an observation. Of more interest to me is what kind of post is he doing to these as I cant believe that look is baked in in camera. His look and his work remind me very much of Brett walker.

  28. “….if we decided to have a “family reunion” in my loft in New York 90% of the Burn crowd would show up for sure …”

    I think so. But the beach would be better ;)


    well i do plan to make Cuba my next big destination…it’s been a long time…i will check it out as possible workshop spot this fall…and i don’t ever want to do any workshops in any place that i do not also plan to shoot heavy .my last Rio workshop was amazing because we were all shooting together….i want to shoot Cuba in b&w this time around…a small story, not the whole island…i have a few ideas….i have done a few workshops in Cuba prior, including one with Martin Parr and Chris Anderson before things got complicated under Bush admin….

  30. David…
    Maybe Peter Turnley can give you some up to date advice with workshops in Cuba, he’s been doing a couple each year.

  31. Tuva where Putin went fishing (I caught none when I was there) but vthen I never had access to square hooks,candy sticks etc

  32. Pingback: #FotoWeb - Ten Best Photography Links from Last Week | Fotografia Magazine

  33. I love Aue Sobol’s work, even if I don’t know it well enough that it was recognized as soon as the BURN page was clicked onto. Even still, that first image stands well on its own. It was a pleasure to turn the pages!

    It’s a funny thing to relate someone’s photographs to past and present masters (Moriyama, Petersen, and Ballen for example). Does it take away from the mystery of the work, to see these influences? I doubt it. What about the early efforts of Bruce Davidson to gain access to subjects’ homes? It’s here in this essay, too. Aren’t the last two images a nod to Modigliani and Bruegel; do you see Jacob’s preference for tall drinks of water, Amedeo-style? Or Cartier-Bresson’s masterful Suzdal fishermen, which may have been influenced by Bruegel?

    Maybe Aue Sobol’s influence play between the ends of the Northern Europe/African axis. It gets intricate and too analytical; really not much fun trying to figure out where he comes from artistically. The game clouds the enjoyment of the work. Instead of pointing out the influences, and thereby taking away a layer of mystery from the images, it might be more enjoyable to figure out the way the vocabulary or the language of the Others get re-stated in a unique and individual vision. That too contains plenty of mystery, better spent understanding.

  34. I’m curious to know if Jacobs style, his way of expressing his images is fully defined? After all he’s quite young. Or perhaps his vocabulary depends on those he’s looked up to? Are Magnum photographers waiting another step forward in his visual language/authorship which will finally define his work without visually reminding us of Moriyama and Petersen. Or is this it?

  35. AKAKY

    well it is FB and Instagram where the photo audience IS…..this is not a bad thing in my opinion…it still brings more people to the actual site than would otherwise be here, AND it is still our audience…

    at the very same time we are redesigning Burn website itself as we speak…you will notice we have already re presented the Sobel piece….we are also re thinking how to present stories in a much better way overall….more thought is going to go into each essay……and we will have some photographers “on assignment” as well….and for YOU an opportunity for more elaborate text…..


    i think photographers should always be growing…yet growth can be measured only in small tweaks after a style is established….what happens is this…photographers work very hard to get a voice in the first place…this is no small feat….few attain this…..after they get a voice, everybody wants them to get away from it and try something new…this is easier for some than for others….and maybe should not be expected….HCB kept the same voice his whole life…Alex Webb’s stylistic voice remains the same….Parr is pretty much Parr…..so i don’t think radical changes are likely from someone who has established a look a feel a style….growth can come in other ways however…the WAY the work is presented and the context can change…types of subject matter can change etc….yet usually artists are who they are….you cannot rewire them to fit a new age or to suddenly become another person….in a lifetime perhaps there can only be a very few changes…..and these are evolutions rather than “changes”anyway…the photographers who literally try to reinvent themselves always fail…especially the commercial ad guys who end up chasing their tails…that never works…..

    this is a good longer discussion at some point….basically i agree with Jeff H

    cheers, david

  36. Speaking of the ‘re-design as we speak’ of BURN, I have no particular problem with the change in font face of the Comments, etc. but the grey-and-not-black type is much harder to read on my screens. Please use darker (blacker) type!

  37. I don’t know why I’m getting all snooty about Facebook and Instagram; I’m on both of them so I’m hardly in a position to go all holier than thou about them. It’s just that it takes me a while to write those pieces and I like to think that the people on the other end take their time reading them. Being the digital equivalent of Kleenex [one blow and go] is depressing in a semi-gruesome sort of way.

  38. And Bill’s right: the new font is fine, just make it darker. Some of us are not as young as we used to be, a statement I’ve never understood since no one is as young as they used to be.

  39. DAVID

    While a photographer’s style and his or her range can change I can think of quite a few photographers that keep to the style that made them famous, particularly when they get older. Other photographers simply are prepared to take more risk or become bored doing the same sort of thing for most of their career. From what I have seen of your work you are of latter type in that you have a broad range and like to try new things, as well as keeping a basic style that you come back to. There is something to be said for setting new challenges for oneself.

  40. AKAKY

    changes in technology and content presentation always seem to unnecessarily mess with many people’s heads…..from print to computer…from big cameras to small…from film to digi…from radio to television…from movies to television……from vinyl to cd’s…and on and on and on…hours of useless discussions on these changes….how many seminars and articles in magazines on the digital revolution discussion the now put me to sleep discussion “will the digital age kill photography?” yawn yawn ..such a waste of TIME…

    as far as i can see FB and Instagram especially have revived photography in new ways without killing analog at all…i’ve seen more good books in print since the digital age “killed” photography….

    INSTAGRAM is at the CENTER of photography mass communication for this age….every photo fest i’ve gone to recently INSTAGRAM was at the CENTER of discussion and practice…..yet NOTHING AT ALL HAS CHANGED WNEN IT COMES TO GOOD PICURES AND GOOD TEXT…STORYTELLING IS THE SAME AS ALWAYS….

    and at the same time i am endorsing Instagram i am endorsing it precisely because Instagram leads us to books in print ..and exhibitions etc…..

    Instagram is simply a tool for audience building…the same meaning exactly as “circulation building”for NatGeo Magazine or NYTimes or your local paper….only THIS TIME the “middle man” is eliminated…you can grow your tomatoes and take them straight to the market with no seller in between…no advertiser in between…no 3 editors in between you and your potential audience….

    that is the power of Instagram….and of course Apple will get in the game soonest…..a little late but who knows?

    one thing i have noticed also about Instagram…..people love a text…you would think otherwise…but at NatGeo Instagram (25 million viewers) we have noticed that what might seem too long a caption actually gets more viewers….now that is NOT the essay you want…yet there is an art to writing captions…and those lead viewers to wherever you want them to go…to Burn for example where they then can find an essay by Akaky….

    again, right now if i take a picture and i post to Instagram i can reach using all social media millions of viewers…all of NatGeo all of Magnum all of Burn etc etc…way more than i could ever reach at NatGeo Magazine which now is only 4 million readers….i can in fact shoot an essay for Instagram as i did with my Korean lady divers (Haenyeo) and post on Instagram at the same time my book on the Haenyeo is going to press and my 35 60×40 print show is going up…..so Instagram is only drawing attention to THE STORY….

    people are clearly on their phones all day long and all night long and everything in between….just a reality….our re design at Burn right now plays to the iPhone…Burn will now look better on the phone…pictures too small? of course too small…yet phones are where everyone IS…..if they see something they like on their phones they might just save it for later to see on their computer and then maybe maybe be interested in the Haenyeo book or whatever…

    in any case, every photographer is now their own potential publisher….not dependent on what some editor thinks but what their audience thinks…a direct shot at the “mass audience”…..

    cheers, david

  41. PAUL

    yes exactly…..steve and sebastaio are both good friends and the two most popular mass audience photographers out there…everyone’s “entry level” favorite photographers…..BUT they got stuck in their own popularity….that is fine for their respective businesses….excellent for business…perfect…..however for their peer group nobody is going to say “damn look at this new work”…i will appreciate their new stuff on some level but i wont be likely inspired…..for sure without even looking at a new book, i already can predict what i will see from both….this happens in all the arts…..to be popular or to be edgy? this is the question for all…..

    cheers david

  42. Regarding the new layout, I’m not big on that kind of thing, but whatever. Hopefully, it’s a work in progress and you are adding another viewing option to the traditional slideshow, not replacing it with a format that says, with their different relative sizes, that some photos are more important than others.

    As for artists styles and whether or not they should change, that’s an interesting conversation, but probably as old as the art world itself. Kind of depends on the individual. True artists probably shouldn’t change for the sake of change or stay the same for the sake of staying the same. They just do whatever they have to to communicate their vision in whatever way they want.

    For the more commercial artist, however, who is mostly worried about being famous or earning a living, adopting a recognizable style based on someone else and doing the same things that already successful artists do is probably the best way to go. Most people prefer comfort food to more exotic fare. Go to Cuba, shoot like David, you’ll get noticed. Or you can never go wrong in a whorehouse in Iquitos. Detroit for urban blight, Jaurez for drug cartels, the Sioux reservation for Native American stories, and so on.

    That, of course, relates to the side conversation about the audience wanting to hear the old hits, not the new stuff. I was like that when I was much younger, but I find that as I’ve aged I more often want to hear the new stuff. I really like it when I discover an older artist and get to know the new stuff before the old. I know I’ve mentioned that I went to a big gallery show in New York and came away knocked out by some guy named “Salgado”s work on a project called Genesis. Of course I was told that it was okay, but nowhere near as good as his old stuff. So I looked up his old stuff, and sure, it’s great, but so is Genesis (imo) and I’m glad I got to see it without all that baggage. Had the same experience with Warhol. In those cases, loving the new stuff made me happily anticipate looking up the old stuff and took nothing away from the experience when I finally saw it.

    As my second act as a photographer came well after I could be eligible for a Fuji Young Photographer award, and I otherwise figure it unlikely that I’ll ever be invited to join Magnum, I never much cared about being successful in the wider world, and when it comes to having a consistent look, have proceeded in pretty much the opposite of how David advises. Instead, I try to create a specific look for each project that communicates a meaningful story in a visually interesting manner, the end result being that I don’t have a consistent visual style. I think I have a consistent thematic style, but realize that and $4 will get me a cup of coffee. Sorry for this kind of babbling. I’m at the beginning of a project and feeling insecure about it. It’s friggin hard to do visually interesting work that’s also meaningful (feel free to call me a wahmbulance).

    Looking back at art history, you can see that how famous dead artists answered those questions varied. Picasso, for example, was constantly changing. Van Gogh always painted in the same style. Many painters like Kandinsky or Cezanne were successful doing work that built on the original ideas of others. Some, like Gauguin, were successful when they totally abandoned the look of their contemporaries and went off to do their own thing. For every one of those, there are hundreds we’ve never heard of who went off to scenic Lilly ponds and painted them in the style of Monet.

    As for Facbook, I now have quite a bit of experience with it and have found it’s good for driving traffic to your site, but pretty much nothing else. The great majority of those who drive by, glance at a photo and click “like” are unlikely to click through to the site and give it a thoughtful look. Some do, however, and it’s a good way to find them. So it can definitely be useful as a marketing tool, but as media for enjoying photography, I find it ugly and often counterproductive. Feel pretty much the same way about Instagram, but don’t use it enough to be sure.

    As for the book market and how social media helps with that, I find that corner of the photo world especially depressing. I’m thinking about Panos’s book, which, if I understand correctly, had a print run of a thousand copies and hasn’t sold out. From just about all I’ve seen and heard, it’s an excellent work that’s edgy and interesting. Panos has a large social media presence and has pimped the book to his followers for a long time, and it has Burn’s marketing weight behind it, yet some of those 1000 copies are still available? What chance does a regular photographer with no friends in high places or penchant for self-promotion have in that market? If trends continue as they are, I’m guessing at some point in the early 22nd century, the weight of all those unsold copies of self-published books piled up in basements will, along with old National Geographics, cause the earth to sink half a meter.


    Yes, we are very pleased…we have a lot more to do , but it won’t happen until September….August just is not much of a working month in Europe, and i have a mostly Euro team……

    Ironically this all happened because we were about to lose it all…our slideshow provider went out of business on that particular product….we were about to lose our entire archive..panic……anyway, Anton (bless him) and i have been working on this system..less likely to crash and MOSTLY because you can see the entire essay in one go as almost a contact sheet or you can click anywhere and go linear….super intuitive and user friendly…..

    you still the editor of the newspaper that i cannot remember the name of???

    wishing you all best Young Tom…..

    cheers, david

  44. MW

    you must not have clicked on a picture…as you will see if you do that it then becomes just like any linear viewing only much faster than prior….we could go with an all same size contact sheet and we will from time to time…we have way more options than before…

    where in the world do you get the idea that Panos has a large social media audience? just go look at the numbers ..not large at all…and since we launched in summer (nobody buys anything in the summer) a pretty tough time to sell…besides MW we’ve sold out almost everything we’ve published but it takes 6 months to do so no matter what……we launched Panos about 4 weeks ago!! and there are also books that people LIKE but never buy…..i LOVE a lot of books i have never bought for whatever reason….i might still buy them…years later!!

    anyway, don’t get depressed before you need to be depressed!!

    i don’t give advice…yet at the same time i do try to steer photographers away from adapting their look and feel for the project at hand especially if a paying client…no way out of this tunnel at the end…

    there are a whole lot of very “successful” and very miserable photographers in this category….LOTS

    cheers, david

  45. Well, this is interesting, I have consistently followed and kept up to date with the Burn website, but never knew about the conversation below, and I’m just finding out the potential of this discussion. Thanks to everyone who leaves an opinion here. Now, about the “finding your voice” or “authorship” issue, I’m a firm believer there’s no such a thing as complete originality or uniqueness. We all ( is my believe) draw from our past experiences, and keep pulling ( mostly unconscious) from our bank of previously visited art, movies, photographs of others. Every now and then I get excited about something I’ve produced , only to immediately realize it resembles strongly the work of somebody else.

  46. Ah good about the linear slideshow. I had my browser almost full screen and somehow missed the little arrows, and I even looked twice.

    Just checked and see Panos has over 2000 friends on FB. Guess it depends on your perspective whether that’s a lot or not. Now that I think about it more, you’re probably right. I’m not saying that selling 1000 books is not impressive. It’s more that I’m saddened by the fact that selling 1000 books is impressive. In a better world you’d be selling millions.

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that I change the look of a serious project based on what a client might want. Kinda demonstrating that at the moment, actually, which is what has me a bit insecure when pondering some of the issues raised in this thread.

    Seems like you change your look a bit from project to project, or at least some projects to some projects. Black and white or color at the macro level, obviously But the Rio stuff, especially the beach scenes, doesn’t look much like what came before. And the Korean stuff doesn’t look like the Rio stuff. Whereas, as you say, pretty much all Salgado looks like Salgado.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to be argumentative. I trust your opinion much more than mine in these matters, and for very good reason. But in the end, I yam what I yam and at this late date don’t really see any point in trying to be somebody else or do what they have done.

  47. >>> It’s more that I’m saddened by the fact that selling 1000 books is impressive. In a better world you’d be selling millions.<<<

    Most photo books have always had small runs: way before the digital revolution a run of 5,000 was as large as could be expected. A French photo journalist once told me that out the (several hundred?) photo books published annually in France about half were about cats. Some ten years ago I had an exhibition of photos at the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok, a popular tourist site. Two hundred tourists per day visited the exhibition during the two weeks it was up in the gallery section of the museum. Had this been in an art gallery this number of visitors would have been phenomenal; but as this was a general audience of tourists, as opposed to people particularly interested in photography or in art, my exhibition did not even create a ripple, much less a more permeant effect in terms of reputation as a photographer. Of course, I could see that this would be the case just by sitting in the gallery for a few hours and observing how people went through the exhibition.

    The point is that publishing a book that reaches the right, small audience is important for an unknown photographer. You're not going to make money on a photo book in any case, unless you're someone like Salgado (which has its own price, as suggested above). A photo book that is bought and seen by people interested in photography, as well as galleries, editors and other photographers is invaluable.

    Instagram is another part of this picture because it exposes you to people interested in photography, rather than the general population, some of whom will be interested in buying your book. And, yes, 2,000 instagram followers is not that much.

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