‘Analog Sea is a small community of writers and artists wishing to maintain contemplative life in the digital age. We publish high quality printed books and a biannual journal, The Analog Sea Review. Our mission is to support what we call offline culture. We are interested in what poets, novelists, essayists, and visual artists create in solitude…’ The Analog Sea Bulletin, Winter 2018-2019
Jonathan Simons, Founding Editor, spoke on, and lead a discussion about, printed books in the digital age at the Groundwork Gallery, King’s Lynn, on 20th November. Analog Sea does not promote itself on-line, so the audience was largely already aware of it and supported Jonathan’s mission. But this was no gathering of Luddites, all accepted that the digital world is with us and is undoubtedly useful. The concern was about being in control and achieving a balance between the real and the virtual, a balance giving greater priority to authenticity and lived, as opposed to mediated, experiences. The Analogue Sea Review, a thought provoking, beautifully produced pocket size book is the physical embodiment of this, a philosophy expressed through an object.
The first two issues of the Review include several reproductions of artworks. Jonathan stated explicitly that it publishes fine art, but not photography. I challenged him on this: ‘Why is reproduction of an artwork preferred to a photograph?’ His answer was that fine art (painting and drawing) was a more considered process and took more time to achieve than photography. I suggested that he was ‘prioritising perspiration over inspiration’. Pressed, he acknowledged that photography can require the application of considerable skill and effort, nevertheless he doesn’t want to include photography because there is so much of it about. We agreed to differ without having the time to take the discussion further.
I do agree with Johnathan about one thing: the world is deluged with photographs, largely of indifferent quality, the product of the digital revolution. I have to say that I see a lot of indifferent paintings, drawings and prints in galleries and open studios too. However, the prioritisation of ‘fine art’ over ‘photography’ has echoes of the old debate about whether a photograph is, or can be, a work of art, a debate that was surely resolved in the affirmative by Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz 100 years ago. Some practitioners now prefer to call themselves artists working with photography, though many are still happy to be called photographers.
I think a reconciliation lies in the word ‘analog’, or rather ‘analogue’. There are photographers, some would say a increasing number, who still use analogue technologies, materials and processes, such as traditional film, calotype, tintype, platinotype and cyanotype . It’s sometimes referred to as ‘real photography’, not a term I favour. Taking what Analog Sea stands for, this photography should commend itself because: it’s not digital; it encourages thoughtful looking and slower working; and it requires considerable traditional craft skill. The resulting photographic print has a beauty, depth, physicality and presence not found in prints derived from digital processes; like the Review, it is a philosophy expressed in an object. Analog Sea should be supporting this analogue world.
I’m aware of the irony in publishing this on my blog!