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I just added a tabbed page to That’s a Negative that will host a selection of my published pieces about photography. I will add essays and reviews gradually, and am kicking things off with a creative piece from many lifetimes ago, called “Proposals for an Imaginary Photographer.” I don’t plan to run these older pieces in their entirety here, but am making an exception for “Proposals,” which I wrote in that faraway year of 2000. This was originally published two years later in Glasstire, reprinted here exactly as it first appeared, minus a few typos/formatting errors.

Proposals for an Imaginary Photographer

Pretend aliens have landed on Earth. Document their presence. Look for clues. What ceases to be suspect? Can you be sure? Convince me.

Make 36 religious photographs that make no overt reference to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other organized religion.

Anonymous, “Human Jigsaw by an American Unit,” c. 1925

Show me a storyboard of failure. In reverse, does it spell success?

Please imagine, just for a day, that you are a dwarf. Nobody looks at you but your children. You can not drive, get a job, nor earn your father’s love. You have never been kissed on the lips. What does today look like?

Would you like to be an action painter? A physicist in repose? An actor between jobs or a Tejano musician at 1:30 Saturday morning? What time would you wake up if you worked the press line for a major newspaper? How many earplugs would be on the front seat of your car? Where are you going on that plane overhead? What did you do fourteen years ago? Fifty years from now?

Herbert Bayer, “Self-Portrait Before a Mirror,” 1932

In a boutique, I saw a bar of soap with a photograph inside of it. What picture would you clean yourself with?

What does a low-rider photograph look like?

Show me a cycle. Now a tri-cycle.

Anders Petersen, from “Nobody Has Seen it All,” n.d.

Take vacation photographs without changing your daily routine.

Please pinpoint, in one photograph, the midpoint between sex and death.

What is the strangest picture you know? Whatever pops into your head, re-photograph it.

Arno Minnkinen, “Self-portrait with Daniel, White House Overlook, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona,” 1995

Propose a condensed historical view — of your life, of language, of art, in a suite of photographs. Does it have a soundtrack?

Do you ever think about God?

What is the closest you can get to a barking dog or a naked senior citizen?

Please make a picture for someone you miss.



  1. Judging from the style and date of the photo above labeled anonymous, I’m guessing the photographer was Eugene Goldbeck. He has a photo currently up at PAM which is very similar.

  2. Blake, I’m pretty sure you’re right, and I was reminded of that upon seeing the Goldbeck at PAM the other day. The book I took the image from years ago (Kahmen’s Art History of Photography) has an anonymous credit, and since other photographers, like R.L. Dancy and Mole & Thomas, were engaged in similar gimmickry, I left it Anon until I verify it.

    Any thoughts on the current hang at PAM? Some passages elude me, as usual, but I thought the Pictorialist section is sensational, and the Divola/Craig Hickman pairing is excellent. Lots of good eccentricities scattered throughout, but a number of confounding choices as well. I should write up some organized thoughts this month.

  3. And plug your own site, man!

    Blake Andrews, ladies and gentlemen:

  4. Thanks, Chas. I am in the midst of revamping my site so I haven’t really been plugging it until I get that done.

    Of all the stuff on your blog, the most interesting to me are the Portland-based subjects. I realize they may have a geographically limited audience but there is a real need for someone to focus on Portland photography and so to the extent you can fill that role it is very welcome.

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