Photography in the New York Times

Back in September, I was reading Holland Cotter’s review of Catherine Opie’s retrospective at the Guggenheim (which we will cover soon I imagine), and I started to wonder what your view of the whole world of photography would look like if your only news source was the printed version of the New York Times (no online additions). October is a busy month for photography; there are lots of gallery and museum shows opening and the NY photography auction season takes place. So I thought I would do an experiment and cut out every article about photography for the entire month and then put them together to get a picture of how the NYT was reporting on the medium.

Of course, there is great photography published in every section, every day in the NYT. But I decided not to count great photojournalism in this tally; only the articles in the Arts section which covered the medium as an art form. (There was recently an article about a well known collector in the Obituaries which I also did not count.) I also did not count the advertisements for gallery shows and auctions, of which there were many.

So here’s the data:

October 3
Full article in Arts about Gilbert & George at the Brooklyn Museum (Cotter)
Short article in Arts about Josef Koudelka at Aperture (Smith)
Short blurb in Listings about Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about New Photography 2008 at the MoMA (Rosenberg)
Short blurb in Listings about Hans Silverster at Marlborough (Smith)
Short blurb in Listings about Roe Etheridge at Kreps (Johnson)

October 10
Short blurb in Listings about Gilbert & George at the Brooklyn Museum (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about Josef Koudelka at Aperture (Smith)

October 17
Short blurb in Listings about Gilbert & George at the Brooklyn Museum (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about Susan Meiselas at the ICP (Johnson)

October 24
Short blurb in Listings about Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about Josef Koudelka at Aperture (Smith)

October 31
Short blurb in Listings about Catherine Opie at the Guggenheim (Cotter)
Short blurb in Listings about America and the Tintype at the ICP (Rosenberg)

So what are the conclusions?

First, anecdotally, I think of photography as being generally well represented in the NYT, but at least in the last month, this wasn’t the case. If you are a purist and eliminate Gilbert & George from your count, then there was only one real article longer than one paragraph in the entire month. I also think of the Sunday Arts & Leisure being a good place for photography in more depth, but not so this month.

Second, I had not noticed how the NYT clumps the Arts news together and pushes it out on Fridays. I also had not really noticed how the same shows get repeated week to week in the Listings.

Third, the group above is mostly established, well known artists. Not a lot of experimentation or coverage of emerging artists going on here.

Fourth, there is no coverage of any exhibits outside of the New York area.

Lastly, they have clearly delivered the message that if you are going to see only one exhibit of photography any time soon, it should be the Catherine Opie show.

This post is not meant as a gotcha on the NYT. I conceived of it as simply a data gathering exercise to see if there were any patterns (and indeed, there were). I came away with the conclusion that if you are passionately interested in photography (as we are), the NYT can be a good first pass source, but if you want a fuller picture of the real action in this medium, you will need to look elsewhere to bring in other viewpoints. All in all, perhaps that conclusion is not surprising.

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