I think I’ve spent about three years away from photoland. I wonder what I’ve missed during this span of time that’s been filled with academic coursework. My initial guess would be: not much. In the first weeks after the election, I wondered whether anyone within the photography community had published an essay on the relationship between photography and the current political situation in the United States. Nothing was forthcoming then, and I wonder whether there’s anything worth reading now. I suppose my own skepticism about this might open up the question of what the purpose of the “photography community” (“photoland,” as it was called) might be, and what anyone gets from sticking around it.
By now I know that I’m absolutely interested in the history of photography (not “Japanese photography” in particular, not “art history” in general). But as I focus closer on this history, it seems all the more important to guard against the hermetic approach to the medium that I think the term “photoland” captures. Even the most medium-specific of art historians 1 recognize that the term “medium” no longer refers strictly to a technical support. Why not ask what’s outside the borders of this land?