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Photocritic Int’l: Backstory

Photocritic International (formerly C: the Speed of Light) was conceived as, and remains, a means of keeping people abreast of my professional activities as a critic and historian of photography, and as an observer of and commentator on new digital technologies. However, since its premiere, almost all the assumptions on which I premised it have changed.

Long contemplated as a project, finally planned during the course of my time in Sweden on a Fulbright in early 1994, C: the Speed of Light made its first appearance in early 1995, in the form of a printed, two-sided, single-sheet flyer distributed in person, via fax, and by mail. I modeled it after those periodic summaries of their activities that various friends and colleagues of mine send out at year’s end — a bit impersonal, of course, for a private network, but surely the most efficient way to keep in touch with a far-flung professional network such as mine, since our paths and projects don’t intersect on a regular basis.

When Peter Guagenti, then my assistant, proposed establishing an online presence for me on the then-emerging World Wide Web a few months later, the text and organizational structure of that initial broadside version of C: the Speed of Light became, with some modification, the pattern for the web version of C when it made its spring 1995 debut online as a small-scale professional home page. This made me the first photography critic (and one of the first art critics) to establish a beachhead on the World Wide Web. However, as I quickly discovered, the web allowed me a more expansive set of options — greater room for content, and access to a much wider audience.

At the time of that launch, I had almost no experience with the internet — not even an email account of my own — and certainly no idea where it would lead. Within the next six months, C became the flagship for what subsequently evolved into The Nearby Café, and started me off as a committed internet publisher.

Over the years since, I experimented here with the presentation of various kinds of content for C: the Speed of Light. For the past decade it’s had a webmaster, John Alley, who has helped me refine it in many ways. This latest incarnation profits additionally from a comprehensive, floor-to-ceiling design and navigation-system renovation of The Nearby Café as a whole, provided by the splendid team of Marc and Nacia Miller’s Toronto-based web-design firm, Crossbeam.

Some changes that previous visitors will find in this new version:

  • the main components of this Café feature now take the form of a blog;
  • the new posts produced for this blog will remain here permanently;
  • the older texts I’ll post from time to time will (in most cases) remain here for only a few months before moving to a new, autonomous website, the Photography Criticism CyberArchive;
  • the material from past issues that I thought some visitors might want to access has gone into archives here;
  • my creative writing and artmaking activities appear elsewhere at The Nearby Café;
  • and I have added some new features, with more to come.

Streamlined thus, Photocritic International enters the 21st century, just a year or so behind. In its previous and new forms this communiqué has appeared online continuously since its inception, making Photocritic International the longest-lived website for a photography critic and one of the most enduring for any critic. However, though I imagined it as a form of journaling (we didn’t yet have the term weblog), the process of posting new material on a regular basis proved daunting — not for lack of material, but because the work involved took a fair amount of time in an always-crowded schedule. Hence C: the Speed of Light, and indeed The Nearby Café as a whole, often went through static phases during which little if anything changed.

We now have production methods that facilitate those tasks enormously. I plan, therefore, to post new material here on a steady basis henceforth. I urge you check in regularly, to see what I’ve added to the mix, and to subscribe if you like what you find.

— A. D. Coleman

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