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"The Outback Portfolio Tutorial"

last updated 05/03/2001


Digital Outback Photo announces a major new feature, the "Outback Portfolio Tutorial".

This is not a portfolio review as found elsewhere on the Internet. Nor is it a forum.

Rather, each month's tutorial will consist of transcripts of an interactive dialog between a professional critic and a photographer, concerning the photographer's work as represented by a portfolio chosen and posted by the critic and Digital Outback Photo.

We are proud to have obtained the collaboration of Ben Lifson, whom the ICP Encyclopedia of Photography has named one of the "most important writers and writer/critics" in the field.

Central to our focus on the content of photography is our belief in photography as an art form.

This tutorial establishes a unique site devoted to the discussion of the art of digital photography in portfolios varying sharply, from month to month, with respect to style and subject matter.

Each month's photographer will take part in a free, sustained dialog with Lifson, beginning with a 2-hour instant message conversation, followed by a regular exchange of emails.

To the rest of us, these monthly dialogs will provide an on-going exploration of the art of photography in the digital world.

So that these dialogues might be widely accessible and of continuing use to the community, we will keep each portfolio and its tutorial available on Digital Outback for a year.

And it is our hope that the tutorials will cumulatively prove to be of such general value as to merit collection and publication in a book, so as to reach a yet wider segment of the digital photography community, in a permanent form.

For information about Ben Lifson, the tutorial, and how to submit a portfolio


The Outback Portfolio Tutorial
  • We will publish one Outback Portfolio Tutorial per month.
  • Deadline for submissions is the 25th of each month.
  • We will select a portfolio and contact its photographer by the 28th of each month. (Please do not contact us to see whether or not your portfolio has been chosen.)
  • On the last day of each month we will publish the portfolio for the next month, together with notes by the photographer. On that same day, the discussion will begin in the form of a 2-hour real time messaging dialog between Ben and the photographer.
  • On the 1st of each month, we will publish the transcript of that dialog.
  • During the rest of the month we will publish, in two or three installments, transcripts of the ensuing e-mail dialog between the photographer and Ben.
  • In subsequent months, depending on reader response, this dialog might be expanded by adding, in the forum format, readers' comments, selected and/or edited by Ben and/or Digital Outback Photo.
  • The portfolio will stay online for at least 1 year
The Story of Digital Outback Tutorial and Ben Lifson–An Editorial

The Internet, has changed the nature of the discussion of photography. Opinion no longer comes only from "on high,", via established critics, curators, journals, publishers, and exhibitions. Thanks to the Internet, there is now a dialogue among photographers themselves in a true forum i.e., an open, public place where all opinions are freely expressed and voices heard.

However, this dialog often lacks a sustained professional voice. We at Digital Outback Photo believe that a suitable voice emerged when Ben Lifson launched his private on-line tutorials.

We must admit that at first we were not impressed. There are many web site tutorials in many fields, and as some of you know, there has been opposition, in one forum, to the very idea of listening to only one voice.

But after a closer look we believe Lifson’s method and philosophy consistent with the Internet spirit.

To begin with, he uses real time instant message programs for a truly interactive dialogue with photographers. His comments do not come to the photographer fully formed, and perhaps arrived at years before. Instead, he develops them in real time with the photographer, in response to the photographer’s work and ideas at the moment.

More importantly, he is committed to the multiplicity of opinion that is the heart and soul of the Internet photographic community.

"I hold no brief for any specific camera, technique, style, genre, school of thought," he writes. He believes that all photographers "have truths to tell and, if strong, will work their "singular ways" to the pictures that "best express" those truths.

He conceives of his task as teacher as being only that of helping a photographer find his or her individual way to his or her original artistic statement.

We think Lifson’s private tutorial method complements our goals at Digital Outback Photo to present photography as an art form.

We are pleased that Lifson agrees with us and are proud to be able to offer this service free to the Internet community via this new monthly feature, the Digital Outback Photography Tutorial.

How to submit
  1. 5-10 photos (submissions with less or more will be usually ignored)
  2. Each Photo should be 1200 pixels in the maximum dimension. Later if the portfolio got accepted we need the photos in 1600 pixel width (with lowest possible compression)
  3. Photos should be in JPG format (compression 9 in Photoshop)
  4. Each photo should have a title.
  5. The submitter grants the right to publish free of charge the photos at Digital Outback Photo for at least 3 years.
  6. The submitter also grants the right to publish the selected photos and all review comments free of charge in written form (book) in case this series would make it into a book.
  7. All photographs have to be original copyright of the submitter. No work which needs a model release form will be accepted
  8. The submitter writes some note about himself and his work (goals)
  9. There are no limitations as to subject matter or style as long as we the photographs are taken with a digital camera (we might need the originals to verify this). We are very open to interpret this rule
  10. Photos can be color or B&W
  11. We need the submitters full name, phone number, address and valid email address. This is to ensure that we talk to a real person. Only the name will be disclosed to the public.
About Ben Lifson

Ben Lifson is best known for his photography criticism, beginning with his regular Village Voice column and freelance features for Popular Photography (c. 1977-82) and continuing, free lance into the present. He is the author of and/or contributor to over fifteen books and monographs and two PBS documentary film scripts on photography, has worked on important museum exhibitions, and lectured extensively on photography in the US and abroad .

He is also an artist/ photographer, whose credits include national and international exhibitions, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and photographs in important public collections.

As a photojournalist he has published in many national and regional magazines, and as a documentarian he has done surveys for universities, research institutions, and city governments.

As a teacher he founded and chaired the photography programs at the California Institute of the Arts and the Milton Avery Graduate School of Art, Bard College, was acting director of the photography program at Harvard, taught at Yale on three separate occasions, and held positions at the ICP.

Through workshop teaching here and abroad he"discovered strong, promising photographers outside the establishment," he told us. "When the Internet showed me more," he explained, " it occurred to me that the web could also liberate teaching from the establishment, which too often wrongly imposes its own values on individual photographers whose strength and originality lie in other directions."

For more information on Lifson’s approach to teaching, his artistic and critical career, and the structure of his own Internet tutorial, please visit his website at www.benlifson.com.


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