PODCAST: A Photographic Life, Episode 204: Plus Photographer Mimi Plumb

In episode 204 UNP founder and curator Grant Scott is in his shed reflecting on why photographers feel the need to label themselves, keeping photography simple, the importance of subject matter and trying to buy a camera.

Plus this week photographer Mimi Plumb takes on the challenge of supplying Grant with an audio file no longer than 5 minutes in length in which she answer’s the question ‘What Does Photography Mean to You?’

Born in Berkeley, California and raised in the suburbs of San Francisco, Mimi Plumb received her MFA in Photography from SFAI in 1986, and her BFA in Photography from SFAI in 1976. She has served on the faculties of the San Francisco Art Institute, San Jose State University, Stanford University, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since the 1970s, Plumb has explored subjects ranging from her suburban roots to the United Farm Workers movement in the fields as they organized for union elections. Her first book, Landfall, published in 2018, and is a collection of her images from the 1980s. Landfall was shortlisted for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation First Photobook Award 2019, and the Lucie Photo Book Prize 2019. Her second book, The White Sky, a memoir of her childhood growing up in suburbia, was published in September, 2020. The Golden City, her third book, was published early this year and focuses on her many years living in San Francisco. Her photographs are in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Art Collection Deutsche Börse in Germany, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pier 24, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery. She is a 2017 recipient of the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, and has received grants and fellowships from the California Humanities, the California Arts Council, the James D. Phelan Art Award in Photography, and the Marin Arts Council. She lives in Berkeley, California. www.mimiplumb.com

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).

© Grant Scott 2022


  1. Grant, 

    Thank you for your weekly stimulating program as always.  

    In this episode 204, you speak of a photographer you recently saw, who was asking some questions about a tilt & shift lens and stitching of photographs together within the Interiors genre of work. Your response that you had never stitched anything together in Interiors is also what I’d say because I’ve simply never done either – although I’d still like to do both – i.e., use a tilt-shift lens as well as do a stitch – so I know what I’m talking about. The point about minimising post production time is a logical one and brave is a man who would think otherwise.  

    In your comments, however, you say that the exercise is all about the truth of the experience of being there, rather than trying to make something that didn’t exist. But the space exists. It’s real. It’s there and there’s no point pretending that to document it properly does not call for the right tool.        

    In my experience, the camera only documents the truth of the experience of being there through its lens. If that lens is not right, the resulting photograph will often fall short of documenting the truth of the experience of being there. You have agreed to disagree with the photographer and I have to agree to disagree with you as well. Indeed, Interior photography is about documenting space. a core element of all photography. However, I cannot document that space as I’m experiencing it without the right tool; the tool I use to document my experience must simply be the right tool. I cannot do it with a tie-pin and I’m limited in doing it with either a fountain pen or the wrong lens. So, it stands to reason that the Photographer in question wasn’t going to be able to get the pictures he needed without the intervention of either the T/S lens or post production.    

    Indeed again, too often in photography there is a reliance on that secondary manipulation of the image over getting it right in camera. Okay. But, I find it impossible to get the image IN camera without the right lens; a jar lid simply won’t cut it. In your Interior Photography days, you will have had to’ve chosen a lens, so what’s wrong with using a tilt-shift lens, I wonder.   


    1. Thanks for your considered response. I agree concerning a choice of lens as being the correct tool. My point in this case was that an expensive lens choice in this case is not needed. A simple 35mm will do a good job, it has for me. My comments are related to relying on post production and/or expensive lenses to create idealised images that take extra time and cost that are not needed within interiors photography. Most interiors work is based on a flat fee and therefore getting the image right in camera is both more honest and financially sensible.

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