This is the first in the series on sites linked to me and others I admired and reviewed long ago. It was first posted on my new review site Blog and Web Site Review, earlier this month.

When I stated my first web site dpii 16 years ago, one of the first web sites featured in Web Watch was Zone Zero developed by a photographer called Pedro Meyer. At the time I thought it was one of the most interesting photography sites I’d seen, and over the intervening years I’ve visited it quite often. Activity was intermittent … there were long periods of inactivity, but when new stuff was put up it was always worth the visit.

Then, although I often recommended it to friends and to people who came to my talks and workshops, I eventually forgot about it. Today (June 5 2012) being the first time I have looked at in several years.

In web terms 16 years is the equivalent of a geological epoch and Zone Zero has moved on. It is still available in English and Spanish as much of the focus (no pun intended) is on Latin America (especially Mexico). The design is spare, with the accent on readability and ease of finding things. I like it a lot – but considering the minimalist template I’ve chosen for this blog, that probably doesn’t come as a surprise – although the body copy typeface is a little light for my eyes these days.

Zone Zero claims to be the oldest continuous photo site on the web having started in 1995. I don’t know whether that is true or not, but over the intervening 17 years it has lost none of its edginess. Nor its innovative approach. The site has always had a social conscience and the current issue portfolios (called Galleries) Podcasts, and comment of the directions that photography has taken and the direction it might take.

One of Pedro Meyer’s Editorials, for example, poses the question “Are too many people taking photographs?” In a thoughtful analysis of the explosion in photography over the past few years Meyer’s answer in no. He believes that the democratisation of photography “As I see it, with so many millions of people, the world over, having now explored making images, their curiosity for doing something different and new to their previous results will probably lead many to a new era of acquiring more and more visual literacy and technological know how, and leave the curatorial world scratching their heads as to what to make of it all.”

The edginess manifests itself most strongly in Meyer’s “I Photograph To Remember” a 35 minute Flash program of stills and narration by Meyer, covering the last few years of his parents’ lives. It is, all at once, sweet, gut-wrenching, intrusive and beautiful. The photographs, all in black and white, are powerful and moving. It is in my view a masterpiece of documentary photography. And worth visiting the site just to see it.

The site also features a number of downloadable PDF books including the story of Gerda Taro who along with Robert Capa and David Seymour (Chim) captured some of the most memorable images of the Spanish Civl War, and Photographing The Mexican Revolution, one of the most photographed social struggles in history.

Zone Zero has long been one of my favourite sites on the web. This is probably the fifth or sixth computer that I have Bookmarked it on and I doubt that it will be the last, but I will remember to visit more frequently.


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