The New York Times opens up its photo morgue

The New York Times announced a new photo blog today to go with its excellent photojournalism blog “Lens,” which I wrote about most recently for its unseen Robert Frank photos.  The new one is called “The Lively Morgue” and draws on the breathtakingly deep archive of photographs at the newspaper of record.  They have seeded the site with only seven images so far which is too few to make a meaningful judgment but one can imagine the wonders to come.  If you like Weegee — and, as I wrote in a review of the Weegee exhibit at ICP, who doesn’t? — this blog promises a Weegee-eyed view of New York, perhaps without the bodies lying in the streets.

But two things are interesting about this new venture.  One is that they have done us all a great service by posting the backs of the prints as well as the fronts; this is where the context and caption are written but also, through dated stamps, a record of the print’s circulation through the Times archives.  The other thing, though, is technological: the Times is hosting this blog on Tumblr.  To my knowledge, this is their first blog not on the nytimes.com site and the decision to go with Tumblr — which is distinguished from WordPress and other content management systems chiefly by its social networking functionality — would seem to suggest that, improbable though it sounds, the Times currently feels cut out of the conversation.  One thing is certain, however: this is huge validation for the Tumblr platform, which has previously focused its marketing efforts on cultivating the fashion industry.

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