Marilyn Monroe

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by severian, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. severian

    severian Member

    Messages:
    232
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2005
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I recently caused quite a storm in one of my undergraduate level classes. This is not unusual but it was an honest attempt to break through the barriers that students set up between themselves and the rest of the world. I had the students show what they consider the ten best photos ever made. Obviously subjective and frankly to have a little fun. All the usual suspects were represented. Arbus, Adams, Weston, Atget etc. When I showed my list it included a surprise. My #7 pick was the 1953 Marilyn Monroe Playboy centerfold. Most students seemed thunderstruck. I could not be serious. I explained that I was serious and felt that this photo was not only provocative but revolutionary to our society. My coup was realized when I stated that this nude made the nudes of Weston look like cold concrete. I was now speaking heresy. A blasphemer. The photographic anti-christ. We talked it over and I think I won most of them over. I'm interested, for future class discussion, your opinion on this thought. Should a photo like MM be on the list. What would your 10 best list lool like?
     
  2. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2003
    Location:
    Michigan, US
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Unless you neglected to tell us something, you have left this very wide open. I can think of numerous war photographs that have left a mark on society.

    Is the question directed at “fine art” images only?

    Pete
     
  3. severian

    severian Member

    Messages:
    232
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2005
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Pete,

    The class was directed to find their top 10 list and to eliminate newsorthy photographs. Iwo Jima, Zapruder film etc. When they show and discuss in class we begin the process of finding out what is of value to each individual student. The idea of photos that had an effect on society simply came about in the discussion pertaining to the MM photo. So it is "Fine Art" photography.
    The photo that made it to the most student list was Migrant Mother. I believe it was shown by almost a third of the class.
     
  4. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It would be difficult to cull down a list of top 10 photos, but one that pops into my mind that I remember from seeing in the paper as a child was a photograph of a police dog attacking a black man during a civil rights march. I don't remember the date or place (Selma or Montgomery, Alabama?) but it is one that has always stuck in my mind.

    Strictly from the standpoint of some of the best photos IMHO I would pick The first photograph of the Earth from outside Earth orbit, by Frank Borman during the Apollo 8 mission, (also one of the 2 or 3 most important images ever made) Garrapata Beach by Brett Weston and New Orleans Trolley by Robert Frank.
     
  5. PeterDendrinos

    PeterDendrinos Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2003
    Location:
    Michigan, US
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I have always liked the shot of the blue eyed child with the red head cover that national geographic shoot those many years ago. I believe she was in a refugee camp at the time.

    Do you know the one? It has truly captivated me over the years.

    Pete
     
  6. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

    Messages:
    1,430
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Riverside, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, a haunting photo for sure. Shot by Steve McCurry. He also went looking for her a while back and eventually found and photographed her again. Her hard life showed in the latter portrait.

    Another that spoke volumes was the infamous Kent State photo of the woman (half kneeling ?) over a slain student on the campus.
     
  7. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    To me, two of the most striking photographs came from the Viet Nam conflict, first the little girl fleeing the napalm down the road, and the image of the Army official executing the north viet captive on the streets...very dramatic and telling
     
  8. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    "Fine art" photographs are rarely examples of work that build social awareness. All the pictures mentioned in this thread are from photojournalism. The closest I have ever come to see a photojournalism picture that I could consider also fine art is Eugene Smith's "Tomoko in her bath".

    I have to disagree with the MM opinion, you are attributing "special" qualities to an ordinary picture simply because it went against the moral "code" of the prevalent attitudes towards sex in the US. To any other country outside the US the MM shot is nothing more than a pin up, if they knew who MM was... :wink:

    I am surprised no one has mentioned Caponigro's "Running Deer" as one of the best fine art photos ever made. But notice, this is just a pretty picture, like most of those called "fine art." BY nature the pictures that mostly "stick" in our minds are those who depict something different from our experience. War, alternative lifestyles, poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, human exploitation, etc, etc. While many are great pictures, few IMO can be called "fine art."
     
  9. photomc

    photomc Member

    Messages:
    3,575
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Guess we must see these the same way Jorge, have always thought Smith's Tomoko was one of the finest photos ever made, along with the one of his childern walking up the path (sorry, don't recall the name of it). And of course the Caponigro is an amazing image. Nudes just don't do it for me, thus my own bias...(there are exceptions, Weston and our own Thomas)...Just like many portraits do not move me, the see one by Yousuf Karsh and bingo!! We all have different taste in work, if someone likes the MM and considers it on of the top ten...that is ok, but I hope the students learned more that the top ten is just "someone"s top ten...by no means is there any absolute to the question or list.

    Pretty sure if everyone here listed their own top ten, the list would be varied and many would question why a given image was on the list....because it was important to the person making the list.
     
  10. Andy K

    Andy K Member

    Messages:
    9,422
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Sunny Southe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think this is very subjective, as you say, it depends on what the individual considers 'great'.
    For me it is Jeff Widener's shot from 1989 of the lone protester facing down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. It was shot with a borrowed roll of film, by a man suffering concussion, using a 400mm lens on a 2x converter.
    A small guy, carrying a shopping bag in white shirt and dark slacks challenging one of the largest military machines in the world to mow him down in plain sight of the world. That photograph continues to inspire to this day as a definition of the word 'courage'.

    As for the MM photo, I don't think it's that revolutionary. It is only if you know who Marilyn Monroe was that it becomes special, otherwise it isn't really any more revolutionary than the artwork which used to adorn the fuselage of WW2 USAF B29 bombers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 17, 2005
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The whole discussion of "art" falls into the same catagory as this I believe.

    Probably, a great photograph like any great art, has to evoke an emotional response.

    The greater the response, perhaps the greater the art. ALso the response does not have to be shock, or discomfort.

    A peaceful scene can also evoke a wonderful response.

    To a photographer a picture of Westons still life may evoke an emotional response of admiration for technique, where to the public it may not.

    I believe the MM shot was a great picture and representative of the breaking out of the "morally stagnant" fifties. Interesting how tame it seems today. Also it was an early picture of an ikon, and a marketing tool of an industry. A girl who sold her soul for what she thought would make her happy and tragically it never did.


    Michael
     
  12. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Yes, the Marilyn Monroe image SHOULD be there.

    My "top ten" list? I don't think I have the capability of choosing ten, or one hundred, or ...

    There are a whole BUNCH that would fit the criteria, and leaving even one out would be tragically unfair.
     
  13. Quinten

    Quinten Member

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    Amsterdam
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just a few days ago I was at a lecture given by Susan Meiseglas from Magnum. She photographed the revolution in Nicaragua. Someone in the audiance asked her why she talked of herselves as an artist while her work was purely journalistic.

    Many of the gray haired people making notes sat up straight, you sensed this was an important question to the people who want everything in their own folder and everything named. Ohh I can barely stand those people... Thankfully Susans answer was an avoiding one like it didn't really matter.

    It's the viewer who decides. When you judge a photo it shouldn't matter who made it or in wich 'profession' it was made.

    And BTW some of Meiseglas her pictures are art to me even though they have been in the newspaper. Even the shots Robert Capa made (also from the journalistic organistion: magnum) on the beaches during D-day I concider as art... But heehee that's just my oppinion.

    cheers!
    Quinten

    PS it would be a nice question on this apug forum: your top 3 or 5 of best pics.
     
  14. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format

    I would love to hear her response to that as well. I've never seen her work but as a journalist to call yourself and artist seems a bit arrogant.

    We all probably agree that Migrant Mother is art and many other works of journalism but I doubt that the makers of those works called themselves "artists".

    Journalism probably is able to transcent it's journalistic roots years after the events maybe because it is now out of the context of its times. For instance Migrant Mother although a beautifully composed photograph was probably not something special in the dirty thirties when a very large part of the population looked like that. The girl running from napalm may even be called art today but during the Viet Nan war those kind of images were pretty common. In the vaults of the newspapers I would bet that there are thousands of contact sheets that if were printed today would be called "art" but at the time were merely images of the times.

    Anyways, I sometimes have a problem with self promoters parading around calling everything they do as "art".


    Michael
     
  15. haris

    haris Guest

    I agree. But, I also have problems with arrogance of artists. Like fact that they are artist makes them above rast of us ordinary people. Example: In newspapers where I work, editor of cultural departement use language to separate herself from rest of us. For example once she needed to use blurry image for one article, and she told me like: "Can you make this image sfumatto" Sfumatto as I know is expression for blurry image. Why she couldn't use ordinary word "blurred" whay she has to use snobbish expression as "sfumatto". I understand her, what is purpose of being artist and involved in culture if you would use language as rest of the world or act like rest of the world. You must show that you are different atleast if not better then rest of people if you are artist...
     
  16. Quinten

    Quinten Member

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    Amsterdam
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In Meiseglas her defence I would like to say that she was a bit surprised she used the word artist herselves. But I think her way of working surely is artistic. She has created some billboards in Nicaragua wich display the pictures she took during the war. Those pictures are placed on the location where they where shot. Not very journalistic to do so, but very nice indeed.

    But indeed in case journalism is about showing reality as close to the thruth as possible than it can hardly be called art.. ahh well wat is in the name.

    cheers!
    Quinten