Now just HOW is Thomas Struth an artist?

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by SrdjanMatejic, Jun 13, 2010.

  1. SrdjanMatejic

    SrdjanMatejic Member

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    Kunsthaus Zürich:

    http://www.kunsthaus.ch/en/exhibitions/current/thomas-struth/

    It says:

    "Working in an age characterized by an overload of highly reworked and mediated imagery, Struth has invested photography with renewed intensity and integrity."



    Now, i will probably sound negative, so if you are a fan of his work, i'm sorry.

    I have spent 2h looking at his photographs, and i just couldn't understnad where the "intensity and integrity" are hidden in his pictures.

    I was looking and looking, and questioning my understanding of photography and art, but still, all i could see were snapshots, big prints, no ideas.

    How did this guy become "famous", one of the "top 3" of our times?
    His work is so... pointles?



    What am I missing here?! It really bugs me...
     
  2. alexhill

    alexhill Member

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    Some ones going to say it, so I want to head them off. I have spent many hours looking at work I don't understand or like trying to figure it out. I think that is a good thing to do. So lets skip the posts about srdjanMatejic spending 2 hours looking at stuff he doesn't like :tongue:

    First off, I think artist's statements from the artist are worth 1000x more than from a critic. Not always true, but hearing the artist talk about what they were trying to convey is more illuminating to me.

    I am attracted to his compositions, use of color and generally subject matter. I like how he has the people in his Museum and Viewers series positioned, and I really enjoy the idea of people looking at people looking at artwork. Its just great.

    I do not get the same immediate satisfaction from his Families and Paradise series. The dislike for Families is a personal bias: I don't care much for environmental portraits, or portraits in general. Paradise might be really cool when seen in person as a series. Many works are i'll suited for digital reproduction on the internet. I like how crowed the frame is, and the dynamic lines caused by the plants, but it doesn't click. However, I have a feeling that I would enjoy this series in person a lot more.
     
  3. vdonovan

    vdonovan Subscriber

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    "Artist" has (at least) two meanings in this discussion. One is "someone working creatively", which applies to many people, including children. The other is "someone who's creativity has a larger significance."

    Who decides if someone working creatively is the latter, an upper-case Artist? Galleries, agents, and collectors try to promote their artists as Artists since they will make more money. Critics try to find artists they can recognize as Artists since it will make the critic a famous Critic.

    Ultimately, time will sort the upper from the lower case. But in the meantime, Thomas Struth has managed to get some people to take his work seriously. Wether it's because of the quality of the images, the words he writes, or who he has slept with (a route taken by many artists in many fields), he's scratched his way into the larger discussion. I don't like his stuff and I wouldn't spend any more time looking at it than absolutely necessary, but I respect him for managing to get it out there.
     
  4. SrdjanMatejic

    SrdjanMatejic Member

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    Well, I went there hoping his photographs would look beeter in real life than on the net, and they didn't.

    In the same museum, they have a Jeff Wall photograph, also an environmental portrait, this one here.
    Even if i wouldn't know any other wokr from Wall, I could understand why it is hanging there in the museum.
    But I honestly don't get why Struth gets all the buzz.


    I fear it is the concept here that critics see, but not the effective content, which in my opinion is very mediocre.
     
  5. heespharm

    heespharm Member

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    yeah I looked at his stuff and wasn't wowed...
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You need to look as Struth's work in context as a whole exhibition/piece of work, and it helps to know how it fits with the work of other disciples of the Becher's, it's a school of mainly German photography that draws heavily on discipline and structure.

    Ian
     
  7. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    It's big and it's color. A surefire ticket to the international art photography museum/gallery/auction circuit. Especially the big part.
     
  8. lns

    lns Member

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    Oh goodness. I guess you either like stuff or you don't. I love Thomas Struth. I was struck by the first work I saw, and the more I see, the more I appreciate him. I think he's great. I especially like his portrait work and his families work that others here criticize. I respond strongly to minimalism, and I suppose that has a lot to do with it.

    It seems there are many people on this thread who disregard or actively dislike his work. Perhaps it just doesn't speak to you. I can think of reams of work, a lot of artists, and more than a few entire genres, that don't speak to me. Each to his or her taste. I don't want to criticize them. I'd rather spend time on the work I like.

    As to Jeff Wall, well it's interesting that you say you've seen one piece and can understand why he's hanging in a museum. But to learn about Jeff Wall and his work would enrich your understanding enormously. First, as you probably know, that's not an environmental portrait. Jeff Wall conceptualizes and stages his work in very elaborate and time-consuming fashion, with a central idea often inspired by other work. And he presents it in a unique and attention-getting way -- giant light boxes, each a one-off piece selling for $1 million, it's rumored. He's a force and has influenced contemporary art, no question.

    It seems that perhaps you like more elaborate work than that of Thomas Struth. But that doesn't make Thomas Struth "mediocre." That doesn't make his work "snapshots." Much of which was done with a large format camera, by the way. As for having "no ideas" -- perhaps some can't see his ideas because the ideas of the Dusseldorf School have become incorporated by now into our general notion of photography and art. That shows, more than anything else, at least in my mind, how successful he has been.

    -Laura
     
  9. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think a lot of people feel, as viewers, that whatever the artist chooses to reify as "A Work" should be able to convey its intended ideas while standing alone. In other words, if the "granularity" of Struth's work is intended to be the single image (as vs. the folio or book or installation or whatever), then there is some perception of a "right" to be able to look at the single image and understand what it's saying, without needing a lot of subsumed background information to make it make sense.

    I'm not saying that's a right or a wrong way of viewing---I don't think there is such a thing---but I think maybe that's the unstated assumption of a lot of people who think that Struth's photos "look like snapshots". (One hears similar objections to Nan Goldin, some abstract painters, &c., for I think the same reason.)

    I'm not sure how Struth would prefer that his work be viewed, but it's certainly true that some photographs just don't fly by themselves---they have to be seen as part of a series, or in the context of a certain knowledge of the work's intellectual background, or whatever. You might argue that it's sort of unfair to the image to try to evaluate such a photograph in isolation.

    Just a vague scatter of thoughts. I don't know Struth's work well and don't have a strong reaction to the bit of it I've seen---it seems technically fine, it doesn't really push my buttons aesthetically, and I don't know the backstory to determine what I'm supposed to get out of it intellectually, but it doesn't immediately make me say "this is obviously vacuous".

    -NT
     
  10. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Struth is ok. Although, of all the Becher proteges, I like Andreas Gursky the most. He is definitely an artist. Thomas Ruff is good, too. It's the adulation of the Bechers that I can't understand. I don't consider their work art. It's documentary illustration. Finely crafted, masterfully done illustration, but not art to me.
     
  11. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Yeah - don't worry about it! We all have a style we like and those we don't :D
    I guess I can't really see much "art" going on in these kinds of photos either. But then, someone else would say that about any photo I've ever taken. My shots are quite "record shots" sometimes myself. So subjective - this thing we call "art". Sometimes I don't even think about "art" or that I'm being an "artist" when I take a picture. At those times, I'm just a happy dude that happens to have a camera at that moment, you know what I mean?

    It's the whole look, like others have already stated; it's a [German?] style. From what I can tell, (not like I've ever spoken to him - and that may be necessary), he's just following the movement and adding documentary type photography of what he sees. For what it's worth, I did like one or two of his "streets" series that I've seen online, but that's about it.

    Now, I'm not saying I've ever done anything better, of course...and more power to him if he can sell the stuff! :tongue:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2010
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It's not my taste but.. congratulations to anyone who can elevate a few images above the din of modern photography.

    As for the description, that kind of hyperbole is all too common now. Since they seem unwilling to hold any praise in reserve, one wonders what they'd say if they saw something really new and transformative.
     
  13. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    At our big new gallery of modern art here, they often have two descriptions for many of the pieces on display - the official statement up at adult reading level, and then the explanation for children down at about 3'6" off the ground. I have to bend down quite a long way, but the kid's explanations are almost always more enlightening!

    Ian
     
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  15. alexhill

    alexhill Member

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    Haha, I like that. Good that their thinking about making the work approachable for younger audiences.
     
  16. nick mulder

    nick mulder Member

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    At least online the exposure and range appears to be nailed, I appreciate that myself...

    Seems like any technically adept photographers print when printed large enough - which is to say 'expensively enough' will at some point become art, it did for me and still does to an extent. :rolleyes:
     
  17. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    That whole German school thing doesn't do much for me because it is so bland most of the time. I appreciate it for what it is though. At least he is still using a camera. Gursky's latest work is "appropriation" of satellite images. Of course printed HUGE with a huge price tag to match. Easy money if you can get it!
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The Bechers, Gursky, Struth, Ruth etc are extremely important because they help stretch and define our perception of the or rather some of the boundaries of photography as art. They are a Germanic parallel albeit with different concerns and approaches to the New Topographic movement in America who snatched landscape photography back from the grandeur of large scale vistas, to the realities of every day life, and the political and environmental concerns around us.

    Ian
     
  19. clayne

    clayne Member

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    I highly doubt it was just those guys who started integrating landscape with daily life and social interaction. They might have been the ones to hyper-distill it, but plenty of other people have made use of environmental context combined with people.

    Personally I find Struth's stuff off the referenced URL to be boring and mediocre. It's almost self-congratulating in a way. My response: "big deal."

    It's not really minimal anymore if it's engineered. It's just boring.
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    These are the people who influenced and informed, and are widely regarded as such around the world.

    Ian
     
  21. David Henderson

    David Henderson Member

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    I agree with the OP. Struth's work - and Ruff's too for that matter- is the Emperors new clothes as far as I'm concerned- there's simply nothing there. In fact I'm not sure how much merit there is in "integrating landscape with daily life" at all.

    I don't put Gursky in the same box though- I think there's much more imagination and visual attraction going on there.
     
  22. SrdjanMatejic

    SrdjanMatejic Member

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    Andreas Gursky is different, there is an idea behind it's work that is rather provocative but also easy to understand, and i like that.



    What I have noticed as well, is that todays critics don't really say WHY a work of art is so important, they just make a statement like: "this is gerat, it is art, and you have to belive it".
    In all news papers and blogs that have covered the Thomas Struth exposition, there was not a single analasys, just copy/paste of the museum propaganda. That is also a bit worrying.
     
  23. 5stringdeath

    5stringdeath Member

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    Well that's most journalism today ...
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    All the critical essays, and discussion of Struth, Ruth, the Bechers, Gursky is back in the Uk, but is extensive - it happens to be in books, journals I've bought or subscribe to rather than bought specially..

    Any discussion of Struth's work really needs full referencing, it's easy to say you (or I) don't like it (I'm ambivalent) but without proper critical analysis comments are meaningless.

    Ian
     
  25. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I liked his 'Museum Photographs' stuff. I was tempted to buy the book until I saw the prices. The 2nd hand photo books market is a source of constant frustration for me...
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    you don't like struth ... and wonder how he can be considered an artist.
    what kind of photography or art do you like ?