Schools of photography-Not RIT

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by mark, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. mark

    mark Member

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    I am wondering about the schools different photographers get lumped into.I read stuff like: POST MODERIST, MODERNIST, PICTORIALIST, CLASSIC. Can someone desribe how a photo gets lumped into these categories and what they mean. Maybe point me to a reference I can read.

    Question #2
    Has photography been around long enough to have gone through so many schools or are folks just throwing meaningless art speak around to sound intelligent?

    Question #3
    What school would you say you subscribe to and why?

    I can't answer any of these so I'll wait to see what the more knowledgable have to say.


    PS can you put it into simple terms please.
     
  2. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    1. You should add Straight Photography as a category. Essentially the viewer categorizes the photos significantly more often than the photographer. A photographer may be post-modern or modern or pictorialist or straight. I actually think that the modern and post-modern categories are less descriptive for a non-art audience.


    2. Both

    3. Straight Photography. Examples of the straight photographers would include the Weston's (after 1919), A. Adams, Cunningham, Eugene Smith, Friedlander, Arbus, R. Adams, Maplethorpe (mostly), Sally Mann (up until the large wet plate prints), Tom Daniel, Stieglitz (not all but some or most of his work), Bullock, Modotti, Michael Smith, Paula Chamlee, Nick Nixon, Tice, Avedon etc, etc.

    Mike Davis
     
  3. lee

    lee Member

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    I would argue that those names Mike Davis listed above are actually in the Moderest camp as I see it.

    lee\c
     
  4. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    Lee, could be. I don't like the modernist and post-modernist labels. I think that the straight photography and pictorialist labels are more descriptive to a non art critic audience.

    That said, Ed Weston was big in the pictorialist movement almost until his trip to Mexico. The Armaco shots would seem to represent a change of view for him.

    Having done the film school thing in both the mid 80's and early 2000's, I have an almost viceral aversion to "art talk." But I can see your point.

    Mike
     
  5. thedarkroomstudios

    thedarkroomstudios Member

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    At over 150 years old and often emulating painting styles; I'd say that photography can have a number of style camps. Those blasted soft-focus filters are a holdover from the impressionist movement :smile:

    I have no style or class, just ask anyone who knows me!
     
  6. mark

    mark Member

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    But what do they mean?
     
  7. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    They perhaps mean nothing other than the fact that you lived in a particular period in history and did what you did in accordance.
     
  8. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    Then in this time where the old methods are being resurrected, what is that considered to be?
     
  9. brent8927

    brent8927 Subscriber

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    I'm curious; what photography schools (offering MFA's) out there would be considered to be leaning towards straight or pictorial photography? Basically, what schools are more grounded in the styles similar to Adams, Eliot Porter or Keith Carter? Every school I seem to find is into the really funky "modern stuff" (not that it's necessarily bad, just not what I prefer); I'm interested in doing more "conservative" photography...

    I keep thinking I should start a club called "Republican Photographers." Wouldn't have anything to do with politics (I'm a moderate liberal) but I still think the title's a hoot.
     
  10. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    What's New Mexico like these days? Usually the MFA programs that are straight photography can have a strong documentary focus. For some people straight photography is documentary photography. It's a tough question.

    I know that as of last year VCU was accepting no more documentary MFA candidates. That may have changed.

    Mike Davis
     
  11. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Then, mine's more like "Green" Photography, but I don't know what that would represent.

    If you think "Straight Photography" as a conservative method, you're being contradicted because all the movements in the history of photography, or any genre are reactionary and political.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_photography

    Meanwhile, if you just want to present your work by naming your influences such as Adams, that's another thing. Pease don't take this in a wrong way. I'm just trying to open up a dicussion as you do.
     
  12. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    OUP have a series of art history paperbacks that seem to aim at a straight presentation of the received wisdom. I have one called "American Photography" by Miles Orvell. It's a dry read, but a useful reference when you need a quick sound bite on a particular photographer or style.

    It is particularly good on the pictorialists and early C20th American photographers, less good on relating photography to the wider art world and downright poverty-stricken when it comes to the Bullock/White/Sommers/Meatyard allegorical and poetic photography. I got it cheap, but it's worth the amazon price.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2005
  13. brent8927

    brent8927 Subscriber

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    Green Photography... LOL... sounds like Green Architecture; I wonder if you can even do photography using environmentally friendly and renewable sources...

    I think of straight photography as traditional... not so much as conservative... I just think conservative is kind of close to traditional (i.e., "straight"); I just wanted to put the word "conservative" in there so I could mention my "Republican Photographer's" idea.

    Anyway, I just like Ansel Adams, though I'm not attracted to the bulk of his work (there are two photographs of his that I can think of right now that I really like), but honestly, I don't know too many photographers so I name him. On the other hand, those three photographs are the ones that resonate more with me than anyone else's photographs. I don't know the names of the photos, but one is of some beautiful white flowers with a dark background of dirt and leaves (if I remember right... it's at the gallery in Carmel... only costs $10,000!) and the other is of an arrow on a street.

    Anyway, my assumption was if anyone knew a photography school that admired the work of Adams (I know some professors educate students to dislike him and his work) then it might be a good place for me to look into. My feeling so far has been that I either have to just keep learning on my own, or go to a school that is largely an individualized program.
     
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  15. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    Pictorialism was an attempt to get photography accepted as art by using the conventions of painting, so various techniques were used to mimic painting.

    Modernism was a reaction to pictorialism. The photographers in this school wanted to use photography for what it does best, make sharp images. The painterly effects were left behind. Integrity of the print was most important. This was a period of "art for art's sake." Creatively there was more of a response to the world around them rather than the overly romantic/dramatic scenes made by the pictorialists. I argue that Adams was actually a sharp-focus pictorialist because he made photographs of a romantic idea of the landscape. But that's just me.

    Post-modernism attempts to insert a political or social message into the imagery rather than present the print as the subject of art. This art theory is based mostly on Marxism and the use of art as political catalyst. Most photographs in this period are appropriated images and not original photographs made by the artist, though not always.

    Art has moved beyond post-modernism and is in a new stage that hasn't been named by art historians yet. Mosst are calling it post-post-modernism. The shift has been from political statements to just taking pictures of anything for any reason.

    I am in the MFA program at Savannah College of Art and Design. We have professors from all different viewpoints. Craig Stevens is a modernist and an old friend of Paul Capronigro and such, while Steve Aishman is a nutcase just making anything he can. It's good to get input from different sources. I consider myself a modernist and don't always get along with my professors or classmates, but I am free to make my art any way I like, as long as I can justify why.

    -Greg
     
  16. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    This is probably too long. The coffee was really strong.

    " all the movements in the history of photography, or any genre are reactionary and political " FIRECRACKER

    Gosh. I haven't felt the breeze of neo marxist art theory in a long time.

    I think gregdavis put it together pretty well. Let me try to add some confusion.

    Throughout the 19th c, there was a tension between Classicism and Romanticism. This was true in Literature, Music, everything. The best work was usually found when an artist found his ideology insufficient to the needs of his expression. Each forward step throughout the century moved 'art' forward. This is really important: beginning with Ingres and Delacroix, it's easy to get to Corot and Monet and Cezanne, and on to Picasso... and Modernism.

    But there were sidesteps, backsteps, and screams in the night from the streams of expression that were losing their vigor. Salons, Academies, and 'schools' depended on the status quo to sell art, and the 'new' was scorned, derided, and ridiculed. But this is always the way, and all movements decay like a plant after it flowers. A perfect example of decadent art is Pre Raphaelitism, a florid and extravagant form that tried to turn back the centuries. While highly decorative, it was sterile, and led nowhere.

    Now, photography was blessedly free from all of this stuff as folks were excited about the possibilities of just taking pictures. In time, however, the long arms of the dying salons reached into Photography and tried to establish 'standards'. The gross sentimentality of the late Victorian age almost choked photography into submission, but between Emerson, and Stieglitz, and others, it survived. But the Pictorialists, who fervently believed that no machine could possibly make 'art', demanded that all manner of hand worked techniques be applied before a picture became a Photograph. Salons, juries, medals, and rules of composition survived. Working in accepted genres, showing acceptable and correct table manners, and of course kissing up to the Important People, were the important qualities that enabled no talent photographers to get along.

    Modernism came as a shock. I don't think we can look at Weston, Sheeler, and Strand without seeing other artists in the light of Modernism. Rather than working in opposition to Pictorialism, Weston was happy to make clear, clean pictures because it made him happy. No ideology there. He grew out of the pictorialist approach and into a self-fulfilled mature artist, like any mature artist does.

    Steichen was no longer interested in pictorialist technique after WW1: not so much as a reaction AGAINST pictorialism as needing to find some expressive form that had meaning for him. He had been, like everybody else, transformed by the war. Over, and over, established artists moved on from who they were in 1900, and 1910, and came to terms with living in a new, Modern world.

    Now Adams certainly WAS a romantic, or more properly, Post Romantic, like Vaughn Williams or Schoenberg. He was excitied by nature, and made pictures to express his feelings, intending to affect the viewer by making him experience the same feelings. That's a paraphrasing of Adam's statement of intent, and a pretty good example of Post Romantic art. But he found that he needed to master the tools of the Modern world to meet his ends, and Adams' career existed in tension between emotion and technology. Adams was no more a Pictorialist than he was a fish.

    Photography progressed through the century, always about making the picture of what was in front of the camera, either to express an idea or an emotion, and quite true to its mid 19th century roots.

    One of the disasters of American photography was the inclusion in colleges and universities in the '70s of Photography departments. A disaster because up till then, Photography was pretty much unhousebroken, bad mannered and resistant to being controlled. Except for the flaccid pictorialists, who were still trying to revive pre Raphaelite art, and other societies who awarded points and medals for being good.

    When the camera when to college, the first problem that had to be met was the issue of accreditation. There were simply too few photographers who could talk or teach, and who had sufficient academic background to be acceptable to most schools. And when the decision was made to have Photography, invariably it was the Art Department who became it's keeper. Painters usually designed the program, painters whose heads were filled with marxist art theory, muddled notions of deconstructionism, and no clue about the real nature of Photography. With it's new clothes, and haircut, photography became Post Modern, conceptual, and had it's first installation.

    It's been 57 years since Edw Weston made his last photographs, 30 years since Minor White last taught, and 22 years since Adams and Strand died. The 'straight' photograph has somehow been elevated into an Exalted Neo-Pictorialist acceptability ( The California School ) with all those old rules of correct behaviour: use the right f/stop, use the right size camera, use the right developer and right paper, and by gum, you're a photographer.

    We have Alternative Photography, devoted to working in the Pictorial tradition of showng the hand of the artists.

    Photography has had it's vitality sapped by a generation of Post Modernist idoleogy in the schools, by a Popular Culture that rewards clever marketing not substance, and by the loss of the cultural memories of good teachers and photographers.

    Photography has always been straight photography, and about nothing more than being interested enough, or excited enough, about what was in front of the camera to take a picture of it. There was never an issue about the right camera, the right lens, or the right technique.

    Maybe the last straw is the anti-digital reaction amongst traditional workers who would rather cling to the decadence of Pictorialism's definitions and rules than to accept progress to the point of being open to a good picture regardless of it's pedigree.

    I guess there are probably a dozen good photographers out there.

    I wonder who they are.

    But as for good old straight Photography, it's on life support. If we want it to survive us, we need to stop looking at Adams, and Weston, and the latest well promoted photographer, and find our own ways of seeing, and making pictures. Go start your OWN school.

    .
     
  17. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Df cardswell, no, that wasn't too long. Your summary on art history on photography was so good to read, and I felt like I was back in college.

    So, have you seen the outcome of "your own school" photography yourself? Can you give us a few examples? And how is it similar to what the person called, "post-post modernism"?

    My background is film and anthropology. In my undergrad, I was in a Visual Anthropology program in the U.S. I read a lot of theories. So, I'm kind of familiar with what you're sort of saying, but I'm not exactly sure where you're leading us to.
     
  18. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I'm kind of familiar with what you're sort of saying, but I'm not exactly sure where you're leading us to.

    I'm not sure I'm leading anything !

    I'm a photographer, and so my perspective is as a photographer's. At least on photography ! And what that means is that a photographer's intention is to take pictures. A painter or sculptor make use a camera as a means to an end, a step in a process of creation of a complex object. But for me at least, when it all gets broken down, a painter paints, a sculptor sculpts, and a phototographer takes pictures. There is SOMETHING that puts a camera into a photographer's hands, and not a hammer, brush, or some other tool.

    There is a gulf between critics and artists, as there is between sports-talk radio and athletes. Watching and Doing. I think we sometimes are influenced too much by what somebody had to say about Weston or Adams, or HCB. Drawing parallels and conclusions at a comfortable distance is important to do, if we want to better understand what it is like to LOOK at their pictures. But if we want to understand the process of making those pictures, in order to make pictures for ourselves, we need to drop the theories and schools and trends, and look at the process. Weston is a great example: his Daybooks are an amazing Primary Source. We can see what he did, and why, and how, and what happened next. Diaries and notes put the artist in an eternal present tense that allows us to compare our own experiences, our own successes and failures, and measure ourselves. Reading the letters between Adams, Strand and Weston gives us a chance to get an idea of what each was really like, and compare that idea to their work. And THAT helps us to get past the "Well, I like sharp pictures", or "I think that sucks" layers of photographic criticism. When we know what an artist was stimulated by, and how it set about responding to it photographically, and what was the result, we learn a lot about how we each can make our pictures for ourselves.

    Every artist lives in the present tense. That pretty much determines that the artist is not aware of how he will be judged in retrospect. Artists seldom think about being in a 'school'. They think about taking pictures. Or eating dinner. Not about art theory. I don't for a second think that any 'straight photographer', be it Brady, or Emerson, or Marville, or anybody was thinking farther ahead than we do when we want to take a picture. We all know what the questions are that must be answered: will I get mugged while I'm under the darkcloth ? when will I get this da*ned tripod leg fixed ? is the sun coming out of that cloud as soon as I pull the darkslide ? where can I find somebody to buy me dinner ?

    And the reaction is ALWAYS the same when there is a good picture: incredible excitement to get home and get it into the developer, to hurry the drying, and to make the first quick print. Then you show it to your friends. Every photographer has done that, and always will. And that's how you can identify a photographer in a crowd of pretenders.

    I was in Prague shortly after the Russians left. In December. Wandered around with a battered Leica, trying to stay as warm as I could and make a few more pictures before the light vanished. Frozen solid, I had time to spend before meeting friends, and found a building with lights on and a lot of activity that had been quiet days before. I wandered in, grotesquely underdressed, and found to my joy and amazement it was a new photo gallery --- an opening !

    And the place was packed with lots of oldtimers with cameras around their necks,over their shoulders, a drink in their hand, and an astonishing amount of joy in the room. One tall, elderly fellow came toward me with an outstretched hand, and as I shoved my mitts into a pocket he saw the Leica, and I got a fantastic hug. We laughed, and he asked a *lovely* young woman to interpret for us, and there was a drink in my hand, and every time a photographer came up to me with a business card, I handed back a roll of Tri X from the huge pockets of my wool NATO pants.

    My host told me a story. Before the Gestapo came to Prague, he was a young man, and photographed every Sunday afternoon. Everybody photographed every Sunday afternoon. Then the Gestapo came, and nobody photographed, ever.

    But soon, friends began to gather in quiet, out of the way apartments. Each would bring an innocuous object - which would hopefully be explainable if one were stopped on the way and searched. When everyone arrived, the blinds were drawn, a lookout posted, and the various articles were assembled into a composition of some sort: sculptural, political, dangerous, humerous, and a camera taken from the pried up floorboards, lights arranged, an exposure made, and the camera returned to the hiding place. The 'installation' was taken apart, everyone had a drink, and in time, went home.

    They were photographers, and had to make pictures. They had to do it in secret, at nights, and in extreme danger. When the Gestapo left, there was the KGB, and the secrets continued. Fifty some years later, photographers returned to the streets, and decades of secret pictures were on display.

    And the old photographers who had spent a lifetime photographing in the dark a landscape of their own imagination were laughing about it, studying the prints, and proudly slapping me on the back saying how glad they were that visitors were there who understood their work.

    Not quite, not at all. I had never risked my life to make a picture, or been devoted enough to photography to nail a camera under the floorboards. And until that night I seldom felt the honest joy of a crowd of folks who were alive because of their pictures, and the need to make them.

    We have Installations at every third gallery every month. But nobody is ever watching out for that black mercedes to roll up out of the rain and haul their butt off to Terezin.

    The point is, I suppose, that photography is all about getting something in front of your camera that means something to you, and making a picture that justifies the trouble. it has little to directly do with Art, Schools, Theories. It is democratic, uncivilized, and of necessity, unruly. It is common to all photographers, and has no need for theory, standards, and awards. And no distance is too great to either make, or see, a good photograph.

    .
     
  19. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    Great posts Mr. cardwell!
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    My hat is off, Mr. Cardwell. Thank you for sharing your stories here. Theories, I know what they are, so I've chosen to make my own pieces of work in the visual media including photography, which is my commitment to life.

    Your story about the (secret) photographers in Prague will make a great documentary piece. Have you ever thought about it? I mean as a compliment.

    Once again, thank you.
     
  21. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Great thread, and thank you for your well written posts, Don!
     
  22. mark

    mark Member

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    Okay I get it now.
     
  23. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

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    THAT is an amazing story! I want to be able to re-tell it to my students in the future. Is there any attribution or documentation of your visit to this gallery and/or the stories of the underground photographers in Prague?

    That is an amazing story, and it needs to be heard by more than us here.

    Thank you for sharing it.
     
  24. gr82bart

    gr82bart Member

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    Take pics of what you see and like around you. <--Coles Notes version

    Art.
     
  25. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The history of WW2 and Post War art tells this story over and over.

    Prague is interesting because it was a center of photography before Hitler, and when the Nazis came it was simply too important to people to be supressed.

    I regret I can't document my story beyond a wonderful anecdote. There are many Czech photographers who visit the US to teach, in particular Pavel Banka, who helped found the Prague House of Photography. Perhaps an inquiry to PHP regarding photography from 1938 to 1990 would be helpful.

    A lot of time has passed since then. The art world long ago embraced 'Installation' as a vital concept, but never linked it emotionally or intellectually to the necessity of having an Installation in the first place.

    In the US, we have the tendency, like all people, to view history through our own perspective. And we eagerly embraced the legend that somehow we fought and then brought down the Iron Curtain all by ourselves.

    With that perspective, it is very difficult to appreciate the way people lived, and how they freed themselves, and what was their cost over the years. So, there was little interest after the Velvet Revolution to tell the small stories that were so important. Time has moved on, but there are still some who can tell their stories ... all over europe.

    Bet you a nickel there are some folks living in SLC or Denver who have some first hand experience. The Rockies are a magnet, aren't they ?

    Of course, a Prague photo trip would be cool.... usually, today, folks go for castles and stuff. But....

    .
     
  26. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Anyway, my assumption was if anyone knew a photography school that admired the work of Adams (I know some professors educate students to dislike him and his work) then it might be a good place for me to look into. My feeling so far has been that I either have to just keep learning on my own, or go to a school that is largely an individualized program.[/QUOTE]

    Since you mentioned Keith Carter in a previous post, and are looking for a school I thought I'd give my perspective. Keith teaches at Lamar Univ. in Beaumont Tx. KC encourages every manner of photography that the student produces. (Just make sure it's honest work!! He's been know to tear and/or burn photos during a critique!!) He doesnt encourage or steer them towards his own swampy, dark style. If you like Ansel Adams, he will encourage you to do landscapes, etc with AA in mind, but to make it your own vision. He is very good at opening the door to a student's mind to many photographers using many styles. All-in-all, he is a fantastic teacher and a few semesters with KC can be incredibly enriching.

    Not nearly as eloquent as other members :smile: but I hope this helps...