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bjorke
04-20-2007, 11:36 AM
If you saw the phenomenally-oversold crowd at Sally Mann's lecture last year in San Francisco, you know that she is not considered taboo by many but a reactionary few who seem unable to see the forest from the trees (and thus are quick, in any photo forum discussion of Mann I've ever seen, to drag out poor Jock Sturges and use the combined stacked soapboxes as a pulpit).

Rather than get caught up in whether the photos are objectionable, which I think is pointless and plays exactly into the agenda of the anti-photo and anti-art purpose of the complaints: what about the pictures?

The previous observation about Jock v Mann is pretty correct. Like Stephen Shore, Jock uses the detail of big camera with the intent of delivering what Shore calls the "heightend sense of awareness," while Mann uses the isolating depth of field and deep out-of-focus regions (and now with collodion, many stray bits of process-related "noisy" detail) (and yes Carl, the figure crossing the frame edge was intentional) to imbue her photos with a sense that they are bound to an inner voice of the photographer and a sense if immediate connection to the moment through personal experience.

IMO, the ability to express inner states and perceptions through one's chosen medium is precisely the core purpose of art. To show rather than say because not only is a picture worth a thousand words, but the best pictures say things that words alone cannot.

Both photographers are keenly aware of time. Consider the titles of both "Last Days of Summer" and "What Remains." Both life and death are embedded in time, and photography allows us to make some furtive stand against it, in a thin-as-paper way. Jock seems to seek the roses at their highest bloom, Mann seeks them a few heartbeats later, slipping just past the brink of inevitable decline.


http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/1996-97/96-057a.jpeg
Night-Blooming Cereus

Sparky (given that your little nonsequitur about closeness vs art is one of the most corrosive things I've ever seen stated on APUG), is there any portraitist of note who you like? And if you say Karsh or any others of the Southworth & Hawes mode, tell me why their portraits are worthwhile, because the only ones of those I've ever really enjoyed are the ones where personality and emotional immediacy overwhelm the stiff formula.

doughowk
04-20-2007, 01:35 PM
Seems to be a rather touchy subject so I'll try to tread lightly ;-)
If Sally Mann is a diarist, are there many diaries (visual or written) that are works of art? I'd suggest that the genre is of more interest to historians, sociologists, biographers, etc. than to readers of literature or viewers of porfolios. There are many images of humans that achieve an emotional response, eg some images by photojournalists; but I may decide to not put them in a frame & hang them on my wall. And that is my criteria for judging whether an image is a fine art print, but thats just my viewpoint.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-20-2007, 01:58 PM
Seems to be a rather touchy subject so I'll try to tread lightly ;-)
If Sally Mann is a diarist, are there many diaries (visual or written) that are works of art? I'd suggest that the genre is of more interest to historians, sociologists, biographers, etc. than to readers of literature or viewers of porfolios. There are many images of humans that achieve an emotional response, eg some images by photojournalists; but I may decide to not put them in a frame & hang them on my wall. And that is my criteria for judging whether an image is a fine art print, but thats just my viewpoint.

Samuel Pepys's diary is often considered one of the finest ever published because of the depth of its insight and details concerning life in 17th century England.

I wouldn't count on the idea of "frameability" as a useful criterion to determine what is art.

CarlRadford
04-20-2007, 02:01 PM
I'd be happy to have many of the images by Mann, Gowin & Sturges on my wall and feel they deserve to be framed! I hope it would make people that viewed them think of the content and consider their response to the images in relation to their own backgrounds, values etc - but also as images of the highest quality per se!

jstraw
04-20-2007, 02:23 PM
Seems to be a rather touchy subject so I'll try to tread lightly ;-)
If Sally Mann is a diarist, are there many diaries (visual or written) that are works of art? I'd suggest that the genre is of more interest to historians, sociologists, biographers, etc. than to readers of literature or viewers of porfolios. There are many images of humans that achieve an emotional response, eg some images by photojournalists; but I may decide to not put them in a frame & hang them on my wall. And that is my criteria for judging whether an image is a fine art print, but thats just my viewpoint.

It's only art if you'd want it on your wall?

Roger Hicks
04-20-2007, 02:32 PM
...to drag out poor Jock Sturges and use the combined stacked soapboxes as a pulpit...


Odd no-one's tried a triple decker with Irene Ionescu (spelling from memory) whose work struck me as more Sally Mann than Sally Mann. What little of it I've seen, I prefer to Sally Mann's too.

Cheers,

R.

Roger Hicks
04-20-2007, 02:35 PM
It's only art if you'd want it on your wall?

Sort of, yes. There's public art -- I wouldn't necessarily want to live with Guernica or much Bosch -- and there's private art, which yes, I would like on my wall, if only I had enough/big enough walls (Alma-Tadema being a prize example).

Cheers,

R.

Sparky
04-20-2007, 02:35 PM
Sparky (given that your little nonsequitur about closeness vs art is one of the most corrosive things I've ever seen stated on APUG), is there any portraitist of note who you like? And if you say Karsh or any others of the Southworth & Hawes mode, tell me why their portraits are worthwhile, because the only ones of those I've ever really enjoyed are the ones where personality and emotional immediacy overwhelm the stiff formula.

How do you mean that björke? Why do you construe it as 'corrosive'? I was suggesting that SOME of Mann's work stems from a loving familial gaze -that, to my mind, is best kept on the mantlepiece. And for that, they are wonderful.

I'm not talking about ALL of it. Just some. The pic you posted - I would NOT include in the same work. What bothers me is the child's gaze reflecting the social contract between parent and child - and everything problematic about that (for me at least).

I have no problems with certain kinds of 'closeness' - and CERTAINLY photographic portraiture SHOULD be emotionally evocative. However - this specific work, whose subject is the OFFSPRING of the author comes far too close to the realm of what I'd call the 'baby picture' or the 'graduation picture' by dint of it's subject (only). I'm talking about the kind of document that gets foisted on you by proud parents - who can see no end of profundity therein - yet the viewer is feverishly racking their brain - trying to find a means of escaping the social bind in the parent's attempt to secure 'approval'.

I think that my problem with this kind of photo is essentially political - and because it has to do with notions of 'ownership' of the subject - also with sturges - but in a more subtle way. There is a problematic dialectic (sorry for the $5 word- I needed to!) of expectation, social role and hierarchy that problematizes such images. That the photographer absolutely dominates the subject into submission. Perhaps this is similar in a way to the political contract between photographer and PAID model... however this is a very different scenario for me.

Does this make any sense? I hope it makes sense. It is perhaps a summary of why I tend to avoid portraiture. And I'm sure many DON'T have the same issues or sensitivites I do... but I hope that you can see where I'm coming from a little bit better.

Sparky
04-20-2007, 02:39 PM
I'd be happy to have many of the images by Mann, Gowin & Sturges on my wall and feel they deserve to be framed! I hope it would make people that viewed them think of the content and consider their response to the images in relation to their own backgrounds, values etc - but also as images of the highest quality per se!

Carl - I don't think we're looking at this at this sort of level. Nobody will deny here that any of the aforementioned authors can produce a visually attractive composition or a nice silver print. Certainly - there is also the issue of commercial value influencing things...

In a book I'd read by arthur koestler (name eludes me -sorry) he discusses a female friend of his who has a small etching she discovers is a picasso - after which it is moved from the back of the bathroom door to the prized place under the main light in the entry hall. But that's a separate issue.

Sparky
04-20-2007, 02:41 PM
Mann, I think, digs deeper into the inner world of her children and family, and there's just more "there" in her photographs. And Doug, perhaps she is a diarist... "Immediate Family" is certainly autobiographical, but she's not really employing the "snapshot" aesthetic described in the piece. Her photographs are very deliberate, where I think the snapshot aesthetic strives to be deliberately haphazard. Good read, btw, thanks for the link, Doug.

That sells me a bit more on her work involving the kids.

Sparky
04-20-2007, 02:45 PM
I dunno. Look at the thread title. Discussing Sally Mann is what we're doing. Facile dismissals get tossed around...participation in the discussion would seem to involve examining those dismissals.

JS - thanks for the response. It's just that his comment seemed so 'bait-like' it didn't seem worthy of a response. And I was surprised that someone bothered. But I chose to pick your comment out for questioning among others because I thought it was an easy way to frame a larger question - i.e. it seems that people tend to view the validity of certain work from a surprisingly absolutist place. it's as though there is no room for individual value-judgement. But anyway...

jstraw
04-20-2007, 02:45 PM
Sort of, yes. There's public art -- I wouldn't necessarily want to live with Guernica or much Bosch -- and there's private art, which yes, I would like on my wall, if only I had enough/big enough walls (Alma-Tadema being a prize example).

Cheers,

R.


Bosch, there you go...perfect. I sure as hell don't want it on my wall and it sure as hell is art.

TheFlyingCamera
04-20-2007, 04:25 PM
Bosch, there you go...perfect. I sure as hell don't want it on my wall and it sure as hell is art.

Oh, I think it would be a hoot to have "Garden of Earthly Delights" hanging on the dining room wall. Especially when you had company over who you really didn't want to stay long.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-20-2007, 05:25 PM
Oh, I think it would be a hoot to have "Garden of Earthly Delights" hanging on the dining room wall. Especially when you had company over who you really didn't want to stay long.

Guys, where is your stoner ethos? I have seen plenty of people with a poster of the Garden hanging in their flats because of the cool weird little people.

bjorke
04-20-2007, 06:05 PM
How do you mean that björke? Why do you construe it as 'corrosive'?What you wrote:

But they're too emotionally close - (mann i mean) to be art. For me. It's impossible to distance the author from the subject enough.Which was quoted out of context (why I said "non sequitur"). Still -- the idea that closeness disqualifies art is imo a horrible sentiment. What distinguishes art from craftsmanship (don't forget, we're discussing images here that are clearly being received as "art"), at least since the 1800's, is the idea of the artist's personal internal emotions, discoveries and realizations finding external outlet. There is no "too close."

...the photographer absolutely dominates the subject into submission.Light on the surface is ultimately all you get. The photographer needs to confront this fact when making pictures, whether through direct action of the power of chance. Whatever your greater purpose, you own it to the work itself to do whatever you can, whether it's Mann's watery idylls or even journalism (Natchwey: (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/84) "I need to make pictures that are eloquent")

BTW, Jessie Mann is on the back cover of SHOTS 95 ("Books-Words"), and inside too. So is Sam Portrera:


http://www.shotsmag.com/95-03.jpg
Sam Portrera, March 2006

Too close?

SuzanneR
04-20-2007, 07:09 PM
Regretting deeply that I've let my subscription lapse... I'll have to change that. Actually, a thread about looking might be worthwhile... after all, the camera can only record what is in it's point of view. Nothing else... no irony, poetry, or politics. At least at the start.

There's usually plenty to discuss later... :p Thanks, Bjorke, for your posts.

Neanderman
04-20-2007, 07:31 PM
There is a world of difference between a 'snapshot' and a photograph made using the 'snapshot aesthetic.'

Sparky
04-20-2007, 09:44 PM
Bjorke - I don't really think you're gettin where I'm coming from. You're paraphrasing an earlier post 'out of context', not to mention the fact that I think you have some fairly romantic ideas about the discourse of visual art. But anyway - there comes a time one is just beating one's head against a wall...




What you wrote:
Which was quoted out of context (why I said "non sequitur"). Still -- the idea that closeness disqualifies art is imo a horrible sentiment. What distinguishes art from craftsmanship (don't forget, we're discussing images here that are clearly being received as "art"), at least since the 1800's, is the idea of the artist's personal internal emotions, discoveries and realizations finding external outlet. There is no "too close."
Light on the surface is ultimately all you get. The photographer needs to confront this fact when making pictures, whether through direct action of the power of chance. Whatever your greater purpose, you own it to the work itself to do whatever you can, whether it's Mann's watery idylls or even journalism (Natchwey: (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/84) "I need to make pictures that are eloquent")

BTW, Jessie Mann is on the back cover of SHOTS 95 ("Books-Words"), and inside too. So is Sam Portrera:


http://www.shotsmag.com/95-03.jpg
Sam Portrera, March 2006

Too close?

bjorke
04-21-2007, 03:45 PM
...You're paraphrasing...Actually, I pressed the "reply with quote" button, which did all the direct-quote typing for me, to avoid any duplicity of effort :)

Your quoting of MY post let me realize how poor a typist I am! "direct action of the power of chance" should have been "direct action OR the power of chance" and "you own it to the work" should be "you OWE it to the work" *sigh*

I continue to be puzzled though, why someone who says they avoid portraiture has been so vocal in their opinions about Mann & the other aforementioned and influential portraitists (and quick to inappropriately trot-out the "p word" too) -- while not really talking directly about the pictures themselves very much (not even simpl elow-hanging fruit like the prominent role, in both Mann & Sturges, of water). Not to turn it into armchair psychology (though a huge bit of art, imo, is exactly that).

Sometimes I think that art with all that icky human internal-state stuff sliced-off is what most "crasftman" imagery strives for. A dully art-like product made from Statements, rather than questions or poems.


http://www.rachellemozman.com/webpagepictures/RedShoesB1.jpg
Rachel Mozman (http://www.rachellemozman.com/)

http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/archives/DougDubois.jpg
Doug Dubois (http://www.dougdubois.com/)

http://www.lightwork.org/exhibitions/past/images_past/sanguinetti02.jpg
Allesandra Sanguinetti (http://www.yossimilo.com/artists/ales_sang/?show=0#title)


(these shooters are imo Mann-influenced in varying degrees, and Sanguinetti is an especially good example of kids-as-collaborators, of what Jessie Mann, these days, calls "the agency of the subject")

Sparky
04-21-2007, 09:20 PM
Actually, I pressed the "reply with quote" button, which did all the direct-quote typing for me, to avoid any duplicity of effort :)

Your quoting of MY post let me realize how poor a typist I am! "direct action of the power of chance" should have been "direct action OR the power of chance" and "you own it to the work" should be "you OWE it to the work" *sigh*

I continue to be puzzled though, why someone who says they avoid portraiture has been so vocal in their opinions about Mann & the other aforementioned and influential portraitists (and quick to inappropriately trot-out the "p word" too) -- while not really talking directly about the pictures themselves very much (not even simpl elow-hanging fruit like the prominent role, in both Mann & Sturges, of water). Not to turn it into armchair psychology (though a huge bit of art, imo, is exactly that).

Sometimes I think that art with all that icky human internal-state stuff sliced-off is what most "crasftman" imagery strives for. A dully art-like product made from Statements, rather than questions or poems.

(these shooters are imo Mann-influenced in varying degrees, and Sanguinetti is an especially good example of kids-as-collaborators, of what Jessie Mann, these days, calls "the agency of the subject")

THANK YOU Bjorke - for the very thoughtful reply. Well, indeed - it puzzles me too. I just feel that portraiture, for me, is EXTREMELY complicated. Much of the reason why is political (i.e. - having the consent of the sitter, for example... and then there is SOOO MUCH responsibility involved in that transaction vis-a-vis representation). So - certain portraiture illustrates why this is. Perhaps mann & sturges both. I'm not sure. I'd have to think about it more.

I WOULD SAY (perhaps this will be EQUALLY as contentious a statement for you as the earlier ones) that the examples you've provided are WORLDS away (again, for me only perhaps) from Mann's portraits. I say this because you could EASILY replace the model in either of the photos and it would be the same photograph. I don't think that is at ALL the case in Mann's portraits. Nor do I think it's the case with Sturges! Perhaps that is somehow the CORE of what gets to me about that work. About the 'personal' - the 'closeness'. I don't pick that up from the examples you gave... again - I hope this made some sense and somehow, from this dialogue we can both, and all, grow in terms of our relationships to the work and photography/art as a whole.