I had a chance to see an extensive exhibit of his work several years ago at the Center for Photography in NYC a few years ago. It was drop dead, knockout stunning. I was viscerally moved by a lot of the images, both because of their intrinsic beauty, and because of the subject matter. I am really sorry to read Les's account of the man, though. It seems so incongruous for a man's sensibility that can look so deeply and truthfully at what he photographs with apparant sincerity to be, in another frame of mind, so calous about the same subject. .
Regading Les's post, I cannot of course disagree as I don't know him or any of his associates. I can in some respects understand S.S's cynicism regarding the 'realities' he covers and the precieved causes. As a (young) person who has witnessed conflicts in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, I too find myself extremely cynical. Certain sympathies evaporate and there is a desensitisation to the emotional components which some find novel, challenging, worrying etc, but often interest in others. In some respects the details get lost amongst a greater understanding the more messes you witness. There tend to be the same selfish, unpleasant human tendencies wherever you go. Factored into this is that a human only has so much to emotion that can be kept 'alive' and when moving from one apocalypse to another, you just cannot keep giving it out and chewing it over. Often the enthusiasm to engage on the part of those who find such concepts novel is far beyond the capabilty of those more wearied by it all. I dont know if this is related to the same cynicism Les is referring to; I suspect not. I suspect Les is talking about something different that is more exploitation related as I would imagine all I have said is taken for granted. I guess you can be wearied but respectful or simply avoid the debate and decline the request for answers. Doing so would not make you a cynic. Les, ca you elaborate?
Regarding his work, I do love the prints. I do love his ability to add a perverse epic romance to things which should not have such appeal. His images are arguably effective because, en masse, they captivate but certainly do not represent thee reality which he purports to over. If he was realistic he would undoubtedly be less effective both as a businessman and a service provider. Perhaps his romance further adds a sense of injustice and contradiction to what we know certainly is not romantic or beautiful.
The two images shown are certainly diametrically oposites. I find nothing exceptional about the iceberg except the subject matter.
The train station photograph is quite something else, and must be seen in a major enlargement to be fully appreciated (as his gold mine images are, also).
I had the great priviledge of attending a major show of his work last year, and although I was almost open-mouthed at the images, I don't feel that the printing is all that great. Competent, yes, but not more.
While my own opinion is to agree that he is one of the world's greatest photographers, only time will tell if that is so.
As to his apparent prime motivation being financial, remember that he started life as an economist. And unlike Gene Smith, his family will not go hungery when he pawns his cameras to pay for booze and drugs.
I have always loved the railroad station image and the blurring of all the people moving towards the camera position. It almost seems as if everyone is making up one giant organism.
The iceberg struck me becuase it is quite a departure from his usual subject matter. Also this reproduction is pretty bad. I have seen a couple of magazine images that show a wonderful range of tones and detail not seen with this JPEG.
his eye and his printer's amazing ability produces some powerful work. I am not sure the two can be seperated. JMO
I have seen his prints in person and they are amazing. He has the ability to know when to trip the shutter, but the printing, that's what makes the difference. All his prints should be co-signed. I am also in roberts camp, I do landscapes, and moved on to the Brett Weston print.
I like his work very much and I was lucky enough to see a few of his photographs at an History of Photography exhibit in Seoul. His book Essays was on sale for a good price but, alas, sold out by the time I got there.
The iceberg shot reminds me of photos of gothic cathedrals I have seen. Beautiful sky. The trains and the people moving between them look like worms to me. Mechanical worms and a mass-of-people worm. Great photograph.
Does anyone know what kind of camera he uses for his photographs? Large format? 35mm?