Thanks for pointing out the different perspectives. My take-away from your post is that photography makers should not try to explain their work using terms that future art historians might use. It may be better to tell the plain story, perhaps explain the conscious decisions and the circumstances and luck involved.
Thanks Bill. Yes, I think it's worth articulating oneself clearly, but to me the real work of the artist is in the doing, and no amount of explanation will suffice.
At any rate, even if an artist did a perfect art historical analysis of his own work, for an academics it would still require an additional layer of scrutiny (why is the artist so well versed? what is the relationship with the work? etc), so that an artist's statement or intention will always be a completely different thing from an art historical analysis.
Someone like Jeff Wall is the textbook example of an artist well-versed into art history, and whose work actively engages with major works of art in this manner. I think there's a certain amount of power wrestling therein, and an attempt at putting forth a response to the "photography isn't art" discourses of earlier decades. I have seen this exact same behaviour with comics: artists write "graphic novels" because they have been put down as "not literary enough." My gripe is always that if someone says you're not X enough, why give him credit by becoming X enough?
But back to Wall, the odd consequence of his doing so is that he short circuited the assumed distance between artist and critic/historian: he admitted having been inspired by Michael Fried's theories of absorption and theatricality for his work; in turn, Fried champions Wall in Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before as being a perfect example of the "good" kind of photograph, the "absorption" one. Way to be critical, Fried!
Michel Hardy-Valle, you say it so well and my experience seems to parallel yours.
The art-academics and the professional curators and critics I know are, to a man or woman, largely incapable of engaging with a photograph in terms of its formal qualities: what it looks like. That's not because these people are ignorant or unintelligent but because their training is otherwise. To graduate to an academic position, to draw salary, keep job security (even tenure), and hope for promotion it is necessary to write and expound at length about photographs. And the writing and exposition needs to take a coherent form that other academics can recognise and approve. Such dissertations reflect:
The craving of novelty and its (mis?)identification with quality and progress.
The historic placement of a photograph.
The social context surrounding the photograph with an emphasis on post-modern thought modes.
The political implications of a photograph, again post-modern or, failing that, Marxist.
The aesthetic milieu of a photograph: who influenced who?
The technical qualities of a photograph, what medium, how big, etc, so archivists will know what to do with it.
The position of a photograph in the art market, a popularity contest rather than a quality contest, run by high-rollers, chancers, and state institutions.
None of the above is of the slightest use as mental support for a creative photographer in the moment of standing behind a camera and in the presence of evocative subject matter. How will the best qualities of the subject be realised, what subtleties of composition, what lighting, what focus will make the photograph so beautiful that it commands to be looked at? Those are necessary starting thoughts and the academic world has little to teach here.
An amusing analogy told to me, by an academic no less, equated making photographs to the Native American experience of buffalo hunting. There is excitement, danger, thrills aplenty, great rewards and the potential for disaster. The academics come by after the herd has passed and read the dung: there were so many animals, they went this way, many calves, few bulls, etc, etc; a much safer career.
As I was working in the yard yesterday and fixing up my deck......
I took a break, did a hit of LSD, and pondered the nail I was holding in my hand.
To the guy that made it, it represents an intensely boring job. He sees billions of then and they all look the same.
To the guy that ships then they represent a heavy, sharp and unwieldy nuisance that doesn't fit together. They are trouble.
To the guy that transports them they represent a heavy box without merit. Just dumb weight.
To the guy at the retailer they represent merely a commodity. How much can I get, for how many.
To the guy that buys them they represent promise and the future.
He's going to build something. Create something. And this little nail is the glue that will hold it all together.
To the guy who comes by and sees the final result he doesn't see a nail at all and only looks at the project as a whole.
If he looks real close he can see a little round dot but dismisses it as a necessary nuisance in an other wise beautiful project.
Everyone had a different experience of that perfect nail because to them it all represents something different.
To a guy stoned on LSD a nail is elegant perfection. It's a work of art, aesthetically and practically, it is perfect.
Yet like all art, the viewer will always add their own baggage to it to try to make it about them.
This is why I use decking screws.
A person who uses decking screws instead of nails is very self conscious, doesn't make lasting friendships, tries too hard to please others, doesn't really trust his own judgement, is wishy-washy, afraid of commitment, and has trouble making decisions.
Originally Posted by Allen Friday
This type of person goes out shooting with a 35 mm with 20 rolls of film instead using LF and two sheets of film.
All in all a hollow shell of a human being, desperate for approval, slinking through life and never making a mark of his own, but instead ready to emulate his peers at that moment, in a futile attempt to fit in.
In short a Zelig.
Maybe, but his deck stays together and is easily serviceable. :D
Originally Posted by blansky
I resent that. I always shoot at least 4 LF sheets to make sure I get the shot.
Aha, the compromising of ones principles in the worship of practicality.
Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble
Foregoing the beautiful woman and settling for the good cook.
I thought we were discusisng getting one's deck nailed or screwed.
Originally Posted by blansky