Sorry Jorge your observations are as usual appreciated, but I couldnt sleep before I mentioned a handful of (what I think are) acclaimed Czech Photographers:
Maybe I should change my name to Josef.
Some well known names I agree but where did they obtain the recognition? Certainly not in Checkoslovakia, if I remember correctly Josuf Karsh died in Canada after a long career in the US. My point is that being a "suffering artist" does not make your art better or more profound, it only makes you a PITA to listen to. ALthough there is merit in making beautiful images with the bare minimum there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the materials present to make it even more beautiful. So as I stated before the stance that americans are techno junkies I think comes from a little envy, I know I am envious and I wish I could get all the stuff as easily and cheaply as they do in the US.
BTW I know the first 3....the last 3..???? maybe there. I am sure they are wonderful photographers, but I bet you given the chance they would love to be in the US selling their prints rather than there being suffering artists....ask your friends this, if they pity americans so much are they going to refuse to sell their prints in the US? you cant have your cake and eat it too.
I can tell you this because this is my situation, in Mexico there are many good photographers, but people here buy art to fill in wall space and they would rather pay $20 for a big print than $400 for an 8x10, even if it is pt.
There are many wonderful things to photograph here that are not as derivative simply because it is so difficult to pursue the art, so I will try and market my portfolio in the US when I am ready. In a sense I am in the same place as your friends, but I lived in the US for 24 years, so I know that although it is not perfect, it is still the best thing going.
SO dont take offense LD, as I did not mean to belittle the art produced there, but I disagree with the stance your friends mention and having experienced both sides I think I know what I am talking about.
Lack of resources is not necessarily an obstacle to gearheadedness. Yes, I think generally in Europe there is a greater appreciation for art and a higher level of discourse about aesthetic questions than in the U.S. On the other hand when I've spent extended periods of time in Poland, I've seen that the search for the technical fix just gets shifted to things that are affordable: every darkroom worker has his own "mikstury" ("formulas"), and "majstrowanie" ("tinkering") is something of a national pastime. Of course during the Communist years, this was a necessity, because equipment and chemicals were not readily available. Part of the remarkable creativity of these East European artists comes out of this need to be involved in the whole process on a technical level, and that's not a bad thing.
While I was there in 1989, I bought a Pentacon 6 system for street photography. Since it was big and clunky and East European, I could easily pass for a Polish student walking around. My F-1, even with black tape over the Canon logo, might as well have been a 4x6 foot American flag hanging around my neck. Here is one of my favorite shots from those days (on Agfachrome 100, purchased on the black market from a guy who smuggled it from Berlin):
The beer in Prague is unquestionably superior.
I use D76, Dektol, and Tri-X or HP5 or FP4+, and old cameras/lenses. I am familiar and comfortable with them, they do what I expect. Not all of us need to have the newest and most expensive things. We are out using what we have and having a blast. Sometimes I get a winner, sometimes it's crap. Since I am not a professional who really cares anyway? Oh, and your friend is right about our beer. Give me a good German beer with a name I can't spell any time.
Dobry Rano Kamoske...
I think I opened up a can of worms because I wasnt able to express my observations well...I guess thats why I am a visual artist. I agree completley that the equipment we choose is important...hopefully if we are honest with ourselves we will choose the tools to help us with our vision, based on function and not the bells and whistles or cosmetics...and quite frankly I dont want to stand in judgment of that either. I really didnt mean to direct this thread toward a debate over equipment, even though I think it is an element in what I was trying to say. I think what I was trying to say in my initial post is that there seems to be a preoccupation with defining and achieving the elusive "Fine Print"...that the technical issues of an image somehow have made their way to the forefront of discussion, almost to the point of eclipsing the message or voice coming from an image or series of images. All things being equal, a finely crafted image is more pleasing to view than one which is poorly crafted and presented I think this is pretty much a given... But I hesitate to say that I would appreciate a full scale, delicate platinum print of my Aunt Minny's curio collection, just because it was a masterful technical print. People here discuss technique and technical aspects as well...it just isnt as much of an obsession..not so much on the forefront, as I have found it be in the Americas. When fellow photgraphers here look at my work, the first thing that comes to mind is not 'what exposure did you use, what Film,Dev,Paper,Enlarger are you using, or how did you get such incredible tonal range' ...those questions may, and often do eventually follow. The first discussion, more often, is usually about the image and what they feel about it...in the Americas my experience has more often than not, been the opposite.
From techno-gear standpoint, my observation is that the affluence of western society has created a certain predisposition among many of us (NOT ALL) to look to tangible, material things to improve their craft. I have no doubt that, given the means to do so, people over here would prefer to use a Hasselblad with Zeiss optics for their (square) medium format work than a Pentacon 6...and some do...but I think they are less likely to look to such options as a magic formula, and to BUY into the notion that it will siginificantly improve their craft.
I wont get too deep into whether or not my colleagues would jump at the chance or prefer to be in America where they can get their hands on the multiude of products available. But somehow knowing them... knowing that most of them are more well traveled in Europe, North America and further abroad than most North Americans I know... that notion would seem a bit presumptious. Prague is a modern progressive European Capital, in a country rich in the traditions of Art and Culture. There is very little here on a consumer or profesional level that doesnt exist or isnt easily aquirable. Like I said, I think some of my friends comments may be a bit over the top and judgmental, but I do agree that they are not completely off the mark, and not particularly born out of envy.
I was born and raised in Canada, but spent most of my adult life living abroad, so like Jorge at times I take notice of things that stand out with respect to what certain societies or cultures seem to place emphasis on. My observations may be incorrect...but they are my observations. Thanks for yours...and I apologize for not making myself more clear...hopefully this dispatch somewhat rectifies that.
Larry, I did not think your initial dispatch was confusing. I totally understand where you are comming from, here in Mexico the situation is pretty similar, since equipment, materials etc are so hard to come by the people who look at prints and are interested usually dont think of "what camera?" but of "where, how, what it means? how do I feel about it". What I really think you are talking about is a very fundamental difference in culture, where in the US the attitude is "time is money" and what can I get to acheive the same results as fast as possible, in other cultures (or at least mine) there is a tendency to "take it easy" and discuss things.
To me this was the greatest cultural shock when I first started living un the US, all the way from college where god forbid if you disagreed with a professor, to your job, where people do not care to hear what you have to say, they just want you to get the job done. OTOH it is this same attitude of expediency that opens doors for people who are good at what they do, I can only speak for myself but I am very greatful for the priviledge of having lived in the US and for the opportunities that many people afforded me, but this opportunities where given because I had the right attitude. This is my fundamental disagreement with your friends statement, for someone looking from the outside it might look like people in the US are over preoccupied with gizmos and toys, but looking from the inside I think this is only a symptom of the desire to get the best posible results. Lets face it you might be able to turn out prefectly beautiful pictures with a barrel lens with waterford stops, but the chances are better if you have a lens with a shutter, MC and with plenty of coverage.
I agree with you that some people might obsess so much over equipment that they can not see the forest for the trees, but the same can be said on the other side, where the "meaning" of the print becomes so absorving that we fall into the artsy pseudo speak.
I dont think it is the case that your observations are incorrect or correct, but that they are an interesting point of view that show us a little window into another culture which many of might not ever have the chance to experience, as such I find them very interesting and not dissimilar to those made here in Mexico.
Dobry Rano...dneska je zima jak vprdele!
Jorge, In reading my last post I realize my use of the term "The Americas" was not particularly a good choice...being that your country makes up a good portion of that term and clearly has its own cultural and artistic distinctions, and as you say, perhaps not so dis-similar to over here...no slight intended. I think the Canadian and Mexican people share some similar interests and concerns globally, but that would be an off topic discussion. Unfortunatley one of those similarities is not the weather.
Thanks Jorge and All for your input...mejte se hezky.
Prague, Czech Republic
I don't think that their is any sort of predisposition in the US. The technophiles are the most common and the most vocal on the web. People that embrace simplicity and vision don't feel the need to preach this to people in every newsgroup, 99% of which are technique/gadget oriented anyway.
Most photos don't come across nearly as well on your monitor as they do in the actual print, making it pretty hard to discuss what the photographer was seeing/feeling. In a sense there is a technique to taking photographs that display well on a computer monitor, which I am not interested in mastering.