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  1. #61
    bjorke's Avatar
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    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.


    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.

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  2. #62

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    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.
    Last edited by doughowk; 04-20-2007 at 12:46 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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  3. #63
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doughowk View Post
    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.
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  4. #64

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    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!

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by doughowk View Post
    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?
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  6. #66

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    Quote Originally Posted by bjorke View Post
    ...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.

  7. #67

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    Quote Originally Posted by jstraw View Post
    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.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjorke View Post
    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.

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarlRadford View Post
    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.

  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuzanneR View Post
    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.

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