Art photography according to curators...
As a photographer, I'm always very suspicious of such people and their ideas on what is and isn't important, timely and as a result, in the mind of posterity, art. The numerous 'Books Photographers MUST read RIGHT NOW!' lists often suggest John Szarkowski and his 'art of curation' monographs, shall we call them. I'm sure I'll come across as an ignorant swine to some serious students of photography here, but I don't believe his ideas about aesthetics have any relevance to our lives as creatives. 'Mirrors and Windows' is the concern of a curator, for whom categorizing work in such a way is a solution to an everyday problem. This isn't the concern of the creative photographer, whose problems never call for ceasing image making to think 'is this photograph a mirror or window?' It's counter-productive and like all creative output, photographs never fall any further than dead centre, moving according to individual interpretation, not when the overlord tells us they move. I believe photography education is warped by such thinking and the critical mind has taken precedence over the creative mind in contemporary practice.
Weegee and Atget, the self-confessed documentarians, are revered as two of this medium's creative geniuses - in the mind of curators and historians - and as a result, the mind of photographers. Forgive me, but for this reason, I believe curators are largely responsible for the banality and pseudo-documentary aesthetic of a great deal of the contemporary photography that we have the privilege to gaze upon, before it's whisked away by millionaires never to be seen again - thank god! 'Documentary as art' is one of the reasons digital has flourished and traditional materials best suited to slow, methodical (counter intuitive to documentary/artful snapshot/haphazard) approaches, are being tossed aside.
Are curators and historians responsible for the stifling of expressive exploration in contemporary photography and perhaps as a result, the 'death' of film - getting the intended results with film being bound to creative thinking?
I think the use of the term "documentary" is a little over-generalized here. To shoot in a documentary style is possible with -any- camera system, I do it with a Hasselblad on a tripod, I do it with a 4x5, and I do it with all my 35mm cameras. I would also hardly say that what is being shown at the higher echelon galleries is "documentary" at all. I see a lot of color. Color and appropriation. Take for example Gursky, or the bullshit wanker known as Richard Prince. Gursky is big color, Prince is big bullshit. I'm far more concerned about the people who -do- take all the considerations and time in the world to iron out an idea that was poorly conceived in the first place. Let the bad ideas bleed quickly, so that the photographers/artists producing them can evolve their talent to a higher level.
Digital flourished because it was convenient and accessible. Custom black and white photography became a reality for the every day snapshot shooter with digital, as well.
Also, any list of suggestions with a title as smarmy as that (and believe me, I've seen them), should immediately be ignored and filed under "useless".
I've never gained insight about the art world from anything like that, but from looking at actual artist books, as well as applying unrelated literary material into my beliefs and philosophies. I think reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and picking up a camera as a result of not being able to draw fast enough, made me a better photographer than any of Saint Ansel's technical books ever would have...
No quite the oppposite Curators in particilar and to some extent historians are often at the forefront of opening up individual expression and diversity.
Originally Posted by batwister
Having been involved at various levels both as an exhibitor, organiser and also curator of exhibitions for over 30 years and having extensive contacts in the art side of photography I've never seen even a trace of what your implying except from mediocre photogarphers who think they must conform to what they percieve is require of them.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
Gursky is what I think of as a post-New Topographics photographer. Documentary 'style' as you call it, evolved from Stephen Shore et al, with an overriding 'how beguiling is colour?' aesthetic masking any empathy he might have ever had for the actual subject matter his camera relies on. When I was refering to contemporary photography as 'documentary', Gursky's work and this approach is what I had in mind. It's something the 'convenience' and efficiency of digital currently lends itself perfectly to. But I feel this approach has developed from the curators praise of early documentary work and had they not dubbed such work as art there wouldn't be a rife 'documentary aesthetic' or style at all. I don't feel this phase of photography is a part of its organic evolution, but the modern, defenseless photographer's response to what critics have told us the art of photography is. This is a big claim, but I believe traditional art teachers who began to teach photography, not seeing its real creative potential, but more its merit as a literal interpretaion of the world, condoned this idea. Hence where we are now, photography aimed squarely at the skeptic - an ironic joke for art buyers.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
As a side note, please don't be insulted, but I think philosophies should develop naturally, rather than be seeked out. I have a musician friend who at university began reading The Picture of Dorian Gray (I don't think he finished it) and something along the lines of 'Greek Philosophy 101' thinking it would make him a better songwriter. I'm of the mind that vision and life experience are intertwined and there aren't any intellectual short cuts or philosophical answers for making compelling photographs. I think this is a dangerous contemporary mentality, now promoted in such things as Werner Herzog's 'rogue film school' - as a man of such experience and humour, I can only guess this is his sense of irony! From my perspective, Ayn Rand and the super intellectuals offer as much as reality television in terms of contributing to a personal philosophy and I know which has inspired me most to be more productive!
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I've seen curators desperately clinging onto photographic work of the past, such as pictorialism, almost to a fault. And I've seen them heavily exploring modern photography. The best thing, for a museum, is to have both. This is important, because it's at museums where a lot of people get exposed to photography as printed matter.
Recently, I visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to view their exhibit featuring panoramic phtoographs, and there is clearly a lot of respect for work from the past showing some absolutely exquisite work by Berenice Abbott, Art Sinsabaugh, Josef Sudek, and others, but also lots of more modern iterations from people like Chris Faust and Stuart Klipper. To me it was a wonderful and fresh mix of photographs where old and new coexisted in perfect harmony.
It's very seldom that I visit a museum show of photography without learning a lot about both old and new photographers, and even though I may not like it all, it's always interesting and enlightening.
One modern photographer whose work I'd love to see more of is Jay Maisel, for example. Modern, fresh, recognized, respected, and usually loved by those that have little experience with photography.
Here's a very interesting current show featuring great photographic work from late 19th century to modern day. Some names unknown to me.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm in January to see the work of Nick Brandt, a photographer documenting nature.
There was a fantastic exhibit at the same time by Norwegian photographer Margaret M. DeLange
Anton Corbijn has a show there now.
Marcus Bleasdale: Stolen Children
Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 03-09-2012 at 02:29 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
I've never read a book in an attempt to find a philosophy for myself, I read all of her work when I was in my early/mid teens, and her views match mine quite closely. I appear to be very cold to most people, though, so I shouldn't be surprised.
I don't think of Stephen Shore as a documentary photographer, although I think our difference of intention with syntax, and meaning is what's causing us to see differently. I think of documentary photography as something much more closely related to photojournalism, with the intention of 'documenting' an ongoing, reoccurring subject. I agree completely with you that there is an overload of "documentary" photography that consists of mediocre landscapes of Americana, and smushed out cigarettes. That's what you get when everyone is told that they can be a photographer, too (Just add water!).
Art photography according to curators?
Art photography according to curators? Quite often these people are not artists, or able to recognise art. To them, their greatest asset is recognition of a business opportunity. That’s why the art world is so full of pretentious crap.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
You read Ayn Rand in your teens? Ouch. I'm reminded of 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' for some reason... I'm sure you're nothing like that.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
The New Topographics photographers took a documentary approach to the landscape, and I believe Gursky's work to be derived aesthetically from New Topographics, but without the concerns - which leaves it pretty empty! Of course, Stephen Shore has been productive outside of his association with that movement, as has Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, but being concerned with representation of landscape, that's how I know him.
Anyone can be a photographer, but more problematic is the idea that anyone can be an artist... with any photograph.
Last edited by batwister; 03-09-2012 at 03:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.
this has been true since 1839 ...
Originally Posted by batwister
why should it be any different now ?