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  1. #1

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    Form/ Aesthetics v. Concept/ Statement

    Well, I finally did it. I made into my university’s BFA program. However, one of the comments on my application exhibit hit on something that has been haunting me for the past six months.

    “Work needs conceptual and technical development”

    This is coupled with a recent comment from one of my roommates who is a BFA painting student. “Your photographs look like postcards, where is the concept”

    I will admit I am a fan of Ansel Adams and other modernist photographers, so my work is formally similar. It seems to me that the current art community looks down on landscape photography even though Adams and landscaper painters such as J.M.W Turner are studied and revered.

    It seems that currently revered art photography is made by Stephen Shore or William Eggleston clones.

    Is concept valued higher that form in contemporary photography? I have seen a lot of technically crappy and uninteresting photographs. It wasn’t Flickr where I found them but the websites of MOMA and MOCP.

    I only know of one contemporary photographer, who has been exhibited internationally, that is Amjad Faur. I had him as an instructor for an art history class this semester. His work is solid in technique (8 X 10) and concept. But the work of others looks just as cliché and technically bad as instagram and lomography. The subjects are boring and the photos washed out.

    Who are the currently internationally known photographers? Does the gallery/ museum framework of modernism and postmodernism still exist or function today?

    Why does a Gursky photograph of a river sell for $4.3 million? Is photography as art dying in the world of mediocrity? Is it more difficult to work conceptually in photography verses other media such as sculpture and painting?

    Also, why is necessary to make a social point in art today? When did artists start becoming social activists? What is more important the work or the statement? Are we artists first or something else?

    We often talk about the Bauhaus, most of those artists were concerned with the formal qualities. Will photography ever come back to these considerations? Art evolves through reactions to previous movements like straight photography reacting to pictorialism.

    Will the philosophy/ art movement of romanticism that encompasses Adams and the Hudson River School painters, come back to the art world?

    In short where are we headed as artists? Where is photography been and going?

    Sorry, for such a long post but this issue is rather complex.

    Kris Johnson
    Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts: Journalism - University of Arkansas 2014

    Canon A-1, Canon AE-1, Canon Canonet GIII 17, Argus 21, Rolleicord Va, Mamiya RB67, Voigtländer Bessa

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  2. #2

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    This is MY idea about MY OWN WORK.

    I have been thinking about this a lot during last year or so. When I started photographing "stuff", I took picture of something that look like it made a good photograph. I followed rules of photography and made images that have nice composition, color, tones, subjects, etc. It went on for a few years. I became good enough to take "pretty pictures." Yup, they look like postcards.

    I then ran into a problem. Why am I doing this? Why am I taking THIS photograph? Certain images resonated with me more then the other. I did landscape, I did portraiture, and I did everything else.

    Then I realized, I seem to be taking images with full of emotional content. I like portrait of people interacting with others. I like landscape that indicates solitude. I like "stuff" that looks like it might speak - although pepper (for example) will never speak to an onion. Now, I look for a way to speak - photographically. That's my theme. That's my "artist statement."

    My work isn't a social statement. My work is about my experience and my emotions. I didn't start out this way, but my work now speaks for me. It's not a theme I deliberately picked. It came out this way and it looks "right" to me.

    I don't know if you can force this kind of thing. As a student of art, you will obviously go through several growth period - both technically, professionally, and personally. At one point, I'd imagine you'll want to say something - anybody listening or NOT. At that point, it will speak for you. Then, your work won't look like a postcard anymore.

    That's my take.

    By the way, I have no desire to be famous. I have no desire to sell my work. I have no desire to make this my profession. I did enough of turning hobby and passion into a paying job. Having money involved takes fun away from my passion.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  3. #3

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    You expect your professors to be "objective"..... even self-reflective and philosophical??

    Bwah... ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!

    Insecurity coupled with arrogance equals "beat the crap out of my students syndrome".

    That's life... those are your future "boss experiences" so get used to it.
    Last edited by Old-N-Feeble; 05-11-2012 at 08:53 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    I teach photography in the art department of a major university. I can tell you from experience, as a teacher, and as a former student making the same kind of modernist photographs you like, that it is not 1954 anymore. Don't worry about a Gursky selling for any amount of money. That is unrelated to you making photographs or having your work critiqued, or art making in general. That is about art market economics, not art making.

    I am not going to tell you that you cannot make the photographs like your heroes, but be prepared to defend it. What they are telling you in subtext is that art moves forward, and the work you like was made half a century ago. How can you make them while looking to the future of photography? If all you want is to make that type of photograph, then there is no need for you to get a BFA, or even go to school. The department is going to push you to evolve in style and ideas. That does not mean you need to change what you do, but they are going to ask you to think critically about why you choose to look to the past and explore old ideas about photography, and not new ones. You need to ask yourself the same thing.

    You are going to get a lot of people here telling you what you want to hear, that a university is only going to try to force you to make photographs like the people you hate. That is not true, and if it is, go to a different school. But, a university is about research. In the art department, that means exploration of new ideas in visual communication. If you are only rehashing old ideas, you are not doing research.

    No matter what you do in your work, be open minded about other people's work. Look at all of it, even if it isn't what you would make. Try to understand what they are trying to accomplish and it may help you figure out what you want to accomplish in your own work.
    www.gregorytdavis.com

    Did millions of people suddenly disappear? This may have an answer.

    "No one knows that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." -Matthew 24:36

  5. #5

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    -----------------------------------

    Like I said.....

    -----------------------------------

    And I'll add... brainwashing via education is passed down to every next generation of students.

    I say... keep it simple... don't be forced into a corner by over-educated brain-washed brain-washers... make the art that makes you happy... carpe diem.

    There's a fine line between "knowledge" and "wisdom"... such as there is between "control" and "freedom".
    Last edited by Old-N-Feeble; 05-11-2012 at 09:02 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  6. #6

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    Thanks, Greg. I know that and understand it. I just kind of wonder how much further can we go.

    The issue is that I developed a severe case of artist's block that caused me a lot of problems this semester.

    Not all of my work was similar to modernism but those works are digital, therefore I shall not post them.

    Not all of the comments were bad, it just touched on a pre-existing issue.

    Here is another comment: "Work is strong overall (photographic work) and shows technical proficiency and a good amount of exploration”
    Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts: Journalism - University of Arkansas 2014

    Canon A-1, Canon AE-1, Canon Canonet GIII 17, Argus 21, Rolleicord Va, Mamiya RB67, Voigtländer Bessa

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  7. #7

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    i don't think it has anything to do with brainwashing, but having an open mind
    and knowing what you are doing, and why, and being able to say what you are doing, and why
    ... not just doing something because " you like to "

  8. #8

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    jnanian... Control and power IS brainwashing. Not many college professors have truly open minds. Most are over-educated and insecure, therefore, brainwashed... so they pass the same bullshit along to their students. BTW, I'm the son of a college professor.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble View Post
    jnanian... Control and power IS brainwashing. Not many college professors have truly open minds. Most are over-educated and insecure, therefore, brainwashed... so they pass the same bullshit along to their students. BTW, I'm the son of a college professor.

    maybe in some instances some professors force people to think their way,
    but i don't learning to think critically about one's own work has anything to do with brainwashing ...
    unless you become a robot and only do what "they" want you to do

  10. #10

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    I've only had one instructor that really came close to brainwashing. It was 3D design. I made a sculpture and then she tried to get me to change my concept to more fit what she was reading into it. She wasn't a professor but a ceramics grad student.
    Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts: Journalism - University of Arkansas 2014

    Canon A-1, Canon AE-1, Canon Canonet GIII 17, Argus 21, Rolleicord Va, Mamiya RB67, Voigtländer Bessa

    http://darkroom317.deviantart.com/

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