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  1. #11

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    The gallery in the original post makes me think of this: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/enter...o-world/44772/

    And I just go

    The OP's comment about exists simply to allow the elite of the art world to intellectualize I think about nails it. A few self important people can stand around and explain to each other why, in their superior minds, an obviously banal photograph is amazing.

  2. #12
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    From Harry Cory Wright's site:
    THE CAMERA

    Harry works with a large format Gandolfi 10 x 8 inch wooden plate camera. He uses just a single 240mm lens, which is a medium wide angle. The tripod is the heaviest manfrotto studio tripod available. The apparatus is very heavy and moving around too much is difficult and often unnecessary. Photographing with this camera requires a combination of anticipation and patience. The film is standard negative emulsion, mostly Fuji. It is much the same as is used in standard small film cameras. The difference of course is in the size of the negative and the resultant level of detail.

    THE WORK

    The works available are all hand printed 'C' type prints direct from the 10 x 8 inch negative. Printed and mounted in Germany, framed in the UK.
    Now, then, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
    Definition of CYNIC
    1 capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence
    2 : a faultfinding captious critic; especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest
    It seems that being a Cynic is a good thing, while being a cynic is a bad thing.

    As for the "banal" esthetic, it's been with us since the beginning of photography. Remember, the first photograph was of a bunch of roofs. The "problem" I see is when somebody photographs something banal and mundane in the most banal and mundane manner using equipment that is grossly overkill, and then somebody buys it. I wonder, what is it with both parties? Can't the buyer go outside with a camera and create a similar photograph with similar aesthetic value? And can't the artist create something with better aesthetics?

    Of course, we may be thinking this way too deeply, and Mr. Wright just likes burning off expired film instead of letting it rot in the freezer.

  3. #13

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    From the Devil's Dictionary. CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.

  4. #14
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    Harry works with a large format Gandolfi 10 x 8 inch wooden plate camera. He uses just a single 240mm lens, which is a medium wide angle. The tripod is the heaviest manfrotto studio tripod available. The apparatus is very heavy and moving around too much is difficult and often unnecessary. Photographing with this camera requires a combination of anticipation and patience. The film is standard negative emulsion, mostly Fuji. It is much the same as is used in standard small film cameras. The difference of course is in the size of the negative and the resultant level of detail.

    Love this. (the bold part)

    In other words "fuck it, this bloody thing is too damn big and cumbersome so I'll just shoot it at the ground"
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  5. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    The tripod is the heaviest manfrotto studio tripod available. [B]The apparatus is very heavy and moving around too much is difficult and often unnecessary.
    He solves that problem with the print sizes. There's surely something in just ONE square meter worth looking at.

    Am I being cynical again or is it just plain old innocent sarcasm? More definitions please...

  6. #16
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    While I don't want to comment on the cited work specifically, I think there are reasons we're seeing a proliferation of banal images. First (and related to the second) is that we're being inundated with more and more images. Digital has brought about a democratization of image making. Anyone can document anything these days. No special intent is required. In fact, all you need is a phone.
    Second, we live in an age of instant communication, instant news, instant gratification, 500 TV channels, "on demand" everything... Under the circumstances, for some, banality may be a welcome respite.

  7. #17
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    Harry Cory Wright is just another one of a remarkably undiverse bunch: "contemporary" photographers.

    The world of photography is constituted into two parts and Johannes Faber, dealer in Vienna specialising in classic Modern photographs, has put it as well as anyone: “Collectors of classic modern photography are a different group. They focus on the image, quality, and surface of the print (sic), whereas the contemporary market is about content and size.”
    The Art Newspaper, Issue 3, The Year in Review 2004

    In general the driving energy for contemporary photography comes from curators, gallerists, dealers, and artists on the make. Of course there are exceptions but most of this cohort are not knowledgeable about photography and could not be considered friends of the medium. Their agenda is more about career advancement, job security, ego stroking, and pecuniary gain.

    These custodians of contemporary photography tend to be oblivious of the conundrum posed by the number of curatorially lionised photographer who have no active contact with the photographic medium? The conceptual element of the picture is the quality stressed rather than the actual execution. Again when the putative artist is not the actual maker an unasked question remains. If the “photographer” is merely the guy who clicked the camera and the thing on the gallery wall is the work of an anonymous artist down at the processing laboratory then who is the real creator, the actual thinker?

    The contemporary genre seems to embrace a trend, uncritical, uncaring, or ignorant, to declare any picture originating from any camera-work a photograph. This includes such diverse species as a press print, ink-jet print, or a monitor display. And it doesn't seem to matter how far downstream the picture is in the chain of production. If there is a camera at the front end then everything down from there is a photograph.

    Sometimes not even a camera is relevant. I recall a conversation with a very "contemporary" senior curator of photography at the Australian National Gallery. I asked "What is a photograph?" And the reply came without any perception of irony or doubt "A photograph is whatever I say is a photograph".

    As predictable as clockwork the "avant garde" of contemporary photography seems to speak only one visual language: large size colour pictures displayed as if they were paintings. Maybe this trope has particular appeal to hopeful collectors who do not have much taste but can afford a big one if not a good one.

    The virtually universal preoccupation with big colour, I believe, hints at a coarsened aesthetic. Robert Hughes, the famous arts writer put it this way "In colour photography nothing is easier to feign than the marks of intense emotional or intellectual experience".

    The picture making arts have many pretenders to authorship particularly under the banner of "photography". These "photographers" tend to be supported by an industry, both commercial and academic, that remains allergic to genuine scholarship. Again I recall an opinion from a senior curator, "Jeff Koons is acknowledged as an important contemporary photographer. I'm not going to question that. My department is going to run on world's best practice."

    Jeff Koons, or even Harry Cory Wright, may or may not be worthy photographers but their status as such might garner more credibility via critical assessment than through uncritical acceptance and curatorial gush. I am cynical enough to opine that contemporary photography is often a circus where pretenders to photographic accomplishment are acclaimed by pretenders to scholarship. And it is not a given that a photograph about which an academic can write many words is worth even passing attention. It may not rigorously defined what “Contemporary Photography” really is but it appears to have the characteristics of a self healing belief system that is unaffected by criticism or objective analysis. It could very well be that those big, empty colour pictures with high "meaning-less-ness per square metre" quotients will become an embarrassment that museums will hide in the basement long before they fade to cyan or magenta schmutz.

    If you have read this far you will know which side I am on.

    Classic modern photography, by way of contrast with the contemporary stuff, is close to what fine photography has always been. It offers a rich experience for people who love rarity, singularity, fully realized handcraft, precious materials, archival durability, coherent scholarship, and interesting content. It remains worth looking at.
    Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maris View Post
    I am cynical enough to opine that contemporary photography is often a circus where pretenders to photographic accomplishment are acclaimed by pretenders to scholarship.
    This just about sums it up.

    Though, if this is a passing phase - and what isn't these days - I still can't help thinking it's an important one for anyone using traditional materials. I would guess that most people on this forum who have artistic tendencies in regard to photography, consider those 'precious materials' you speak of paramount when it comes to the presentation of and perhaps joy in making, their work. What I was proposing in the original post was that this contemporary aesthetic would be nothing of worth without the materials. You have to remember how much of a visual impact grain structure, tonality and colour has on the viewer at those mammoth print sizes to realise that the aesthetic depends on film. That, if anything, is what it has going for it and us - taste and opinions aside. If the work didn't receive acclaim and contemporary photographers stopped using film, where would we be? How many millions of Flickr photographers shoot film because they and their middle class hipster friends are exposed to this work and the process at art college? I believe the consistently increasing interest in this work is providing continued interest in film during a critical time.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    If the work didn't receive acclaim and contemporary photographers stopped using film, where would we be? How many millions of Flickr photographers shoot film because they and their middle class hipster friends are exposed to this work and the process at art college? I believe the consistently increasing interest in this work is providing continued interest in film during a critical time.
    Nah. I don't it's film that supports huge prints because it's easy to make a huge print from digital, even to give it a look as if it was shot with a nice grain structure. All of that is trivially fakeable, including the resolution.

    And likewise, I don't think it's art schools, most of which have closed or are closing their darkrooms, that gets people into film. You mention flickr: it and its competitors are much more important; people get into photography, they get online, they see what everyone else is doing and they gravitate towards what they like. This whole "internet brings the disintermediation* and democratisation of X" where X can be nearly anything: it's not actually bullshit.

    As ever, 90% of everything is crap. It's up to you to find the 10%.


    * in this case, the internet is disintermediating photography by taking away the art-school barrier to good technical skills, and it taking away the role of galleries in getting work shown. I have an offline friend who has been doing B&W film for 30+ years, he's amazingly good at it and he does a couple exhibitions a year. I get two orders of magnitude more eyeballs than him, just through flickr, and I can't claim to be anything special.

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    Nah. I don't it's film that supports huge prints because it's easy to make a huge print from digital, even to give it a look as if it was shot with a nice grain structure. All of that is trivially fakeable, including the resolution.
    It is fakeable, but transparently so. Being bound to technology (as the critics will always point out to us) art photography can rarely keep secrets about process (note Cory Wright's website info) and the Gursky manipulation 'scandal' with the Rhine image was a prime example of people getting up in arms about this stuff. Critics have a hard time accepting photography that isn't anything but completely authentic - technically and subjectively, today more than ever I think. Film effects are almost solely an amateur phenomenon, from what I've seen. Instagram has made it a real problem for any serious art photographer to even try this now also. The American landscape photographer Michael Fatali always made a point of letting his viewers know there wasn't any technical trickery - he knew his wider credibility in the art world depended on it.

    I think Flickr is pretty close to being a complete vacuum, with it's own trends in representation and aesthetic, but there's definitely that outside influence from the 'proper' art photography world. I've often seen streams and sets from photographers not even hiding the fact they are ripping off a big name artist - they know they can almost get away with it. Not when I'm around however


    As a side note, I think Flickr is largely made up of people who pick things up - concepts I mean - without knowing and there is a massive amount of creative naivety and general ignorance about the lineage and history of art photography. I've been scared away from it because it's a world unto itself and it influenced my 'visual vocabulary' in a way that made me uncomfortable, stunting my growth. Sitting down and really assessing my images one night, this was almost a grand awakening. But you do see hints at ideas and visual styles, unconsciously appropriated perhaps, from the 'real' world of contemporary photography and classical work. It does get filtered through, but very rapidly recycled into superficialities.
    Last edited by batwister; 06-22-2012 at 09:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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