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  1. #1

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    The concern with 'rendering power' and photographs as objects...

    What strikes me again and again when looking at contemporary art photography - large format colour neg work in particular - is that many photographers seem to have a self-consciousness about the hyper-reality and perhaps optical character of their large format cameras. This is a prime example of what I'm talking about - http://www.harrycorywright.com/photographs.php?catId=2. I won't pass my aesthetic judgement.

    Those who value composition, form, tonality, colour relationships and quality of light in the creative photograph are often quite cynical about this type of contemporary work, deeming it banal, detached and cooly objective - smug even. Something that exists simply to allow the elite of the art world to intellectualize. I've certainly felt that way myself for a long time. Recently however, I've started to think that these photographs (like the above images) which have very little concern with any of the ideals or conventions of the art photography that came before, are actually, in quite an innocent way, purely about the simple beauty of the photograph as an object. Is this playing up to the materialistic desires of the art buyer - the photograph giving up on artistic excellence and simply screaming "collect me!" - or is it perhaps an aesthetic embrace of the physical end product of traditional photography? Somehow I feel much of this photography, which consistently receives a great deal of exposure and acclaim (especially amongst hipsters and art students) is a very evident reaction to what appears to be the demise of film. The work strips away any artistic conceit, allowing photographer and viewer alike to directly embrace the medium merely for what it physically is and has been. For anyone who loves photography as photography, is this such a bad thing? Letting go of any artistic ideals, forgetting about how it would stand up next to Paul Strand or Minor White, isn't this fetishisation of the traditional photograph a good thing for the continued interest in film? When the photographer succesfully taps into this popular aesthetic trend it almost seems to get into galleries by default and as a result, the influence on university curriculums, that it's become a very identifiable strand of contemporary photography, means for my money, film will continue to remain in the consciousness of future generations as a viable, even cool way to make photographs.

    As a lover of traditional photography, my cynicism about the so called 'banal aesthetic' rife in art photography is starting to wane for this reason. It depends on and for me, celebrates the very essence of traditional photography. Very rarely have I seen digital photographers clearly play to the physicality of images in this way.

    Threads about contemporary work don't often appear on APUG, but sometimes I'll see the odd snooty comment - I know I'm guilty of this myself, here and elsewhere.
    But anyway, that's my new standpoint on the type of popular contemporary photography linked above... for the consideration of other cynics.
    Last edited by batwister; 06-21-2012 at 09:42 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    blansky's Avatar
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    I've done a lot of work very similar to this.

    Most of the time while stepping out of the car or in my film days while advancing the first few frames while loading.

    Stupid me. Never thought of selling it.

    As for your thesis, remember the saying " this too will pass".

    Using what is "selling" as a criteria for what YOU should do is probably a bad idea.

    We are in photography's transition phase as digital and analog are competing to be noticed and I've no doubt that a tradition print would be attractive to some collectors for its nostalgia/collectible vibe rather the merit of the image itself.
    Last edited by blansky; 06-21-2012 at 10:31 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  3. #3
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    Banal is just banal and I don't think it's got anything to do with the medium or self-awareness. Some people do it with little P&S digital things, some people do it with large format; the difference is that galleries ignore the former group because they're proles. At most, I think there is just a lazy reaction against the ultra-dramatic imagery that seems to be a greater part of contemporary photography/art - go see the "top" listings on photo.net sometime.

    I have some very unkind things to say about gearheads* who seek "the best" despite having not any artistic use for it. Without reference to any particular photographer, I think that LF colour is a natural destination for technology- & resolution-fetishists and as a format, it's therefore unduly burdened with such people.



    * I think I can say this because I sort-of was one and still have to try very hard not to be. The perils of being an engineer before getting into photography.

  4. #4
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    I'm happy to see pictures like these which seem to serve no other purpose but to celebrate my favorite color - Green!

    So many LF photographs are used to represent specific places like Machu Picchu that once in a while it is refreshing to rest your eyes on something that could have been taken anywhere.

  5. #5
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    I do not see anything to get excited about in the work of Harry Cory Wright. If it is large format, good for him. The crux though is a lack of technical finesse: the images of a medley collection of scenes and subjects are unremarkable for the chosen format.

    Wright states:

    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.
    An obsession with "resultant level of detail" is a common trait among LF users seeking the holy grail of detail, detail, detail, often at the expense of technical, visual, compositional and artistic strengths.

    Every once in a while it is very good to see common subjects photographed with many different types of camera, from pinhole to ultra large and not making too much broo-hah of "whopping great resolution and finest possible detail" just with LF. Of the many, many formats and photographs, I like to see a vision splendid, a commanding understanding of the subject, emotive quality, refined technical skill and cogent post (matting, framing, presentation) work to bring the image to life. Aesthetic trends vogues come and go, some stay, but a beautiful image that reaches out and touches the viewer is the best thing of all. Never mind about the equipment.
    .::Gary Rowan Higgins

    A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.
    —Anon.






  6. #6
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    Usually I am the ones who defends this kind of image. I liked the Gursky Rhein II. I am a big fan of Stephen Shore and defend his work often.

    Not this freaken time!

    Seriously. All the resolution in the world couldn't make these pictures interesting.

    Aesthetically, there is nothing at all to hold my interest. I couldn't even imagine that at a massive size they would be interesting. Are they art? I am sure someone thinks so, but not the even above average Joe.

    BUT, that is my opinion. If some intellectuals want to have a w..k fest over these - they are welcome to it. If Harry Cory Wright can sell these for a lot of money, good luck to him.....but it won't be to me!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    We are in photography's transition phase as digital and analog are competing to be noticed and I've no doubt that a tradition print would be attractive to some collectors for its nostalgia/collectible vibe rather the merit of the image itself.
    That's the thing yeah. If this kind of image is simply 'holding ground' for film, keeping it in people's minds, even if it means stunting the growth of art photography for a time, it's difficult for me to fault it - it has purpose. No, I don't see any artistic merit, but perhaps it occupies an important space in contemporary photography - where we and the next generation are concerned. I'm going to give curators the benefit of the doubt and say, if only subconsciously, they recognise this and continue to show it for that reason. Let's be honest, if you were the curator first presented with this work, would your first reaction be "THIS will fly off the walls!" There's certainly more to it than that.

    Of course, I'd rather see a Thomas Joshua Cooper exhibition and it frightens me a little that his work may be fighting for gallery space with Mr. Right... I mean Wright. But, I'd prefer to see a show made up of blank sheets of RC paper than Gursky.

    To offset Wright's images, here's one by another Harry that has always beguiled me - http://www.ebay.com/itm/Harry-Callah...-/320746625796
    Last edited by batwister; 06-22-2012 at 10:06 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    I have some very unkind things to say about gearheads* who seek "the best" despite having not any artistic use for it. Without reference to any particular photographer, I think that LF colour is a natural destination for technology- & resolution-fetishists and as a format, it's therefore unduly burdened with such people.



    I love this.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    At most, I think there is just a lazy reaction against the ultra-dramatic imagery that seems to be a greater part of contemporary photography/art - go see the "top" listings on photo.net sometime.
    At the moment I'm of the mind that if it isn't on my bookshelf, it's not art. I'll take your word for it and ignore photo.crap. That perceived reaction to drama has always been there I think - William Eggleston and what Ansel Adams said about his work. But Eggleston, if you've seen the documentary on him, is just an incredibly simple person - reaction isn't in his vocabulary I don't think. For me Cory Wright's work doesn't seem to be reactionary, just naive, like he's never tried or wanted to move away from his amateur sensibilities. I doubt he picked up a camera thinking "f*ck sweeping vistas!", he probably just did his thing quite intuitively. Gursky's vision however is bound to the school he belongs to and it's all cerebral and deeply calculated. Harry Cory Wright just doesn't strike me as that kind of photographer.

    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    I think that LF colour is a natural destination for technology- & resolution-fetishists and as a format, it's therefore unduly burdened with such people.
    Couldn't agree more. Thanks for saying that.

  10. #10
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    I found the link posted in the OP exciting in composition, form, tonality, colour relationships and quality of light. But, then I do that type of photography in B&W.

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