These days, iconic images are ubiquitous. Anyone interested in creating art should look at art. It's so easy to view famous works (or digital versions). If photography is your passion, you should seek out quality work- both historical and contemporary. I'd question the aspirations/commitment of those that don't.
This is me, too. I realize that I wasn't in the category of artists you were referring to in the original post, but I'd been doing photography to some extent (including classes) since high school. It's really been the last five years that I've learned the most about the history of photography. Not entirely coincidentally, I think my photography has improved a fair amount in the last five years, too. (I left the crime lab and my career behind when I moved to PA five years ago and have been a "housewife" and stay-at-home-mom during those five years).
Originally Posted by polyglot
I do think that "kids" (I include my generation) haven't been taught much about history. I look back at my high school years and see how little we were taught. My mom's been saying since I was in high school (cough, cough, the 80s) that kids aren't being taught how to think, just memorize. I didn't see that then, of course, but I see it now. My parents value education and imagination and I'd like to think my brother and I got a little more than just what the school system offered. But many don't have that attitude at home. They do what they see others of their social set doing and that's it.
Why should we care? They with the digimons are only churning out pretentious stuff from a muddled mathematical algorithm.
My concern is this: since new photographers have no need of seeking knowledge concerning analog materials and techniques from older photographers, they are therefore no longer immersed in an atmosphere conducive to acquiring knowledge of other aspects of photography from those same people. They do not learn the history, aesthetics, the various schools or even familiarize themselves with any of the work of the past. It is as if, for these new photographers, all the greats and what they had to teach us have simply vanished from the Earth.
Besides the point though, digital has no use at all for the materials and techniques that are the cornerstone of analogous photography, whether it is "fine art" or whatever else you want to call it. The 'old masters' are quite rightly forgotten heroes; true, anybody stopping to consider what those Fathers of Photography achieved and how, might finally be on the path to enlightenment.
Until that happens, I ignore them all.
“The photographer must determine how he wants the finished print to look before he exposes the negative.
Before releasing the shutter, he must seek 'the flame of recognition,' a sense that the picture would reveal
the greater mystery of things...more clearly than the eyes see." ~Edward Weston, 1922.
I'm not sure I understand what the term "fine art photography" means anyway, except as a marketing category.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
I remember you David. I have read and appreciated a lot of your writings over the years.
Speaking to your original question, I can relate a story told to me by a museum curator a few years ago. The museum decided to stop looking at all submitted work because in the course of a few years the submissions went from a few a month (pre digital) to many a day (post digital). I was also told that the quality was unbelievably bad to the point where people were submitting cat pictures, I kid you not. The curator just did a head shake and said in disgust, "what do you say to these people?" In a way this story does speak to your original hypothesis that people are not paying attention to the past.
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As far as I know there was a similar discussion when 120 film hit the market and people started using cheap and easy to use box cameras around the turn of the century. Then there was a discussion like this when 35mm film became widely popular after the 2nd World War. Then again when colour mass processing became incredibly cheap 20 years ago. Now it is with digital. All of these consecutive steps marked a revolution that suddenly gave a largely increased number of people the ability to take a largely increased amount of pictures. And every time this happened the established elite of photographers argued that this would dilute the craft because each of these steps came along with a highly increased output of images yet with a reduction in knowledge and effort needed to produce them. Like in political history there has always been a conservative elite that aimed at the prevention or at least moderation of change.
If there is really a - maybe only perceived - decline in quality now, I do not blame digital for this. I really think it is the Internet that is responsible. I´m sure there has always been a huge amount of badly focussed, composed and exposed photos but until around the year 2000 they usually rested in some drawer and nobody ever got to see them. I assume if the Internet had not been invented it would still be the same today and these pictures would just rot on some hard drive instead. But since the web enables everyone to show them, we are suddenly confronted with them and get the impression that photography is in decline.
I heartily disagree. Tradition, IMO, is generally about protecting vested interests/old capital/old power.
Originally Posted by davidkachel
The only things at risk photographically are the "old" business models and who is in charge. There are in history many overthrows of the powers that be/were in art, 'tis the way of the world.
Don't get me wrong I truly believe that knowing history is important socially, not understanding the world around us and the follies that drive world and local events is recipe for disaster; but not knowing who Steglitz is has no bearing on my ability to make good photos/art or the collapse of society.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
In agreement with an earlier comment by "Maris", traditional photography and digital photography are two separate medias. There are some similarities but only at a superficial level ( a field of sunflowers is light sensitive but its not a film camera). The actual process is different with most of the traditional aspects (eg, focus, exposure) handled by software. Skill sets are far different. Digital can do so much more than what we as traditional photographers create. Therein lies the danger for digital - so much of their work are merely demos of hardware/software capabilities. For example, they can create with 3D Additive Printing carbon prints whose sense of depth can far surpass what carbon printers can do. But where is the craft and art?
Let the digital image makers go their own way. They don't need a history of photography. They need to better come to terms with their tools, and create their own history.
Last edited by doughowk; 03-14-2013 at 08:42 AM. Click to view previous post history.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
And these young people may be doing exactly that, just not the photographers the OP wants them to look at.
Originally Posted by eddie