"Really, I'm so bored with photography that I cannot tell you!"
I will be doing a presentation on Duane Michals and came across these comments that I thought were so true about much of the photography I saw at Photo London and Photo Paris last year and I assume it will be the same when I visit this year. Michals does generalise but there is a lot of truth in what he says IMO except that I am not bored with photography
"Really, I'm so bored with photography that I cannot tell you! And I'm so bored with new photographers because it's just old photography, except it's bigger and more boring and in color and much more expensive. No new ground has been broken in photography in ages. All those German photographers are just doing very large photographs of parking lots in Tokyo. Richard Avedon knows that the next five books he's going to do will look like the last five: people standing in front of [seamless backdrops] staring at you. [...] I don't know what I'll be doing five years from now. That's what I love. Creativity comes from not knowing what the hell you're going to do."
The art world and photography :
"In the art world, galleries are the only game in town, the only place to show your work. The art world is so corrupt. When I first became a photographer, I thought photography wouldn't be corrupt because there was no money in it. But now there's money and the more money involved, the more the work becomes corrupted. Now that photography has gone into the realm of $250,000 for a photo, it's lost its virginity in the worst possible way. When somebody does a photograph that is so large that it can only be fit into a museum, you know it's all over. The power of photography is that a Cartier-Bresson print doesn't need to be 10-feet tall to move you. When the only value or new thing about a work is that it's enormous, photography has really gone down a slippery slope."
Other interesting comments :
"If you are afraid to fail, forget it, you're never going to be a creative person. You learn more from your failures that you will from your successes. And if you find yourself saying, 'I don't have enough time,' that's bullshit. You make time for what you want to do. Or, 'I don't have enough money.' Bullshit. Paper doesn't cost anything. If you find yourself making excuses, then stop jacking yourself off, because that's whatit amounts to. If you really want to do something, if you really have the passion to do something, to find your bliss, then you do it. You do it regardless."
I love it. So true. I've met Duane Michaels a couple times and he is one of the more insightful, outspoken and funny people I've had the pleasure of meeting in this "business".
"If you are afraid to fail, forget it,..."
I'm not bored with photography either but I do agree with Mr. Michals comments about people making bigger photos and how its so valued by the art world because of the size. Some photos can look amazing bigger like Burteynsky but not many people can pull it off.
I also agree that if you want to make work just do it and quit making excuses. I work almost full time, have a 10 year old son, volunteer at an artist run center , maintain a cooperative darkroom, and still manage to do some work. I also have friends that are understanding if I'm late coming over because I might be developing some film I shot while my son was in school. If I didn't make photographs I would be very unhappy. It's my little piece of bliss that I have to have.
It's funny when I pick my son up from school, smelling like fixer and looking like I slept in my clothes everyone knows, oh yah, it's just Kate the crazy B&W photographer!
Agree very much that fear of failure is an artist's worst enemy. Very much disagree that big-bucks selling prices are a sign of artistic prostitution - I have personally starved in a garret, and it sucks!
Stating you are bored with photography is rather pointless attitudinizing - if you are bored, do something new. If you can't think of something new to do, try a radically different approach - if you normally work very slowly and meticulously with LF, work fast and without thinking with 35 mm. If that doesn't work, stop for a while. And if that doesn't work, stop indefinitely until you feel an irresistible urge to start again!
What exactly constitutes "failure".
In every endeavor we as humans do, there is a learning curve. Being in the middle of that learning curve is not "failure".
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
While I can fully sympathize with Mr. Michaels' observations - and fully understand where he's coming from (and agree in part with them)... I just wanted to say I think you've once again hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much for your consistently grounded and insightful comments...! You're definitely an asset to this place.
These quotes are delicious! It really takes photographers on the "inside", those who have reputations beyond dispute, to cast these kinds of stones at the growing photographic "establishment". What was once an art form of the people is becoming just as elitist as the SOHO gallery scene with it's darlings of the moment.
Robert Bly, the poet, wrote that he was dismayed by the growing lack of criticism in poetry and literature. And by the time desktop publishing became a reality, all semblance of a barometer on what was or was not good poetry was gone, what with thousands of new poetry books being published every year. Same with photography. Michals is making us think, look, be discerning. And I think more of the top ranking photographers should speak out about where they think the medium is headed.
This topic is controversial, but it isn't stupid enough for The Soap Box, so I've moved it to "Ethics and Philosophy," and if it gets stupid we can move it back to The Soap Box.
I bet if you ask those selling the huge prints to museums that they would have a different opinon.....Then again, here is a guy making a nice living out of fine art photography critizing the same galleries which sell his prints (I guess he sells prints, I have never heard of this person). I guess we must do as he says not as he does.....
Michaels comes out of the 60s reactionary movement to established art norms. He is known for his photo series which could consist of 6 to eight shots as sort of a mini-movie shown as stills, applying text directly to his images and various forms of collage and combinations. Ther is an image at the Art Institute of Chicago that from a reasonable distance is a large portrait which IIRC is about 3'x4'. When you get close it is actually made up of a collage of hundreds of B&W common everyday snapshots, (3x4s and smaler) fitted together, not trimed or cut but laid on top of each other to provide the tonality to make the larger portrait. I think that was done by Michaels. It is very cool.
He is sort of a later day Man Ray or Moholy-Nagy, trying to take the medium beyond the typical straight Adams/ Weston approach.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"