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  1. #1
    bjorke's Avatar
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    Politeness versus Photography

    Here is a little rant by one of the world's best photographers about why politics is a necessary part of photographic discussion (and, imo, why "politeness police" are the natural enemy of anyone who thinks pictures should embody ideas)

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Norfolk
    The thing that pisses me off about so much modern art is that it carries no politics – it has nothing that it wants to say about the world. Without that passion, that political drive, to a piece of work – and I mean politics here very broadly – how can you ever really evaluate it? At the end of the day, I don't think my politics are very popular right now, but what I would like to hear is what are your politics? Because if you're not going to tell me, how can we ever possibly have an argument about whether you're a clever person, your work is great, your work is crap, your art is profound, your art is trivial...?
    Full interview here.

    For the record, he's talking about Large-Format Landscape photography.


    Simon Norfolk, Ascension Island, South Atlantic.
    "The BBC World Service Atlantic Relay Station at English Bay."

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
    KB • PhotoRant • PhotoPermit • APUG flickr Robot

  2. #2
    clogz's Avatar
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    Bjorke,
    Thanks for posting this very interesting interview. The Dutch painter Armando coined the phrase "guilty landscapes" for those historical and historic places.

    Hans
    Digital is best taken with a grain of silver.

  3. #3
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    An interesting person in a way, and an interesting photographic approach, but I feel the interview is total BS. Simon Norfolk may in his own mind be a radical artist protesting against man's inhumanity to man, but there is a total disconnect between this presumed intention and his actual images. I think a statement early in the interview is revealing, where he says he was "astounded" to discover that numbers of modern British roads are based on Roman roads. Every 5-year-old child knows this! SN seems to be playing a variation on the age-old "misunderstood artist" shtick, where if you don't get his message, you are fascist/stupid/blind/shallow/wilfully burying your head in the sand.

    Regards,

    David

  4. #4
    bjorke's Avatar
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    David you call him less knowledgeable than a five-year-old but don't in the least address or back up your assertion that there's a disconnect between his statements and pictures. Personally I've long been an admirer of them, at least back to when we was working with Growbag in 2000/2001, and the photos he had in the Photographer's Gallery in London for the 2003 Citibank Prize were also excellent. Here's a jpeg of one:


    Simon Norfolk: Balloon Seller, Kabul

    More to the point, do you disagree that the political biases/background of any artist are inescapable? Even if they are the banal politics of conformity?

    kb

    BTW, Norfolk was born not in the UK but in Nigeria, where, iirc, there are no Roman roads.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
    KB • PhotoRant • PhotoPermit • APUG flickr Robot

  5. #5

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    Fascinating. By coincidence I'm just re-reading Eco's Travels in Hyperreality which addresses similar questions about signs, reality and simulated reality. Thanks very much for drawing our attention to this -- which also illustrates a major shortcoming about a picture being worth 1000 words. These pictures are intriguing anyway, but they need their 1000 words as well for the full effect.

    Cheers,

    R.

  6. #6
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjorke View Post
    David you ... don't in the least address or back up your assertion that there's a disconnect between his statements and pictures. ...
    More to the point, do you disagree that the political biases/background of any artist are inescapable? Even if they are the banal politics of conformity?
    My feeling regarding the disconnect is, I think, well illustrated by the picture you post. SN may think this is a passionately political picture, but we need a caption before we can understand anything about it and a considerably longer explanation before we can discern any political standpoint. The information which the picture alone supplies is merely that here was some kind of building which has suffered severe damage (fire? bombardment? termites?) caused by an indeterminate agent (we can't even tell whether human, meteorological or other) and that there is a person standing next to the ruined building (totally unclear whether he has any association with it or not) selling balloons - we are aware of the general incongruity of balloons/celebration on the one hand and ruined building, suffering and loss on the other but we cannot gather any specific information, indeed the distant emotionally cool arm's length dispassionate view camera approach mitigates against this. In short, the viewer of this picture has very liitle impression of what has happened, why it has happened, and why (if at all) he/she should care about this. Consider if you will how this contrasts with the "normal" photojournalistic approach, where the reporter would establish the relationship between the person and wrecked building by visual means - for example, if the balloon seller were much larger in the frame and were holding a fire-damaged object, this would establish his relationship to the building as his former home. If the relationship were of a different kind, this too could be established by visual means.

    Second question: Do I think all artists and art works are political, either by accident or design, by omission or commission? Yes, in the sense that all artworks either invite the viewer to broaden his/her horizons and view things in a new way OR massage and confirm the viewer's preconceptions and prejudices.

    Regards,

    David

  7. #7
    eddym's Avatar
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    I have to agree with David about the posted photo. It tells me nothing about his politics, nor about anything else, including the picture itself, really. It does not make me wonder what his politics are, nor does it make me care whether he even has any.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  8. #8
    clay's Avatar
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    You need a rap, you need a pose. Then take some pictures. Voila.
    I just want to feel nostalgic like I used to.


    http://www.clayharmon.net - turnip extraordinaire

  9. #9

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    i don't care if he has a political statement or not, maybe some artists should learn to keep their opinions to themselves, art should not be an excuse to force an opinion

    these are mediocre images trying to be more than they are, his symbolism is not always self evident, if the works need many words to explain them then they are not entirely successful

  10. #10
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    I think the images are very good. They say what they say (to me). To make them say what he wants them to say, he must bloviate. I ignore bloviation...for the most part. What's in the image? I read news stories and I read captions on news photos. If he wants to be a journalist, he should be one. As I said, these are very good images. They're ironic. I like irony. Photography is a visual medium and the journey from irony to exposition requires specific, non-visual information...either that I know and bring to the image or that comes with...but is external to...the image.

    Some journalists are frustrated artists and apparently, some artists are frustrated journalists.
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. In velit arcu, consequat at, interdum sit amet, consequat in, quam.

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