Your opinion may be "humble" but it is none the less of great value.
Originally Posted by blansky
I cite the examples not for the fact that they were first "rule-less" and therefore "great" simply because of being rule-less; but that they had exhibited a certain "talent" (for want of a better word) when they were still unknown. Archer saw Linda Eastman's work, far before her encounter with the Beatles - and I know she did not start as one of countless "groupies" ... she happened to be on the Staten Island Ferry with a camera, when the scheduled photographer failed to show up - he had missed the Ferry. They recruited her - and when they saw her work, concluded it FAR superior to what they had expected from the "famous" photographer. In any event, I really like her work not from her photographs of the Beatles, but the later *FINE* photography she did, before succumbing to breast cancer.
Parks was far more than an opportunist. He "started" - well, not really, but he made his first professional "bones" in Fashion photography, at a store in Chicago called "Frank Murhpy's." Later he was sent to Vogue by Steichen and hired to work at Glamour and Voque.
Parks is remembered for his work documenting the black life style -- brilliant work, in *my* opinion, but he has done *so* much more.
There is a value to "creating" - and I can't conceive of "creation" as merely a modification of that which has been done before. True, facility with any medium is of value - it *helps* to know how to hold a chisel in sculpture - but the really important thing .. the vision, or "choice of concept" or the "what to do" is FAR more important.
Hmmm ... might that be a delineation between "art" and "craft"? Art is fresh creation - Craft is refinement of what has been done before...?
Ed Sukach, FFP.
"But to choose to avoid the work generally known to be among the best"
The best? Are you kidding? I did say Barnes and Noble, didn't I? Just a generic example, yes, but indicative of the prevalent over-prodution of what somebody or other chooses to call 'art'. It's like trying to find decent programming amongst 300 cable channels. And, you guessed it, I very rarely watch TV. I have better things to do with my time than flip through channels looking for programming that is actually worth sitting on my @ss to watch for any length of time. (OK, so I'm sitting on my @ss at the computer. But... I'm being productive... sort of.)
Why would I want to go searching for a needle in a haystack when I have the means to just go make my own goddamn needle?
And who knows, maybe I'll step on a few random needles along the way.
You know, you did say it yourself; "Given that we live in a culture bathed continuously in media". I'm not choosing to avoid media presented for the sake of it's ideas... I'm just not willing to sort through so much of the other crap (inevitably most all of it) to find the decent stuff. I know I can just do what I do and I will manage to come across it here and there... or, it will come across me, anyhow.
Yes, I'm exceedingly critical. I'm not ashamed of it. And I'm not an egotistical, condescending snob, though were I to express my true opinion on everything and anything most would be likely to think so (I imagine you do by this point). The general majority of people are so very quick to call anybody with high standards disparaging and cynical. As if it is somehow preferrable to being at the other extreme; naive and dupable. I am aware, and accepting of the fact, that although most 'art' does not in the least inspire me to do anything but grimace in pain, it has value as 'art' to some, perhaps many, people. While I often do not agree with the majority of people, and their taste, I don't denounce them as fools. I am certainly aware that I may just as easily be the fool... it is all in how you look at it, and it is not really possibly to say which is true or untrue - it is entirely subjective. And no, I don't denounce the majority of work presented as 'art' because I need to convince myself that I, along with my art, am superior to everyone else. I simply have high standards, and am not easily impressed and/or inspired by the majority of what is labeled 'art'. I don't see anything wrong with being selective. It is my right, and I do have my reasons.
In fact, if I am to be perfectly honest, I often realize inside of myself a need for what I could only term 'true' art. That is, art that is art... above all else, unrivalled by any other thing that might call itself art. Oh, if I could express what I mean... In my mind, it's a something that is not yet in existence. I feel as if there must be, whether somewhere unbeknownst to me, or sometime that has not yet come, a something that is ART. I have a feeling that is a whisper of what that art would make me feel. And it exists only yet in my mind. One day I want to find that ART that makes me feel the way I'm certain the most exceptional art could make me feel. It hasn't happened yet... maybe it's a fever dream. Maybe I want to be the one to create that ART. Maybe this is only a subconscious-generated fantasy meant to convey to me that my life has some great significance, because deep down I believe my life is absolutely meaningless. Who knows?
My god, I'm foaming at the mouth now... maybe it's time for a breather.
Again we can agree to disagree, because essentially it is just opinion, but in my opinion, a great photograph does not necessarily make someone a great photographer. While these two probably did a few great photographs, I don't see them a great photographers.
It is like in the first case, Gordon Parks. Lets say a person comes back from being kidnapped by aliens and has a whole selection of incredibly interesting photographs of their lifestyle. While they may be interesting, that does not make the photographer a great photogapher. I just don't find his work that strong.
In the second case I find that for some unknown reason people are so starstruck that anytime they see a picture of a famous person they are in awe of the picture and call the work a truimph. She may have started whenever, but her fame came from the Rock and Roll pictures she took and the access she had. Afterwards, because of her name and fame, anything she does later on is considered great. Don't buy it.
My criteria is to substitute the subject in the photograph with Bob your next door neighbor and if the picture still stands up, it is a good photograph. That would eliminate 99% of celebrity and famous people pictures.
As I said before, If you want to be a famous photographer, photograph famous people.
Your last statement however I find to be a great definition that I think could be very accurate." Art is fresh creation...craft is refinement of what has gone before.
To me a great photographer is not necessarily someone who photographs something completely new (aliens, mudmen of new guinea etc) but someone who photographs something we've all seen before in a new and different way.
To me a great photographer is not someone who photographs a person that we all know but someone who photographs any person, in a new and different way.
This to me shows, creativity, originality, artistry, and skill that is the sign of a true artist. I'm not sure I've ever seen this in an untrained person.
Originally Posted by blansky
I wish I could take more time to write today, but I'm under the gun. I have promises to keep - photographs for a Model's portfolio ... and I am really out of time.
We are not that far out of agreement. I do not think a few good photographs "make" a "great photographer" either - just what does, if in fact "Great" photographers even exist - I do not know. I'm only suggesting that one considers the largest body of their work - instead of a few stereotypical examples.
I *have* seen *wonderful* work from the hands of those "untrained" in photography .. as a matter of fact, the most difficult part of teaching High School students is to get THEM to recognize their own *fine* work.
I sense a different direction between our points of view .. I think you are (Oh, PLEASE correct me if I am wrong!!) bothered by those whom you perceive to have achieved "status" without deserving it. I cannot help but agree that they do exist, but these "phonies" are not something I dwell on. It is easy to try to find fault (possibly a little too strong a characterization ... but it will suffice for now) with their work .. but I refuse to deal out what little energy I have on the subject - I'll leave that to the fine folk on PhotoSig (see which, for some really BIZARRE critiques).
Myself... I am constantly searching for the good ones ... the hidden jewels ... no matter what the source... beginner, arrogant pompous elitist (rare to find any there), the old masters - wherever.
"As ye seek so shall you find." In searching for the brilliant gems, I've found MANY in some of the most improbable places - like the hands of the "rule-less" beginners.
Enough. To the enlarger and processor...
Ed Sukach, FFP.
"known to be the best" -- yes, an awkward line & I winced when typing it. However:
By coincidence, I was at Barnes & Noble's two days ago. While there I noticed that they had quite a bit that I would think is quite worthy of attention:
- Bergman's A Kind of Rapture
Arbus Revelations and also Diane Arbus and Magazine Work
Gibson's Deus Ex Machina
Abell's The Photographic Life
Josef Alber's Interaction of Color
A number of "55's" including Boris Mikhailov, Atget, Koudelka, Smith, more.
Two W. Eugene Smith books
Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others
The Abbeville World History of Photography
The latest issue of Aperture and several older ones
Maas's Victorian Painters
and much more -- that's just the stuff I noticed when browsing (I bought a copy of Fruits as a gift -- don't tell)
Use the library to save cash if you must. The suburban library near me is poor, though with a bigger art book budget than I could possibly have. The downtown library in San Jose is excellent.
"Art" has taken on the mantle previously reserved by religion as a means for glimpsing at the intangible otherness of a universe greater than ourselves and mysterious in its ways -- this has been true in secular art at least since the 1850's (probably due in large part to art's connection with theological mysticism back to the Lascaux caves and continuing through and beyond Saudek, Sherman, Serrano... what George Sand romantically described as "Art... is the seeking for ideal truth") (Or Salman Rushdie: "Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.") I do not, however, believe that this is an excuse for complete self-involvement to the exclusion of external influences.
All photographers need large photo books, don't fool yourself -- at a minimum, they're invaluable for making sure prints dry flat.
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Ed, going back to an earlier post of yours. I believe your assumptions about Parks and McCartney are in error. They were hardly naive photographers--even from their first roll of film. They were certainly influenced by photographs they had seen--not photographs from the "HIstory of Photography", but photographs nonetheless. The only people who could make truly uninfluenced photographs would be those who have never before seen a photograph.
And Jackdon Pollock was ahrdly an innocent. He had studied painting with Thomas Hart Benton, was a Surrealist painter after that--and a fine one, and his drip painting grew out of that quite organically.
Hmmmm... It is slightly ironic that this has now evolved into an obsessive conversation about other artists, isn't it?
Two possibilties here ... either NOT what I've said, or more probably, not what I MEANT to say. The key here is the difference between "Trained" - to the point of being an expert in the technical aspects of photography before one is ABLE to be a "great" photographer - and the idea that there could be something else that is more important than that.
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
Both were largely *unfamiliar* with the process and equipment, and all the complex discussions of composition. The did have an innate capability to "put something of themselves" into their work from the very beginning.
Of course we are influenced by the our contact with the world around us ... oter photographs, images from a myriad of sources ... ineviatble , and by *NO* means something to be avoided.
At the same time, the realy significant, important work comes not from empiracal, artificial concepts (of "fine" photography), but from the Mavericks who think and work .. and DO outside of the "box"... and THAT is the quality I'm talking about. Many neophytes produce OUTSTANDING work (and it is common for many to NOT realize its worth) because they simply did not know there was a "box" in the first place ... therefore, they were automatically out of any "box".
Here is an idea ... Quite a few "beginners" are TAUGHT to keep a record of the "technical" qualities of their work .. Exposure, f/stop, shutter speed, film, lens -- I don't know, time of day, phase of moon, atmospheric pressure.....
When, IMHO, the attention should be directed toward the really important information - the "zeitgiest" of the situation, the emotionl response and "frame of mind" of the photographer ... hungry? .. cold? ... thirsty? -all factors influencing the emotional content of the work - something FAR more imprtant .. again *IMHO*.
P.S. I've just tried my BernzOmatic Mini-Torch ... what a *classy* way to get a blanket of Butane onto unused chemicals!!
Ed Sukach, FFP.
No Aurore, this is not about other photographers. It has nothing to do with either Parks or McCartney. This is about an issue Ed raised about the necessity or lack thereof of knowing what you are doing before you do it. As such, it touches directly on your first posting here about not being interested in the work in the medium that has gone before.
No argument from me, Ed except that your language is sloppy. You introduce elements into this discussion that throw it off track and are imprecise. You wrote:
"The key here is the difference between "Trained" - to the point of being an expert in the technical aspects of photography before one is ABLE to be a "great" photographer - and the idea that there could be something else that is more important than that"
My question: What does training have to do with it? You can learn technical things just by picking them up--without being trained.
Your assumption is simply not true. You cannot name one photographer generally considered "great" who did not have an exact and precise knowledge and understanding and the abililty to use anything technical that they needed. (Though you could easily find many good photographs by untrained people--"great," hpwever, implies a body of work made over time.) Now, of course, they all did not need the same thing. Robert Frank did not print like Ansel Adams, but his technical abilities are absolutely superior and he had a full understanding of what he needed to know technically.
And then you wrote: "At the same time, the realy significant, important work comes not from empiracal, artificial concepts (of "fine" photography), but from the Mavericks who think and work .. and DO outside of the "box"... and THAT is the quality I'm talking about."
What do you mean by "empirical, artificial concept of fine photography." I don't have a clue here. And please, name those Mavericks who have done important work. I assume you mean "untrained" mavericks. You would leave out, Bill Brandt, Stieglitz, Weston, Arbus, Frank, W. E. Smith, Callahan, Friedlander, Evans, Lange. Not all of them were terribly interested in technical things, but they all sure had it down cold, or else we would not find their work of interest.
So, Aurore, to get back to you: All of these photographers were influenced by those that came before. That does not mean those influences stayed with them, but a full understanding and appreciation of those influences was the base from which they could go beyond them (their influences).
Well, I was about to take all this point by point, but I will just say that I continue to disagree.
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
Of course you can learn by "picking it up yourself" ... I would have thought you had more respect for what I have written than that.
I will repeat ... the really *SIGNIFICANT* work is done by mavericks ... the outsiders to those "steeped" in pre-conceived ideas, foisted on them by those who consider THEMSELVES to be the "great photographers."
If you will notice, I avoid using the term "Great" ... I have been fortunate to have met and interacted with some of the most highly regarded photographers of the time, and I know of *NONE* who would describe themselves as "great".
Really? - They "have it down "cold?." - Nothing left to learn?
- Not according to what THEY say ... most are still surprised that their work turns out as well as it does, and they are most often a little "mystified" at their notoriety.
That I use words "ineffectively", or "clumsily" ... probably I do. Try to read through all the clumsiness - and think about the ideas.
That is an interesting list. Do you know of anyone there who WASN'T "slammed" by the knowledgable, educated, whatever kind of "trained" -- critics of the time .. who, collectively, "had it down cold"?
"We would not find their work of interest." -- AND *I* do!! I guess that can only lead to the conclusion that *I* am NOT part of the group considered to be "We".
- When was I kicked out?
Ed Sukach, FFP.