I ran across this quote during some vacation reading. The more i think about it, the more I like it. My paraphrase would be that beauty is an effect, not a cause or a reason for art. Some art will of course be beautiful, but it is art for a lot more reasons than just 'beauty' and perfection. Here is the quote:
Originally Posted by doughowk
"The pursuit of beauty is (a) much more dangerous nonsense than the pursuit of truth or goodness, because it affords a stronger temptation to the ego. Beauty, like truth and goodness, is a quality that in one sense can be predicated by all great art, but the deliberate attempt to beautify can, in itself, only weaken the creative energy. Beauty in art is like happiness in morals: it may accompany the act, but it cannot be the goal of the act, just as one cannot ‘pursue happiness’, but only something else that may give happiness. Aiming at beauty produces at best, the attractive: the quality of beauty represented by the word loveliness, a quality which depends on the carefully restricted choice of both subject and technique. A religious painter, for instance can produce this quality only as long as churches keep commissioning Madonnas: if a church asks for a Crucifixion he must paint cruelty and horror instead."
Northrup Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 1957
Yes, no and "beautiful". I think the fact that Richard Benson was the only person ever entrusted during his lifetime with the printing of Paul Strand's negatives testifies more than anything any of us could say about his technical competence. He printed Strand's last two portfolios, On My Doorstep and The Garden. I've seen On My Doorstep. It's gorgeous.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
As to Benson's own work, what little I've seen of it is masterful, both in a technical sense as well as a spiritual one.
I agree that a person can become obsessed with the technical aspects and the pursuit of a perfect print to the point that creativity becomes paralyzed.
I also believe that a strong subject that resonates with the viewer does not need to be printed perfect. What we as photographers see as flaws are invisible to the person who is captivated by the image.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
No disrespect to the dean of Yale, but does any artist really care what some elbow-patched, tweed-jacketed academic has to say about art? Every other decade or so, some self-appointed pope of the art world descends Mount Sinai with one pronouncement or another (people like Frye or Meyer-Shapiro come to mind here), usually designed to garner the accolades of fellow cobweb producers (to paraphrase Jonathan Swift's famous discussion of ancient versus modern learning).
There are, in my opinion, at least three major ways to measure the "worth" of artistic work: You yourself as the producing artist derive a great sense of satisfaction from your completed work; secondly, another person is "touched" by your art (this can take many forms); thirdly, the "art world" validates your work in one way or another.
All of these ways probably have very little to do with the technical aspects of your work (and how well you have mastered them, or not). In fact, NOT mastering them, "deliberately" turning out sloppy work may be what might give you a leg up in the art world.
At any rate, this debate (art versus craft) is an old one and Mr. Yale adds nothing to it.
A good discussion of this can be found in the now classic study by Howard Becker, Art World.
I mentioned in my original post that it was difficult not to quote out of context, the interview attempted to cover several nuanced ideas. I found the interview on John Paul Caponigro's website. It certainly deserves a full read.
Interesting to hear that Benson printed Paul Strand's work. Strand was evidently a real perfectionist.
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Ricardo, your declaration against "tweed jacketed" types merely sets up a straw man.
"Mr. Yale's" assertion seems to fit well with my own definition of art:
[SIZE=5][COLOR=DarkSlateGray]Whatever you can get away with[/COLOR][/SIZE]
Ironically, I borrowed this from my departed friend Nick Englund, onetime dean of the California Institute of the Arts Music School -- and for official functions, Nick did favor tweed jackets!
I am glad I'm nor a perfectionist. Otherwise I would never exhibit, or sell anything. Sorry to admit, every one of my prints have imperfections in composition, film selection and development, dust/scratches on negative, poorly spotted prints, and stupid cropping. However, I doesn't seem to matter too much to clients or judges.
I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
Truly, dr bob.
Thanks for the info re Benson printing for Paul Strand. I saw a Strand show several years ago in Edinburgh and some of the prints were made by a Mr Benson, they were quite beautiful. I'm almost certain that Benson also made some prints for Cartier-Bresson too. I saw a Bresson show in London about 5 years ago and some of the images that he had made in the mid 90's were printed by a man named Benson, it's got to be the same man. Again the prints were beautiful. I still don't understand why he would give the impression in his statement that we should not be too bothered about attention to the little things in our craft. I know that I am critical of the statement but who am I to question such a talented printer.