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  1. #1

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    one small victory for truth in labeling

    I had a very productive conversation today. I’ve mentioned how it bothers me that so many photographs are labeled simply as “photograph” in galleries and exhibits across the country, most recently on the http://www.apug.org/forums/forum42/8...-5.html” threas. I’ve wanted to do something about it but on the occasions I’ve tried I got frustrated and probably did no good.

    I saw a statement by the head of the local art institute that they are “about the process, not the end product”. This was in the context of community art classes, presumably trying to increase participation of people who think “Oh, I cant make art”. But I have heard that sentiment so rarely I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to her, especially since right now there are 4 photographs in one of their galleries, photographs labeled simply “Photograph”.

    I called and told her I liked her statement. I found out she didn’t mean it exactly as I had hoped, but she also said it could have different meanings and it sounded like she wanted to hear me out. I pushed on. I rhetorically asked her why painters always label their work oil, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media etc and she said because people want to know. Perfect. This was going way to easy. :-) I asked her why photographers often don’t do that and she pointed out that sometimes they do, that a recent college class exhibit with many traditional print types all went into great detail on their methods and materials. She said they couldn’t always provide that level of detail though, because it takes time and money to type it up, etc. But, I said, right now there are 4 recent photographs in your gallery labeled simply "photograph", and in order to find out more I would have to track down 4 different people. Can’t the institute request that photographers at least provide a brief description, eg. inkjet, cyanotype, Van Dyke, silver gelatin print? I said, don’t people want to know about photographs too? I said I want to know about photographs. A bit to my surprise, she agreed. She said that the institute not only could and would request that, and she seemed to believe they should do that because education is a huge part of their mission. She realized there is nothing educational about keeping people in the dark about what a work actually is. She then told the curator to request (not force) photographers to provide better descriptions of their work than “photograph” from now on. She seemed almost as happy about my call as I was, perhaps it made her feel that it helped her to promote arts and educate people by making this simple change.

    I was pretty happy with this result, I was expecting an "only the image matters" kind of response. This is the main arts organization for a regional population of 100,000-200,000 people, so maybe the idea of providing useful photographic information will spread. I’m sure it would not have gone over well if I had said anything negative about d******. Only after it was clear she agreed with me about better labeling did I casually mention I thought it was mostly digital photographers who were less forthcoming in their labels, but I let it go at that. A digital photographer has a show coming up at one of their galleries in the next two weeks. I’m going to be watching closely....

    So now I’d like 50 volunteers to go and do what I did in your nearest city. Politely ask that organizations/galleries request that photographers provide the same basic information that other artists provide, not because digital sucks but because people want to know. Begin with organizations involved in arts education-art institutes, museums, whatever. Together maybe we can control the proliferation of obfuscatory labeling.

  2. #2
    Slixtiesix's Avatar
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    "I rhetorically asked her why painters always label their work oil, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media etc and she said because people want to know. Perfect. This was going way to easy. :-)"

    :-D

    I think you did very well!

  3. #3

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    As a graduate of the New Hampshire Institute of Art, I don't remember ever seeing something labeled as a 'photography'. Often prints were labeled as silver gelatin prints, archival pigment prints, cyanotype, platinum, and Giclée prints.

    I'm glad you called and even happier your efforts were met with success.

  4. #4
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    The photography curator at the art museum here says she doesn't care about the particular medium but about the message of the photograph. She went on to say that pro esses have always been replaced by newer ones and inkjet is just the current step in the progression...EC

  5. #5

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    You might tell her that you, a patron, care about the photographic medium and want to know about them. Does she label all their paintings "painting"? If not, ask her why the inconsistency? Why should one be treated different than the other? Does any part of her job description involve education of the public to foster arts appreciation? In my case I spoke to director who supervises the curator, and she told the curator how she wanted this to be dealt with from now on.


    "She went on to say that processes have always been replaced by newer ones and inkjet is just the current step in the progression".

    This is true, but irrelevant.



 

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