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  1. #21

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    I agree with Donald that not every approach to photography has to be about beauty or a singular subject. The idea of the photo essay or book as a social commentary goes back at least to Walker Evans and James Agee cooperating in the book Let us Now Praise Famous Men. Others like Paul Strand explored using movies to expand their own social ideas via pictures.

    Eugene Smith took the idea of the photo essay to its highest level of expression and skill in the 50s. Currently Selgado is the true master.

    There are probably other examples, but Larry Clark's Tulsa was one of the first photo essay/books that was both voyuerism and autobiographical at the same time. These books paralleled the new trend in journalism where the writer no longer could be satisfied with reproting the facts, but began to make himself part of the story, providing work that was excepted as journalism. (Hunter Thompson, Hells Angels a late 60s example.)

    The problem I see with the current versions (including Goldin's) is that like most comtemporary art, the beginning point is usually about the artist. Their angst, their victimhood, their personal greivances against the world. Nothing wrong with looking at all the rotten things in the world, but when it is done through a prism of self-absorbtion and self-conceit, it makes for mostly pretty forgetable art that has no real resonnance outside the narrow confines of NY gallery and liberal college elites.
    Last edited by Jim Chinn; 12-13-2005 at 10:16 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
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  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by jovo
    but also explain how, most particularly in the "modern" era, work gets to be considered great? Or at least notable? ?
    the "modern" era is long gone

  3. #23

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    My problem is that if this person was writing a book, it would be full of run-on sentences, grammatical errors and misspellings. (Much like my postings).
    Nobody would bother reading such trash. Why give the visual arts the same leeway? Don't we care if something hurts the eyes and visually makes no sense?

    It's funny that post-modern writing has never taken off like it has in the visual arts.

  4. #24

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    Just a few years ago, if the question had been asked about Diane Arbus instead of Nan Goldin, I'm sure that the responses would have been much the same. Thus, a significant aspect of the question is really "is she a crappy photographer, or are we a bunch of outdated, closed-mind viewers?" In view of the fact that this entire web site is dedicated to (and presumably populated by) a Luddite culture, I don't think that trashing Goldin's work means very much. (PS, it looks like crap to me, too, but is it really bad, or am I just too unsophisticated to appreciate it?)

  5. #25

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    Both. Collecting Hummels requires sophistication, right? You need to know one from the next....

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell
    but is it really bad, or am I just too unsophisticated to appreciate it?)

  6. #26
    sionnac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    Nothing wrong with looking at all the rotten things in the world, but when it is done through a prism of self-absorbtion and self-conceit, it makes for mostly pretty forgetable art that has no real resonnance outside the narrow confines of NY gallery and liberal college elites.
    Liberal college elites? My god I think I qualify... and yes, I like her work for its content; technically you may find issue with it, but what it communicates is what I think she wants to emphasize.

  7. #27
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller
    For those who view photographic art as only to be employed in depicting things of beauty, there is no doubt that Goldins work will not resonate.

    For those who view photographic art as depicting some segment of the human condition or experience, then Goldins work does resonate because she is not a voyeuristic observer. It is through her immersion into the dynamics of what she portrays that she claims and obtains legitimacy for her imagery.

    Photographic art if it is only relegated to the realm employed for the portrayal of what we deem to be beautiful will miss the boat by miles.
    For me, Nan Goldin's work is a gray area, but dark gray. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I remember when art had to have some beauty. But I'm OK with the idea that there are no rules. However, to me, if a photo is just "interesting", you call it just that. If you say her work depicts some segment of the human condition or experience —which I agree it does— then, it's documentary photography. Reportage.

    But I think to say that she is not a "voyeuristic observer" is to forget that all photographers, amateur or professional, are precisely —and at leastthat, if nothing else!

    I will agree that her involvement in what she portrays adds legitimacy to her photography, but with that as a qualifier, my mother's pictures of me blowing out the candles on the birthday cake she baked for me should be in a museum.

    I know that my sarcasm serves for nothing, because in the end, you are right; the nimrods like me who scratch our heads at the realities of the art market are doomed to never really profit from it. As the parade passes, we're going, "How do I get on one of those ugly floats?" But that's almost another subject.

    But in all honesty, Don, it's not that I "view photographic art as only to be employed in depicting things of beauty", but rather, to depict things beautifully. Even horrible things.

  8. #28

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    There is a big difference between Arbus and Goldin's work. Arbus obviously brought all her own personal idiosyncracies and some would say pyschosis to her work, but she did not interject herself into the frame. We can question her motives and her own self-image, but at least the images all have a certain cool detachment that allows the viewer to look at them as individual subjects.

    And Arbus was a very competent photographer who understood basic composition and foucs.

    Goldin's work is really an open diary of her life, or so she says in this articlehttp://photography.about.com/library/weekly/aa031802a.htm(more then you may ever want to know about Nan Goldin).

    In the article I found it interesting that the images that make up the book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency were originally part of a multi-media/slide presentation for museums with the number of images close to 700. It also mentions that most museums now view the particular work as inconvienent and irrelevant today. So much for great art. I mean how many people really want to look at what amount to a bunch of vacation slides?

    One other difference between Goldin and Arbus. I don't think you are going to see any great retrospectives or movies based on Goldin's work like you do for Arbus 25 years from now. Diane Arbus's work gets better and better with age> Goldin's work from 20 years ago just gets more and more stale.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
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  9. #29
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    There is a big difference between Arbus and Goldin's work. Arbus obviously brought all her own personal idiosyncracies and some would say pyschosis to her work, but she did not interject herself into the frame. We can question her motives and her own self-image, but at least the images all have a certain cool detachment that allows the viewer to look at them as individual subjects.
    I agree about the fact that Arbus does not appear in most of her photos, but her presence is an unmistakable fact of her pictures. She would stop people in the street, talk with them, and her pictures tend to project a part of who she was. That she does not appear visually on the frame is not so strong a feature of her detachment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    And Arbus was a very competent photographer who understood basic composition and foucs.
    I would also add that Diane Arbus was a much more mature artist than Nan Goldin did. If you look at the progression Goldin's work over time, it looks like a VH1 behind the scenes: first the halcyon days of free love drugs sex art, then the darker side of exploitation, the crisis, and now a renewed spirituality and engaging sense of life that is more innocent. Blech. The diary aspect of her picture is for me the least engaging part. I just don't give a damn about other people's live as lives. That said, there are still some Goldin picture that I like.

    However, I think the comparison with Arbus in the end is not so way off. Goldin herself said that if it wasn't for Arbus, she would not have made the kind of pictures she does. There's a genealogical resemblance, not an imitative one. Without Arbus, no Goldin. I would also add: in terms of cutlural history, without Weegee, no Arbus; without Jacob Riis, no Weegee.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    One other difference between Goldin and Arbus. I don't think you are going to see any great retrospectives or movies based on Goldin's work like you do for Arbus 25 years from now. Diane Arbus's work gets better and better with age> Goldin's work from 20 years ago just gets more and more stale.
    I can't bet on that; after all we have a hindsight on Diane Arbus we do not have on Nan Goldin.
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