Thoughts on New Color Photography
After looking at several websites and blogs over the last few days I have noticed that vary many new color photographs, by several different photographers, look very much the same.
The color photographs of previous generation—Eggleston, Shore, Sternfeld, Misrach, etc., are all different, and in most all cases, you can tell one photographer from the other by the choice of subject and print quality. With contemporary color photographers, I find myself hard pressed to keep them strait in my mind.
I am talking mostly about young photographers (of my generation and a little older) who are approaching every building strait on, and maybe including objects in the foreground and sky that break up the space. It seems that nearly every one of their pictures is a formalist exercise in depicting the industrial landscape. If they are attempting exhibit the typologies of all the things (industrial parks, shopping malls, row houses, tract houses, McMansions, construction sites etc.) then they are succeeding. If they are making statements about the homogeny of our modern society then they are succeeding. But isn't the work itself is also becoming a part of that homogeny? To me though, it is just beginning to be boring, and not at all beautiful.
The Bechers' work however, is very beautiful, and does not have the same feeling as these new color photographs. Is that because when they began their work it was an original idea? Lewis Baltz's work of similar subjects is very beautiful and not at all boring, Can that also be attributed to it being an original idea?
Or, is the difference inherent in it being a black and white silver print? Could it be that the realism of color photography doesn't allow for the individualized interpretation of tones that black and white photography does? Or that the fact that being in black and white takes the subject one step into the abstract-- separating it one step further from our experience of the real world?
Then there are all the other photographers who are making large format portraits of adolescent angst, old people, the disenfranchised . . . but that is for another thread altogether.