Gursky is what I think of as a post-New Topographics photographer. Documentary 'style' as you call it, evolved from Stephen Shore et al, with an overriding 'how beguiling is colour?' aesthetic masking any empathy he might have ever had for the actual subject matter his camera relies on. When I was refering to contemporary photography as 'documentary', Gursky's work and this approach is what I had in mind. It's something the 'convenience' and efficiency of digital currently lends itself perfectly to. But I feel this approach has developed from the curators praise of early documentary work and had they not dubbed such work as art there wouldn't be a rife 'documentary aesthetic' or style at all. I don't feel this phase of photography is a part of its organic evolution, but the modern, defenseless photographer's response to what critics have told us the art of photography is. This is a big claim, but I believe traditional art teachers who began to teach photography, not seeing its real creative potential, but more its merit as a literal interpretaion of the world, condoned this idea. Hence where we are now, photography aimed squarely at the skeptic - an ironic joke for art buyers.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
As a side note, please don't be insulted, but I think philosophies should develop naturally, rather than be seeked out. I have a musician friend who at university began reading The Picture of Dorian Gray (I don't think he finished it) and something along the lines of 'Greek Philosophy 101' thinking it would make him a better songwriter. I'm of the mind that vision and life experience are intertwined and there aren't any intellectual short cuts or philosophical answers for making compelling photographs. I think this is a dangerous contemporary mentality, now promoted in such things as Werner Herzog's 'rogue film school' - as a man of such experience and humour, I can only guess this is his sense of irony! From my perspective, Ayn Rand and the super intellectuals offer as much as reality television in terms of contributing to a personal philosophy and I know which has inspired me most to be more productive!