Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
I find his work interesting, but I was only using him to clarify my idea of where I think the 'documentary aesthetic' originated, which is very prevalent in contemporary work. Have a look at anything in the British Journal of Photography - the only real magazine we have on contemporary practice over here and how most keep up to date. I believe this kind of photography to be a direct response to the critic, rather than a natural progression of the medium. More an intellectual defensive, rather than a continuation of creative exploration with light sensitive materials. Personally, I don't think the photograph is the best format for a thesis.

I wonder if Minor White's statement means anything to this wave of photographers '...an unexposed piece of film [sensor], static and seemingly inert yet pregnant with possibilities.' Because I believe for anyone who enjoys making photographs, in spite of the statements they want to make, this pretty much sums up the basic love of the medium. It's something they would do well to remember, because people only pick up a camera with joy, yet most of the work I see is devoid of it, in favour of an imposed intellectual position. Somewhere along the line the photographers became the critics and the curators became the artists.

If you look at popular music you'll see that producers and DJs are the new singer-songwriters, the artists. It's not a problem confined to photography, but more, in today's culture, that taste equates art. The increasing masses of work produced seems to be simply raw material for the curator's game.

There is a duplicity to this, however. I agree with the idea that pop music and DJ performances are generally weak compared to the musicians of yesteryear, but there is a coven of extremely high-end musicians and artists out there who use the same tools to make vastly superior works.

My father quit shooting film in 2006, and now uses a Leaf back on his Mamiyas and Hasselblads. His photography falls far, far, outside the realm of "digisnapping". My brother, too, is a musician, composer, and producer. He's classically trained, but does all of his production work in the digital domain with an Avid ProTools rig. The likes of popular house music and techno pale in comparison to the production values he maintains in his work.

The issue of taste is not due to any changes in technology, explicitly, but due to changes in accessibility and distribution methods. In days past, music would only be released en masse through a label, which would have an A&R team approving any new releases. Photographers needed agents (or would serve as their own, occasionally) to sort out publication and exhibitions.

I would actually say that the vast majority of bad, muddled photography I see, is done on film. There is a concept that because one has used film, the intrinsic artistic value of an image is arbitrarily higher than one created digitally. I scan my film on a high-end scanner so that my lab can make large Lambda prints for me, does the use of a digital intermediary make my photographs less "analog"? Am I devaluing my work by using the (wonderful) assets available to me? Curators don't give a hoot about content because their not trying to show, or promote "work", they're trying to promote a person via their creations. This is why we have Ryan McGinley and Terry Richardson at the forefront of the hipster scene. Terry's pictures are, by and large, awful, yet I love to look at the pictures because they exude his personality. I can't stand Ryan McGinley, but enjoy seeing what he manages to pull off.

The implication of digital technology sapping "soul" out of a work of art is completely, and utterly false.

Curators, too, are aware of this, and in all honesty, the only "bad" show I've seen in the past 12 months was the MoMA's New Photography show back in November. Their "Emerging Women Photographers" show was god-awful, as well. Aside from that, I've seen fantastic exhibitions at ICP, of WeeGee and Magnum's Contact Sheets. I saw a jaw-dropping Walker Evans show in Connecticut, and look forward to seeing the new Francesca Woodman show at the Guggenheim in the coming weeks.

The standards of art are not bound by curators strictly, because you have to remember that we artists keep sending them the same old shit day in and day out, hoping to bend our images to their perceived preferences...


For clarification's sake,

The song Avalon by my brother, Matt Lange
Matt Lange - Avalon/Griffith Park

My father's website:
Paul Lange: Photographer