I'd say he's better recognised as a commercial photographer, but I got to know him through his "Yangtze - The Long River" and Chernobyl series. He's definitely heralded as a big name in contemporary art photography.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Burtynsky is in the same sphere I'd say, for his almost painterly compositional convention in tandem with subject matter that can only be described as photographic. Their work transcends the medium and finds itself shifting towards the pole of art because it says things of universal relevance that only a photographer can say - namely, a direct tackling of the social environment. Burtynsky's environmental subject matter just wouldn't work in painting because it is so illustrative and so much about man's effect, but his visual sense and artistic framework, like Kander's, is more 'classical' or operatic and owes itself more to the great landscape painters than any photographer. In the art world's mind I'd assume these painterly references are what get the brownie points, as well as an embracing of what they see as photography's strength, to describe, to play it straight. There is little in either of their work that appears to be directly descended from the lineage of photographic convention (of composition or approach to subject matter), only a surface connection to the concerns of the New Topographics.
So I definitely think for photography to be well regarded in the art world it has to be both uniquely photographic (embrace the medium's strengths and limitations), subjectively relevant (timely), and also nod its head to the broader arts (painterly technique/compositions/symbolism/knowledge and proper use of colour) - having an art education obviously helps here. I think street photography is regarded as an oddity because it is uniquely photographic, socially relevant, but ignorant about the visual arts. This is why historians will tell us the greatest 'photographers' are street and documentary, yet they give other work the benefit of the doubt, allowing it to fall into the art sphere, so long as those visual nods to art convention are there.
Abstract or transformative photography tends to be dismissed because 1. It doesn't hold relevance for the average viewer and 2. Is seen as a deception (i.e. the famous thing with Ansel Adams' details - "What's the medium?"). Yet abstracts that are clearly photographic tend to get more recognition from the art world - recently, Hiroshi Sugimoto's 'Lightning Fields' - because the photographer is playing it straight and the subject matter is universally identifiable, symbolic (dangerous?) and visually immediate.
Last edited by batwister; 09-09-2012 at 03:12 PM. Click to view previous post history.