I've been to exhibits in Manchester UK, which mainly show the work of 'artists as photographers'. See Sarah Lucas. That is, photography that has some credibility and unique value in the context of the traditional art it stands alongside. Its values are bound to the ephemeral nature of photography; 'sketches', throwaway ideas, here today gone tomorrow. This is the kind of photography art scholars and curators like best, because it poses no competition to the 'real' singular, respectable artworks on which they have built their careers and established their authority. Unfortunately, big galleries that only show photography don't exist in the UK, so you might better understand my cynicism about what is shown. Yet, this kind of photography is closer to what I feel is important modern work. John Sexton and the rest of the 'master printers', are something else. Don't get me wrong, I own 'Recollections' by Sexton and it's beautiful, but...
Originally Posted by PKM-25
I believe the 'West coast' school of photography in the US is a tradition that can only exist in a country that truly values its photography heritage. A popular photographic niche from which what we know as 'fine art' photography originates. Unfortunately, in the UK, we can't afford to be nostalgic and procrastinate with out of date ideals. Photography isn't 'comfortable' enough as a medium for expression here. For photography to move forward in the UK, I think the best way to get art photography into public consciousness is to produce memorable, timely and relevant images and forget about the value of the print - which is the photographer's concern. Why burden the viewer with our anxiety about our precious materials? Won't someone PLEASE think about the images! Going on forever about the beauty of the optical print is sidestepping the real issue with photography today. Traditional materials are undoubtedly the best form of presentation, technologically speaking, but this is incidental where the viewer is concerned and so has to be where the photographer is concerned. Shoot film and shut up. I truly believe in that regard that making a point of your media preference (film/optical prints) is a sure sign of a creative inferiority complex for a modern photographer. That is... if he is aware of what is going on in the contemporary art world. If on the other hand he works in a vacuum and only looks at photography pre-1950, then his ideals can't be blamed, he is naive.
Photography which plays heavily on the virtues (or even aesthetic) of the materials - just like arts and crafts - isn't taken seriously by the art world and holds up better in local galleries, for a fair price. Has Michael Kenna ever had a show at MoMA out of interest? Yet isn't he practically a household name? If we're talking about fine art photography, we should know its place. Michael Kenna is held at a distance, perhaps regretfully for many contemporary photography galleries, because his work relies so heavily on the print and references 'the old masters', the past. This kind of work tends to be decorative and it sells for that reason. It's unfortunate that decorative work is regarded with skepticism in the world of contemporary photography, but this has been the case since at least the New Topographics. Decorative work and the sentimentality about the print are inseparable. I've found this to be unanimous. It's been said many times recently that photography has been moving sideways for a long time, and I believe the traditional photographers still holding onto 20th century ideals about the photograph as a pretty object, are largely to blame. 'Fine art photography' is a nostalgic mentality, rooted in ignorance and an avoidance of modern photographic ideals.
EDIT: I should also say that I love the physicality of traditional photography, but it's not the sole reason I enter the darkroom. It's an incidental part of the process of making images - which is what the viewer wants to see. If your prints end up in a frame, any suggestion that the physicality of the photographic process matters to the viewer is a contradiction. I've said in the past that the physicality was what I loved about film, but it's a mistake to think this matters to anyone but other photographers trying to gain insight into how the image was crafted. The average viewer better appreciates the unique tonality and depth of the optical print, not the physicality of its making - this is the photographer's fetish.
Last edited by batwister; 10-16-2012 at 04:41 PM. Click to view previous post history.