Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
Yeah, but in the case of photography I think those rules and conventions have more to do with composition, line and light, and the like, as opposed to technique per se. The fine-art photography tradition certainly isn't the only place to get those things---the same principles apply in painting, of course, but also in photography that's well outside the fine-art mainstream. I think Weegee, for instance, is likely better known among the photo-student demographic than his Place In History(TM) might suggest, and you can learn a whole lot about composition from his work even though it clearly was never born for the gallery wall.

Sure, students of anything are going to need to learn about their predecessors, but I'm pretty sure it's true in all times and all fields that they (1) think their instructors are hidebound fuddy-duddies for their obsession with the past, and (2) gradually grow into hidebound fuddy-duddies of their own in the natural course of events.

If students raised in the online-social-media dialectic are less responsive than their predecessors to the f/64-fine-art stream of history, maybe that doesn't represent philistinism so much as a movement that has run its course and been assimilated into the Establishment...and who ever approached their education by saying "I want to grow up and be part of the Establishment!"?

I don't disagree, except as much as you have 21st century photographers trying to achieve certain looks, and that look has already been defined and formulated, yet they want to re-invent the wheel to get there. It's a bit of a chicken/egg problem made worse by the speed at which trends cycle. You have people today doing a lot of things to imitate things done in the past, and while they may be arriving at the same destination via a different route, they're claiming superiority and innovation when in fact it is equivalence and mimicry. I'm not saying don't get out there and play with your tools, don't make mistakes, don't experiment - I'm just saying if you want to experiment, know WHY the old thing you're trying to deviate from was done in the first place. Today's wet plate work is a great example. A lot of folks are using it and producing intentionally sloppy pours of collodion and streaky, blotchy development as a counterpoint to the clinical exactitude of the digital inkjet print and to a lesser extent the silver-gelatin enlargement. They're doing it in contrast to that precision as a way to point out the uniqueness and organic quality of the images they're making, and in contrast to the traditional way of making wet-plate images where the photographers from the 1860s to the 1920s making ambrotypes and tintypes would go for as clean and flawless a pour and development as possible, and then mask the edges of their plates where things were less than perfect.

All very fine and good - you know what you're doing and why you're doing it. But trying to imitate that with some other technique for the sake of doing it with the other technique be it chemical or digital does become a case of making a violin sound like a tuba because you can. You're not doing it to make a statement - you're just trying to latch on to a trend. I think it's very hard to establish what "breaking the rules" with digital media consists of right now because they're still in their infancy and the rules are not yet established. So we're seeing a lot of folks doing things that break the old rules but don't have a good explanation for why they're breaking the old rule, and why the old rule should be broken. That's certainly true for things like print presentation - the old rule is still "bring me 20+ matted prints in pristine mats with well-cut windows, large margins, properly exposed/printed, etc". No reason why I can think of that that rule should be thrown out yet. But you can certainly try to make a case for an individual rejection of it - "my work is mounted on driftwood because I want to make a comment on the transient and impermanent nature of existence" or "I'm rejecting the clinical aesthetic of presenting work in mats and frames because they serve to erect an elitist barrier between the audience and the artwork". But don't just show up with a box of loose prints that says you don't give a shit about your own presentation.