Quote Originally Posted by Richard Boutwell View Post
I am sorry, I should have stressed that the focus of my original post was on younger photographers--Mid 20's-early 30's-- basically people that are out of school and trying to make a place for themselves in the market-- unfortunatly that is what it is coming to be- just a market.
I hate to pick on my own generation, but it's rather hard to be good and original when you're still wet behind the ears. And many wunderkind never grow up to more solid work.

That said, I would have a bit of a bone to pick with your original argument: mainly that the old colour photographers were different. Although I like them both, I don't think, for instance, that Eggleston and Shore are really that different. The fact that they are friends is perhaps already a sign, but the fundamental underpinnings of their aesthetic are very similar: apparent "nothingness" or "banality" of their subject, extremely adroit use of composition, bright sunshine lighting, focus on the decayed, distance, underbelly of america, fascination with material culture, vernacular design (cartons of milk, home interiors, etc).

All of which in fact harks all the way back to Walker Evans. Who himself harks back to Eugène Atget. If there is one photographer more visible than any other nowadays, it must be Atget. He is the original incarnation of deadpan, the original "Uncommon Place," the original "seemingly banal picture with a fantastic composition", and the chronicler of little life. There is no bigger looming figure in modern photography in my opinion.

The Becher were some of the first (we're talking the 60s here) to develop a radically minimalist aesthetics, and many of their students (like Andreas Gursky, Candida Höffer, IIRC) went on to pursue the same approach in their own way, but even the Bechers themselves owe something to Atget in the way they put their eyes on inanimate things.

In fact, I would go so far as to argue that there is not in fact a big rupture between the deadpan aesthetics of Atget/Evans/Shore/Becher and the deadpan aesthetics of more recent photographers. If anything, the deadpan aesthetics is now just another popular trick of the trade, rather than an original vision, or a radical statement.

Witness for example the amount of "deadpan series of..." that get published nowadays: US Marines, celebrities without their makeup, pornstars, 9/11 heroes, football players, ordinary people from across the world, people who did horrible things, people who did ordinary things, etc. The surest way to being published these days seems to be to do a deadpan series, of famous people, as much as possible. That's what I find annoying: the publishers and the artists are still trying to milk a shtick to death. And it's not limited to colour photography: even Chuck Close did a rather deadpan series of people he knows on Daguerreotype!

To me that's just rehashing a formula. In contrast, Lee Friedlander, in "At Work" did something similar but much more interesting: he did take series upon series, but instead of posing people, he took their picture while they were working, to show that they were all doing almost the same movements. It's dizzying, and gives a sense of industrial labour much better than just another boring flat picture whose purpose is to shock you by not presenting anything.

And finally, caveat emptor: as the recent thread on the apparent lack of craft among youngsters have shown, it is in fact very easy to belittle any current state of affairs when you weight it against its entire history. We all know that the canonized artists were seldom popular in their days, and so today's unknown artists might actually be 25y down the road the ones with which we will look back to in awe of how great the early 00s were!