Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This will be an odd post, and there won't be a photograph or two included.  Rather, I am posing an open question and looking for serious answers.

I am at a total loss as to the way certain contemporary photography disregards most of the criteria I consider essential to a good picture.  In my email today was a new issue of an online photography magazine that baffles me. What I see there over and over again is haphazard lighting, indifferent color...usually somewhat washed out, random composition that seems to deliberately disdain coherent organization, centers of interest that aren't interesting, subjects that wouldn't hold my attention for a moment in reality, a voyeuristic view of people who have no apparent reason for being photographed, and a host of other sins of omission, and commission.  These photographs get published on line and in books, and garner praise by virtue of their being chosen, but without an explanation of why.  (I find it hard to believe anyone would buy any of these pictures for their walls, and I'd love to know how many copies of such books get sold.)

The alternative isn't kittens and sunsets, saturated and over sharpened color landscapes with pristine, dead calm water and snow capped mountains.  I realize that stuff is often kitsch, and is as guilty of  egregious sins as the work I am referring to in the paragraph above.  I make no brief that plodding along with endless variations of Yosemite in winter and the like would be preferred alternatives.
Nor do I  think umpteen Kennabe long exposure style photographs should be thought of as 'better'  art, whatever that is.  I am not writing in praise of stagnation. I also do not contend that my own photographs should garner any particular attention.  But, at least they're honest attempts to meet  standards that have been well established over time. And that's the heart of the question I'm posing...why have those standards been abandoned, and why does deliberate ugliness command the approval of the arbiters of 'fine art' photography???   

So, if you have a comment that will enlighten me, please make it.  If it makes no ad hominem attacks, and uses presentable language, I'll post it.  I apologize in advance for the 'captcha' nonsense that blogger.com imposes, but I can't seem to disable it.  Comments are delayed until I can check them, but I won't ignore any that meet the two criteria I mentioned.  Thank you in advance!

photoeye.com publishes a wide range of photobooks that run the gamut from wonderful to execrable, so look there for examples of the best and worst. 


DEH said...

The gatekeepers of art (critics, educators, gallerists, etc) have failed us. In many cases (eg, Szarkowski and snapshot photography) they have actually encouraged those who self-proclaim their creations as Art. Arthur Danto called our period the "end of art" in which artists are liberated from any constraints such as "beauty". Nan Goldin's snapshots have morphed into narcissistic selfies. Anything and everything can be proclaimed as Art. Freedom to operate outside the bounds of any medium may lead to new creations, but were they really worth the effort? Our post-post-modernists magazines & books are filled with ....

John Voss said...

I agree, DEH. It may be the pursuit of 'new creations' that drives the acceptance of work that wouldn't have warranted a second look some years ago. Thanks for commenting!