I guess I can see where you're coming from regarding art, though I still disagree. The prevailing post-modern view of art is that the intellectual concept, the clever idea or conceit behind the work, is all that matters. "Mere craftsmanship" is not only devalued, it's positively disparaged as trivial. This is what lies beneath everything from Andy Warhol's Campbell soup cans to the $12 million stuffed shark highlighted by a recent book on the art market.
Certainly there are compelling photographs that can aspire to 'art' which are technically flawed and crudely printed. But gosh, I'd like something better for my money. If immaculately printed black & white landscape photos ala Ansel Adams leave you cold, that's your privilege. But the craftsmanship is just as important to me as the 'high concept'.
Geoff, That's not
where I'm coming from. I have absolutely no use for anything like "Piss Christ," Andy Warhol's put-ons, or anything like that. Talk about ROTFL: A year or so ago there was a story -- in the Wall Street Journal I think -- about a Museum janitor who was fired because, during the night, he swept up and dumped an "installation" that consisted of junk. I'm sure the "artist" who set up the installation had a "high concept." Wish I could have read his artist's statement. It probably was a classic.
Ansel's prints don't "leave me cold." As I've explained above, I learned a lot from his books. I have a great deal of respect for fine craftsmanship. I was a software engineer for 30 years, with my own small software company. Occasionally I'd see code so beautifully crafted it could bring tears to your eyes, but it didn't give me the kind of transcendental experience I'd call art. What I look for is a face-to-face meeting with something I can't describe in words. In a different thread I put it this way:
"If the experience you have when you look at a photograph isn't transcendental -- if it doesn't "penetrate the illusions of reality" -- if you actually can explain in words what's important about the image, then it isn't "art." It may be beautiful, it may satisfy the rule of thirds, it may have diagonals, repitition, etc., etc., and it may be significant in some temporal way, but unless the transcendental experience is there, it isn't art."That's
where I'm coming from. I certainly don't look for photographs that are "technically flawed or crudely printed," but sometimes the significance of what's there overcomes flaws. What do you think about Cartier-Bresson's early work -- from, say, the twenties? Some of it is slightly out of focus, but I'm not sure the flaw makes those photographs something less than art. The craft is weak but to my eye the pictures don't "aspire to art," they are art. In fact, they're more art than a lot of his later, well-crafted pictures made to fill out a picture story. His Moscow book comes to mind.
Of course, "art" is always in the eye of the beholder. The question at the start of this thread was, "Does Ctein have 100 true fans?" I suggested that he might but that I'm not one of them. If Ctein's snaps give you a transcendental experience, enjoy it.