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Author Topic: A Disturbing Trend  (Read 27711 times)

pearlstreet

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A Disturbing Trend
« on: August 03, 2016, 12:35:02 pm »

Great article, Neal. I had a few email conversations with a young man who posted "art" he had entered and won prizes for which was savagely criticized on the Fred Miranda Landscape Forum. I told him in our conversations that the problem I had with much of the art coming from mfa photography programs was that it was so bad technically. I remember how startled he was by that comment...I was startled that he was startled!

But that seems to be the trend with art in general, not just photography. After all, everybody can't call themselves an artist if it requires talent and skill and effort. Just put some sand on the floor in the middle of MOMA and call it art and write an incomprehensible artist's statement.

I think maybe this article would be better without accompanying photographs. Love your work, but I found it distracting in this context - as if I was required to compare it to something that isn't also presented - just a thought.

Thanks for the thoughtful article.

Sharon
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Photog-x

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2016, 12:43:55 pm »

The issue I've had lately (over the last few years) is people on social media posting photos along with certain titles/text that are overly dramatic or a 'deep thought'.  It's as if every dang photo they post has to have some deep, meaningful title/thought.   I don't get it.  I keep thinking to myself, why can't a good photo just be a good photo and that's it?  Do we really have to save the *&!$@ world with every picture?  Ok, sometimes people will do a project and they want to post thoughts about those specific images and what they're all about...but a lot of what I see is just plain nonsense and I want to vomit or just yell at the screen when I see it :-)  So anyway, I pretty much quite the social media scene.  I'd rather just focus on photography for my own personal use/enjoyment and put those images on my own site (where it's not possible for anyone to comment on my photos).
« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 12:47:53 pm by Photog-x »
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Otto Phocus

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2016, 02:41:51 pm »

I think the photography world (and pretty much the entire world) would be a little bit better if we all paid a little less attention to what others are doing or not doing.

Art is so subjective that it is difficult to have any meaningful discussions as to quality.  Specific techniques can be evaluated and argued about, but the what constitutes good or bad art is impossible to objectively determine... for the very good reason that we can't objectively define what is and ain't art.

Even techniques can be subjective.  My out of focus shot may be crap to you, but I think it is a good abstract. Your Dutch angle may portray a tension to you but to me it is poor technique.  Who is right?  We both are.

Some of the pictures posted just on this site are some of the worst dreck I have ever seen... but to the artist/photographer, it represents something special to them.  Who am I to criticize?  They did not take the photograph for me.. they took it for them.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as some dead guy once said. So is art, in my opinion.

Perhaps the best option is for every artist to ignore every other artist.  :)
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pearlstreet

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2016, 03:30:26 pm »

I think the photography world (and pretty much the entire world) would be a little bit better if we all paid a little less attention to what others are doing or not doing.

Art is so subjective that it is difficult to have any meaningful discussions as to quality.  Specific techniques can be evaluated and argued about, but the what constitutes good or bad art is impossible to objectively determine... for the very good reason that we can't objectively define what is and ain't art.

Even techniques can be subjective.  My out of focus shot may be crap to you, but I think it is a good abstract. Your Dutch angle may portray a tension to you but to me it is poor technique.  Who is right?  We both are.

Some of the pictures posted just on this site are some of the worst dreck I have ever seen... but to the artist/photographer, it represents something special to them.  Who am I to criticize?  They did not take the photograph for me.. they took it for them.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as some dead guy once said. So is art, in my opinion.

Perhaps the best option is for every artist to ignore every other artist.  :)

I don't know...no NY Times Book Review, no Siskel and Ebert. :-) I know what you mean, judge not kind of thing, but I think there is a place for high standards. I went to an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize photos in Dallas. Each one was a stunner - and while the text often enlightened, the photos stood on their own as powerful images. Not a unfocused, blown-out, photo of nothing in the bunch.
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Alan Smallbone

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2016, 04:51:17 pm »

I saw this from David duChemin this morning..

http://davidduchemin.com/2016/08/a-little-more-defiance-please/

Alan
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Rob C

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2016, 04:58:10 pm »

It's an inevitable consequence of trying to turn something very simple into something very complex.

There's nothing to photography - there never was. All you had to do was read the brief camera manual, find somebody with a darkroom, and hey presto: you knew what it was about. That experience either moved the Earth for you or it left you cold. If the former, then you set out on the long road to personal discovery, made lots of lousy prints and then it clicked, and you got it.

So you could print well. But nobody said that made you a great photographer. There never were many great photographers - just zillions of mediocre ones who could get by. This is fairly obvious if only by the fact that we can research and find the same names cropping up over and over again. Were there in fact zillions of good ones, the ones we think of as great masters wouldn't have been tall enough poppies to show. And ditto painting and all the rest of the graphic arts.

All photography is is the medium.

Whichever branch of art we play in, it's the art factor, our ability as artists that makes us stand out or not, not the medium.

Digital has just cut short the learning curve that was film. Devoid of that pair of technical obstacles that demanded a modicum of dedication, digital promises instant gratification without the period of grace where you discovered if it was really all worth the time and the tears; you reach mediocrity very quickly indeed today.

Also, with more education and more money floating around in education, it allows lots of 'students' to spend critical years doing nothing much more than ego tripping. That these same students have possibly also had a deeper education in English language and literature permits them to stretch a lot of boundaries. In my day, professional photography was a closed world of which few knew the slightest thing, and cared even less. A professional was the chap who photographed babies and weddings and took your passport pictures. The worlds of Mad Av and industrial photography were entirely unknown to the public consciousness. Who was Richard Avedon? I'm not joking: few would have had the slightest idea back in the late 50s. Roll on the 60s and it's all change: the new train's in the staion. All at once everybody knew who David Bailey was even if they had never held a copy of Vogue in their hand.

Photography had come of age. It had climbed out of puberty and was the sexiest ticket in town; it could get you laid as much as your appetite could stand; it could get you all around the world and you never again had to pay for a holiday; it could make you richer than anybody else in your social circle. What was not to like?

In the UK at least, photography wasn't thought of as 'fine art' at all; the first galleries I can think of were 'sponsored' efforts, concentrating on worthy studies of the poor and depressingly derpressed in the industrial wastelands of a changing Britain. You could see them as political extension, socialism on the wall, if you will.

Then came the commerical ones like Hamilton's and a new interest was sparked by the fashion magazines, lifestyle magazines and the inevitable influences from across the ever-narrower Atlantic.

With its transistion from being, broadly, nothing but hobby or commerce, it morphed into art, where and when there suddenly were no limits. Anything and everything could go, and it did. Photographers who would once have been jailed for their photography suddenly held exhibitions and became big ticket players. Galleries grew rich off their transgressions. It could, and will, only end in tears.

Of course the general run of work is going down the pan; where else can it go? The top was reached decades ago, and some of the same guys and gals active in the 60s are still cutting-edge today. You can only be the first up Everest one time. For a newcomer, it must be terminally depressing to know you will never match the magic of what's gone before you. You can only be a clone, a prostitute, a hunter for the money. In essence, no better than the professional so many of these 'artists' despise. Sweet irony.

Rob C
« Last Edit: August 04, 2016, 02:54:55 am by Rob C »
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prairiewing

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2016, 05:21:20 pm »

Wonderfully stated Rob even if don't agree with your conclusion.  In many ways I think today is the golden age of photography, that more good work (and bad) is being produced by more people than ever before. 

It's a big tent and there's room for everyone, always has been.
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Pat Gerlach
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David Sutton

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2016, 06:58:32 pm »

Two points. To engage with, and share our creativity is a deep human characteristic. Taking into account the fields where this happens (music, sculpture, novels, ceramics etc), how come the technically and intellectually challenged have gotten so far in the visual arts? It's not just in photography. Same goes for the critics in general. 
Secondly, living in a small town in the south of New Zealand, when I get to visit cities I tend to pig out on the galleries. Recently in Paris I saw a retrospective of the photographs of the Sudanese photographer Seydou KeÔta. That they were technically superb went without saying. But what came through was the humanity of the subjects, and by inference, the understanding that there was a real human being behind the lens. It reminded me that the bar was set by Julia Margaret Cameron around 1870.
Then there was the more contemporary stuff. That it was without technical merit almost went without saying. I could go with that if there was something else going on. But what struck me was the emotional coldness so much of the work. It had all the joylessness of a brain without a body.
David
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adias

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2016, 07:07:15 pm »

I saw this from David duChemin this morning..

http://davidduchemin.com/2016/08/a-little-more-defiance-please/

Alan

For every photographer or writer who shuns the limelight, there are legions posting galore a lot of garbage these days.
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Zorki5

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2016, 07:37:15 pm »

This video explains (or rather illustrates) few things even better, including the "extensive explanations" bit:

Modern art insults me
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Peter McLennan

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2016, 10:04:29 pm »

In many ways I think today is the golden age of photography

I've been saying precisely that for a few years.  Never has it been easier to produce superb images and never have so many been so enabled.

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HSakols

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2016, 01:25:54 am »

Thanks for the interesting article.  It seems to me that good photography is in some ways is timeless.  However, today I feel this pressure to come up with good work immediately as opposed to editing my work over the last 25 years. 
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stockjock

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2016, 03:35:05 am »

Great article.  I generally find all art that is better written about than viewed unsatisfying.
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Paulo Bizarro

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2016, 04:13:34 am »

Good article and food for thought. One of the challenges I have is to find the elusive "good work" from the mass of work that gets easily published today: social media, instant news. We are flooded and saturated with visual media by the second, and it is hard to step back, and really find the good stuff out there.

I find it useful that some photographic projects, or documentary ones, are captioned, so to speak, to provide some context. When good text goes along with good photos, it is a nice experience for the viewer.

David Watson

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2016, 05:55:46 am »

Quote from the article

But, and this is my main point, the photographs often arenít very good. Itís as though photography has been sublimated to a necessary part of the total, that the words are the priority and the photographs somehow are ancillary or secondary and therefore not needing much attention. This resides perilously close to using the photographs as illustrations, really another field entirely.

I couldn't agree more and I echo the comment that this is a trend that applies to art as well.  As an example I went to an exhibition by the renowned artist Gabriel Orozco at the Tate Modern in London in 2011.  One of his exhibits was an unadorned and empty cardboard shoe box placed on the floor.  People kept picking it up and handing to to the attendant stating that someone had thrown this rubbish away.  Eventually the museum had to post a guard next to it who pointed visitors towards some printed words on the wall. 

Enough said
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Rob C

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2016, 06:22:31 am »

I wouldn't subscribe to a blanket banishment of text with photography.

When I was producing calendars I would sometimes include a little sentence or two along with the photographs. I remember that for one regulare client, I did that for one year and thought I'd drop it the next. To my surprise, the client was most put out, and told me that I simply had to write something to go along with the images. I asked him why, and he replied to the effect that whilst nobody in the Group understood what the hell I was on about, they liked it anyway.



For this page, I'd penned something about Flying Purple People Eaters which was a reference to a popular song. I'm sure that the client had never heard it - he was into classical piano, which he also played; however, it made his version of Pirelli that little bit different. Suited me just fine!

I still enjoy using captions - I think every image in my webs°te has one; in some cases I use them because I want the viewer to connect with what I was intending to express. (I'm not really interested that much in what others may or may not see; it's my vision that I'm concerned about.) In other instances I'll just supply location information...

But yeah, this is now all within my website; were I to be offered a show, after recovering from the shock I'd certainly not concern myself with captions because in that ambience I'd think them superflous and somewhat irrelevant. However, a panel with brief, general informational content about the pictures and myself would be fine.

Rob
« Last Edit: August 04, 2016, 10:42:41 am by Rob C »
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nrantoul

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2016, 06:58:36 am »

I thank you all for your comments on my  piece "A Disturbing Trend", both pro and con. I only sought to promote the discussion. One comment on the criticism of the pictures being included: This was Kevin's  suggestion as LuLA is a photography site  so we picked (arbitrarily) some of my work for inclusion.
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Otto Phocus

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2016, 07:38:34 am »

I saw this from David duChemin this morning..

http://davidduchemin.com/2016/08/a-little-more-defiance-please/

Alan

I don't agree with his first part.  There are many reasons why a photographer may choose not to share his or her work.  I only like to share my photographs with people I actually know in real life and even then I don't share everything. I share more with my family then I do at our photography club for example.

If a complete stranger thinks my photograph is great, or a complete stranger thinks my photograph is crap, means exactly the same to me... that being I don't care.

I do care about the opinions of people I know and who I have respect for.  I have to confess I don't really understand the appeal of posting photographs and garnering opinions from complete strangers.  But, evidently a lot of people do and that's great for them.  I used to post a small number of my photographs publicly on Flickr but quickly asked myself "why?"  So I decided to only allow friends to access my files and soon stopped using Flickr and just exchanged photographs with my groups.

So despite Mr. duChemin's opinion, people may choose not to post their photographs not out of fear of rejection about their photograph,  but due to apathy about complete stranger's opinions about their photograph.  Some photographers may just choose to share their photographs with a select group of people they actually know.
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Rob C

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2016, 09:02:25 am »

Another couple of thoughts about photography - especially street, and education vs buying into it, and motivation. I thought it fitted neatly here.

http://leicaphilia.com/a-totally-free-leicaphilia-street-photography-seminar/

Rob

rwarshaw

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2016, 10:16:30 am »

As a former commercial and fine art photographer active in the late 1960s and early 1970s and a recent graduate with an MFA in Photography (2014) I've experienced the disconnect between image and stated intent as well as the lack of technical quality in the work of at least some of my classmates and peers.  In order to graduate I had to produce a research paper of considerable length and complexity at least peripherally related to my images.  I wrote a dense screed on memory, place and aging better suited to a degree in psychology or sociology and got away with it. 

There's often IMHO a disconnect between a contemporary "conceptual" artist's intent as expressed in captions or an accompanying essay and what the image would seem to express.  Further, the more esoteric the discussion, the greater the disconnect appears to be.  I'm less certain about the issue of lack of technical quality; it's important to me but, as long as it's intentional, I can look past it in the work of others.
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