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Author Topic: A Disturbing Trend  (Read 27713 times)

GrahamBy

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2016, 10:17:20 am »

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.

There are two sides to it, which I think is the point Rob was making: it's never been easier to make competent images. But it's never been harder to get them noticed, unless you have pre-existing fame. If Quentin Tarantino had a gallery show tomorrow, it would be a sell-out, whatever the photos were like. It wouldn't be about the quality of the photos, either way (I have no idea if he takes photos, they'd probably be quite good, but who knows?).

Just look at the recent fuss over the painting that Lucien Freud denied was his. Basically, he was saying it was crap, he didn't want it associated with him. The back story was that it was aquired from his student days by an enemy, in order to embarrass him. In other words, because it was crap. It has been estimated at around $300k.

However, for a bit of humility it's as well to remember that these sort of "this modern stuff is all crap" comments have been applied to all the artists most people now consider great, by the established technicians of the day. It may be that none of us are any smarter than them  ;)

Rob: I'm stealing your line about reaching mediocrity quickly :)
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Krug

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2016, 10:18:31 am »

I don't usually join in public debates about this kind of issue as they never resolve anything - and one can be so much more satisfyingly, and less responsibly, provocative in private discussions with friends and colleagues !! 

However as photographers we should not beat ourselves up too much about "the way things are going".  This trend is not a 'photography" issue per se.  Those of us who attempt to also function in other media have exactly the same issues there. 
I was appalled when a few years ago a really quite prestigious art school dropped 'life and figure studies' as a compulsory subject because of 'curriculum pressures' but maintained as one the writing of 'Artist's Statements' (the very things that introduced Neal Rantoul argument in this article ). It seemed to me then ( and still now) that they were in danger of being criticised - fairly - in exactly the way that he is outlining in this article ... greater concern for the perceived context and the artist's intent than for the artistic content.

My own view, for what it is worth, is that for any work which might be considered to be 'Art' the amount of explanation necessary for it's understanding, and perhaps, appreciation should be minimal at most - otherwise it is primarily social or political comment ... and even then should be able to stand on it's own feet ... my examples to bolster my argument ... Guernica, the WW1 paintings of John Nash, the photographic images of Robert Capa and Dorothea Lange to name but a few.

I seek not to convince or convert but merely to restate an opinion which is currently much out of fashion but merits a return to favour ... I hope.
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John Ashbourne
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Re: A Disturbing Trend .....Will I need my bifocals?
« Reply #22 on: August 04, 2016, 02:34:53 pm »

Thanks Neal.  I'll be 69 very soon and have had the same experiences with MFAs, MFA photography and MFA artists in general.
No, it's not because we are old.  Let me start by saying I went to art college (not university) from 1967-1971
and studied an 'extension' year 1972-1973  That was five years for a diploma only, not a degree.
 
My training was in the Bauhaus tradition in which art and it's various techniques, including photography,
were taught very much as trade-craft or technology.  While 'conceptual' art was by then an established practice
the work and its execution still seemed to come first and the heavy theory and criticism was left for later or for others.
Having lost the taste for it after leaving art school, it's been decades since I've been able to read or listen to most 'art-speak'. 
I have friends I consider talented artist yet I can't listen to then talk about art, especially their own.
I don't think I am alone in opining that art school and not a credential generating university is the place to teach
and learn the trade of artist and its required techniques like photography.
   
The artist Carl Andre never said much more than something like, "Art must exist as a social fact." 
Though he is often considered a 'conceptualist', and by some a minimalist, his big, heavy sculptural 'things'
are not minimal in scale and exist as material and objects alone;  things without need of accompanying text.
As a student in the '60s and early '70s, my first serious photographic influences were people who in one case
were photographers mistakenly cast as conceptual artists and in the other a conceptual artists who
was often cast as a photographer. Bernd-Hilla Becher and Edward Ruscha. 
Both the Bechers and Ruscha produced photo work, though very different in look and intent,
that could be taken on its merits as image and object alone. 

The Bechers trade-craft and technique as photographic image makers and as it has been
imparted to others in their teaching, all very much in that Bauhaus trade and technique tradition,
has produced some of the best art photography and art photographers of the last 50 years.

No Neal we're not old.  It's just that we've seen a lot and lately too much of it has been text.
My bifocals, please!  Help me find my bifocals! 
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Christopher Sanderson

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #23 on: August 04, 2016, 03:42:00 pm »

As a young undergraduate in 1967, I was invited - along with the entire student body - to enter the Uni's Student Art Exhibit. I was so provoked by the then-current trend of non-figurative 'art' I did not understand that I decided to show my cynicism by submitting rubbish. I took the separated lids from my baked bean cans/tins and stuck them with tape to a purple card. There was, thankfully, no textual explanation required - just my name. I submitted my opus

For whatever reason, the piece was accepted

As it hung in the gallery for two weeks, the sticky tape dried and the lids started to fall off one by one. Perhaps at the moment of lids hitting floor it became art

I was contacted by the Curator to execute repairs  :o

Rob C

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Re: A Disturbing Trend .....Will I need my bifocals?
« Reply #24 on: August 04, 2016, 03:50:14 pm »

Thanks Neal.  I'll be 69 very soon and have had the same experiences with MFAs, MFA photography and MFA artists in general.
No, it's not because we are old.  Let me start by saying I went to art college (not university) from 1967-1971
and studied an 'extension' year 1972-1973  That was five years for a diploma only, not a degree.
 
My training was in the Bauhaus tradition in which art and it's various techniques, including photography,
were taught very much as trade-craft or technology.  While 'conceptual' art was by then an established practice
the work and its execution still seemed to come first and the heavy theory and criticism was left for later or for others.
Having lost the taste for it after leaving art school, it's been decades since I've been able to read or listen to most 'art-speak'. 
I have friends I consider talented artist yet I can't listen to then talk about art, especially their own.
I don't think I am alone in opining that art school and not a credential generating university is the place to teach
and learn the trade of artist and its required techniques like photography.
   
The artist Carl Andre never said much more than something like, "Art must exist as a social fact." 
Though he is often considered a 'conceptualist', and by some a minimalist, his big, heavy sculptural 'things'
are not minimal in scale and exist as material and objects alone;  things without need of accompanying text.
As a student in the '60s and early '70s, my first serious photographic influences were people who in one case
were photographers mistakenly cast as conceptual artists and in the other a conceptual artists who
was often cast as a photographer. Bernd-Hilla Becher and Edward Ruscha. 
Both the Bechers and Ruscha produced photo work, though very different in look and intent,
that could be taken on its merits as image and object alone. 

The Bechers trade-craft and technique as photographic image makers and as it has been
imparted to others in their teaching, all very much in that Bauhaus trade and technique tradition,
has produced some of the best art photography and art photographers of the last 50 years.

No Neal we're not old.  It's just that we've seen a lot and lately too much of it has been text.
My bifocals, please!  Help me find my bifocals!


There they are - on top of your head!

I'm not even sure that photography needs to be taught in art schools at all. As I've already indicated, it's the easiest thing in the world to learn - the difficulty lies in thinking like an artist. And in my mind, that is something that's naturally in you or it is not.

What can and should be taught, is Photoshop. It's got little to do with old photography, and in fact works the other way around: I got to grips with all the Photoshop I need because I already understood wet printing. I see no reason to imagine it works in the opposite direction. Digital is the future, whether I like it or not. I couldn't, in all good faith, advise anyone to learn wet printng today. That's painful for me, but I have come to realise that's how the cookie has crumbled.

Rob

Rob C

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #25 on: August 04, 2016, 03:53:00 pm »

As a young undergraduate in 1967, I was invited - along with the entire student body - to enter the Uni's Student Art Exhibit. I was so provoked by the then-current trend of non-figurative 'art' I did not understand that I decided to show my cynicism by submitting rubbish. I took the separated lids from my baked bean cans/tins and stuck them with tape to a purple card. There was, thankfully, no textual explanation required - just my name. I submitted my opus

For whatever reason, the piece was accepted

As it hung in the gallery for two weeks, the sticky tape dried and the lids started to fall off one by one. Perhaps at the moment of lids hitting floor it became art

I was contacted by the Curator to execute repairs  :o


Obviously, the Cuarator didn't 'get it'! The art was growing by virtue of it's transformation into pure energy (kinetic).

GrahamBy

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #26 on: August 04, 2016, 04:29:32 pm »

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.

Of course the notion of the artist as respectable is a very recent notion. When Monet was painting Olympia he was quite disreputable, not to mention Lautrec hanging out in the Can-Can palaces and brothels, as did Henry Miller many years later.

But the greatest irony was that just after reading this, I received a message from a friend who is, among her other professional activities, a prostitute. She assumes the title fully... and she needs promotional photos (she's using selfies and they're crap). She's also the first person to offer actual payment for my work: she understands honest cash business. Should be fun to shoot some honest and pragmatic erotica :)
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al@davallephotography.com

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #27 on: August 04, 2016, 05:31:54 pm »

I very often have the same reaction when I see a modern photographic exhibition.  So I feel your pain. 

But I suspect the reason we are seeing/feeling what we are seeing/feeling is embedded in your own writing.  It's true, it has never been easier to make photographs.  The technology has made this a more democratic form of art.  The playing field is leveled for everyone.  And, ironically, it is this reality that has made the art of photography more difficult than ever!  With all the imagery and photographers out there, it is simply far more difficult to get you work seen/noticed/consumed than ever before.  It's same for music. 

I suspect this is why folks are adding words to accompany their images.  It is their attempt to enhance the over all project.  Perhaps it wasn't required in the past but, for some, it certainly is today.  At least they feel it is worth a try.

When I stop to think about it, it's not really the addition of text, per see, that bothers me.  I have seen work where the words and the images add up to more that the sum of the two.  Rather, it is the fact that more often than not, the text together with the image still don't speak to me.  But that is the beauty and mystery of art....it's in the eye of the beholder.

And when it comes to your comment about the narcissistic nature of a lot of contemporary work, I think a lot of photography has always been inwardly focused.  Its just that the addition of text makes this "self" much more obvious.

I think we should all simply take a breath....give everyone the time and space to do whatever it is they feel called to do.  If you like it....great.  If not....move on to what does moves you. 
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GLRPHD

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #28 on: August 04, 2016, 06:15:39 pm »

Bravo Neal,

You have hit/pounced on something that has been very disturbing to me as well.  I have been a voracious reader of books by 'professional' photographers always looking for that bit of inspiration.  To be brief I can sum my experience in these pursuits in three categories:

1.) Really pedestrian photographers with excellent speaking and writing skills that put a glossy patina on their work.
2.) Really competent photographers who completely embed themselves in the cliche' locations and embellish with wordsmithery.
These first two are most likely to conduct 'trophy' workshops for people with more money than talent and/or artful discernment.
3.) True photographic artists who come from a background in brush and canvas studies which they bring to their art.

On balance most of the best work I have seen comes from category 3 plus a limited group who speak in captions rather than chapters, but whose photos speak volumes.

Gerald Rowles
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Redman

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #29 on: August 04, 2016, 06:17:49 pm »

I agree totally with Neal, and not because I am turning 70 in a few months.  Let us judge and react to a photograph based on its content and composition.  Also its technical value.  And as Cartier-Bresson said, 'The anecdote is the enemy of photography.'

Someone recently asked me if I was an artist, and I replied that I was a photographer.  Let's not talk about the picture, let's just react to it in our own way.

Red Slater
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tnargs

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #30 on: August 04, 2016, 06:59:58 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? 

Ming Thein does that. And he's not very good at it. Spoils it for me. Instead of a very good photo, we are left looking at amateurishness and 'trying too hard'.
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tennapel

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #31 on: August 06, 2016, 02:31:43 am »

Looking back in 10 or 20 years, we will probably label this as typical for this period in time.

If take a look at the body of work of the German artist Gerhard Richter he seems to be a kameleon. He goes along with whatever was the fad of the period (and displaying great mastery of painting techniques).

I was recently at an exhibit of art of the 80s. Most of it is superficial, meant to be ironic and with really shine and poor materials. Also the photographs of that period all look superficial, advertising like in bold colours and harsh flashlight. It doesn't age well. The irony doesn't resonate anymore, because our context has changed so much.

Some of the rock stars of photography of that time did commercial work mainly. Super models, Vogue shoots. If you look at it with 2016 eyes, it is obvious who really had a knack of capturing an image and whose work was driven by gallery owners driven by money. I think we should label that Benetton photography  ;)

These days, art seems to be art for a selected group. It is almost like it wants to separate itself from the tsunami of imagery. I think that now is the moment in time where we have more photographs available and shared than ever before. It seems as artists don't know how to react on this abundance and are closing themselves out and retract into a circle of 'contextual explained art', only accessible for those who are knowledgeable about this proces.

On the other hand, it sometimes leads to very refreshing and fun art. Here in Rotterdam, I saw a project of a Dutch artist. She had written an email to young male artists in the Rotterdam art scene who she thought matter. She wanted to make a pair of trousers for them, designing them in collaboration and portray the artist in their working context with the trousers. The trousers themselves were on display too.

The photographs were made by a photographer she works with. It worked. You did not need to study a lot of text, just the short email she wrote and the rest was self explaining. I was not familiar with the work of any of the male artists portrayed, but the photographs were wonderful. It said so much about their personalities. And their vanity somehow showed. The fact the collaborated with the artist on making the trousers somehow dropped a barrier, or a defence, when portrayed. The trousers were just the middle men to get to another level of connection in the photograph.
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truesmith1@yahoo.com

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #32 on: August 06, 2016, 12:05:40 pm »

Tom Wolfe wrote a short book (100 pages) in 1975 on this precise subject, The Painted Word.
It is a truly timeless must-read for anyone who interfaces with the "Art World".
 You could think of it as a mental vaccination
against the infection of useless verbosity surrounding any artwork.
It lifts the covers, removes the scales, cleans the windshield, etc., etc., etc.......
Professional art critics and gallery owners hate this book with a passion.
It is still available from Amazon, $13. I cant recommend it enough!
My copy is old and falling apart from being read so many times over the years.
I often exhibit my work without any labels whatsoever and I definitely think
an image should be able to offer a visual reward without text, otherwise it is lacking.
best to you.....

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pearlstreet

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #33 on: August 06, 2016, 12:26:56 pm »

Thanks Truesmith!
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robertfields

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #34 on: August 06, 2016, 06:18:28 pm »

Love your article.  Stirring it up is fun. Double bubble toil and trouble. I agree with you, and I already am over 70. Here's my take on it.  There's a lot of crap out there.  Social media is sort of like the laterals on a septic system. All the crap eventually settles out and ceases to stink, and go away.  There's also a lot really stunning photos out there, a lot by accident. Accident's happen.  That good stuff just floats around out there in the ozone on Pinterest, Facebook, etc., and probably never will go away, unless all of Al Gore's predictions come true. So what. Enjoy them for what they are. If people consistently pay money for your photographs, that's pretty good sign they are good.  If not, they're probably not.  If you don't want or need the money and just give you photos away, you may want to visit their homes and see where they hang them or don't hang them.  Might be an indicator....just a thought.  I like to play a funny game when I am out shooting, especially if I have the big lens and a tripod.  People invariably ask me, "are you a professional?"  If I answer yes, they hang around and start in with, do you have a website, where do you sell your work, what is your speciality (an odd question when I am shooting landscapes, but that's probably me just thinking like a smart ass).  If I say no, they walk away.  How do I decide what to say? Totally random.  Sometimes I say "I'm a professional amateur."  That usually gets a deer in the headlights look. It's fun.

People who describe wines and works of art crack me up.  I prefer, "it tastes really good" and "wow, that's a great shot." Susan Sonntag wrote some of the most boring drivel about the horror of using the word "shot" when speaking about photography.  I bet she was not any fun at a party and I have never seen any of her photographs.  Has anyone? People who think more of themselves than the subject on which they are speaking seem to have no sense of humor.  None of that here, friends.  Only some of those dopey articles you hyperlinked to.

I digress.

Peter Lik is a lightning rod, outdoorsman extraordinaire, a master marketeer, a real magician, an enigma.  He also takes pretty good photographs.

Josef Sudek had one arm, carried a gargantuan view camera and survived the nazis and WW2.  He also took pretty good photographs.

Suzie Millenial take some interesting shots with her iPhone and posts them on Pinterest. She's lucky and some of them are pretty good.

I'll bet Peter, Josef and Suzie all have/had a pretty good sense of humor and manage/managed to have fun.

Let's not take ourselves too seriously and by all means, get out there, shoot away, and have fun.

ps
I do sell my photographs, in a gallery; I don't have a website, don't use social media...well, I text and use Flikr, and the prints I have given away to friends, hang in their living rooms, offices, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
One friend never put it up after praising it, asking for it, and getting it, free.  They are no longer a friend.

pps
I leave you with my favorite photography quote:
"You are in service of the end, which is the print.  The print is in service of your voice, which is what you want to say, which is why you took the picture in the first place." -Vincent Versace
He takes really good photographs and has a wicked sense of humor.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2016, 06:25:43 pm by robertfields »
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Benny Profane

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #35 on: August 08, 2016, 10:00:04 am »

I'm confused about the photographs accompanying the essay. Are they the authors? Are they examples of this new photography being critiqued?
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hermankrieger

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #36 on: August 08, 2016, 01:05:17 pm »

When I  worked in photography in the 1940s, it was considered a trade or craft. When I returned to photography
after retiring in 1990, I was surprised to see it considered as an art form. I then got a BFA in photography. I still use a
black and white film camera, but now scan the negatives before treating them with Photoshop.
Photo Essays in Black and White-
www.efn.org/~hkrieger
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vartkes

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #37 on: August 08, 2016, 10:54:04 pm »

I find it is hard to understand, to put it politely, most photography I see hung at galleries in Southern Ontario. Most are technically unworthy of presentation. Content is often confused, complicated or simply unfocused or purposeless. What I don't get is that how commercial establishments that need to sell these photographs for a profit are surviving? What do the buying public, collectors see in these forgettable works?
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haplo602

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #38 on: August 09, 2016, 03:49:37 am »

Thanks for the article. Seems I am not the only one observing the trend.



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malcolmlightbody

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Re: A Disturbing Trend
« Reply #39 on: August 11, 2016, 09:25:48 am »

For a while I've been saying that the definition of modern art is any picture that requires 1,000 words to explain it.
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