Banal Photography - New Genre of Photography? A Debate.

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tom_kondrat, May 22, 2022.

  1. Norfolk-club.jpg

    This most banal of snapshots was prompted by the thought:
    Is the stairlift mainly there for the use of customers who are only legless when leaving the bar?

    The picture reminds me of that thought and still makes me smile.

    Maybe that same thought occurred to some of you before being explained, maybe not, but I hope it illustrates that even the most banal of pictures might have some obscure or hidden meaning, if only to the photographer.

    Perhaps it's like looking at someone else's family album, or pictures of their pets. Lack of emotional attachment completely alters one's perspective. Not to mention attention span.
    Some would compare that with the state of being drunk or under the influence of drugs - so I'm told.;)

    Apparently that was a state very familiar to William Eggleston.
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  2. “I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around: that nothing was more important or less important.” William Eggleston

    "If one thing matters, everything matters" Wolfgang Tillmans
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  3. Yes. And this suggests that knowing something about the photos, for instance the decade they were made, can help viewers see them more than one way: as they strike viewers in a contemporary world and mindset, and in relation to the era of the photos themselves …
    Leads me to the thought that photos can be more than one thing to the photographer and that they both are and are not what the photographer means and intends. Once presented, they take on a life of their own, birthed by the photographer, our imaginations guided by them or set free (or both) to varying degrees.
  4. It reminds me more of the practice of mindfulness.

    Being drunk definitely doesn't help with the state of heightened awareness (tried). Drugs have the ability to make your awareness over-heightened which can be an obstacle as well (also tried).
  5. Obviously there have been enough brilliant drunk and drug-influenced artists to suggest that your experience may not apply universally. Human experience of these kinds of things varies greatly.
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  6. The "ability" and "can be" already suggested that.
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  7. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire

    Ian Jeffrey (Photography - a Concise History, Thames & Hudson, 1981 - but I expect there's a newer edition than mine!) is the first art-photography book I bought. He refers to the same sort of visual joke as Rodeo Joe in talking about Eggleston. He refers to the photo of a brown dog drinking from a beige puddle, and says it seems the brightly-coloured dog is draining the landscape of colour. But he goes on in his next paragraph:
    'Mainly, though, the Guide has to do with picture-making rather than observation and metaphor. [ ... ]William Eggleston founds his pictures on sets of a few distinct hues clearly stated: green/red, red/blue. Whatever else is there connects with these dominant primaries. [ ...] In most cases a central motif or emblem pairs two primaries which are then mediated across the remainder of the picture.'
    He notes that Eggleston's pictures are mostly suburban, and suggests that the occurrence of colour is different in the city.
    So maybe you could write down a sort of recipe for it (or program an AI).
  8. Well, I find this thread inspiring and just went out and took 50-60 of the most mundane and banal photographs you could imagine, and I'm not done yet!
  9. No shortage of great examples for #banalography on twitter, facebook, tumblr...etc.
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  10. Banal photography should be a popular genre particularly when an art context is asserted. Why? I reckon because it is inherently failure proof. What possible negative criticisms could be leveled at it? Boring, dull, uninteresting, commonplace, ordinary, trite, superficial, shallow, unimaginative; no, they're not flaws in the genre but rather its virtues.
  11. I like the subject matter. But most of those photos are mere snapshots. Heaven forbid that a photograph be taken well.
  12. Not to me. I’m able to discern what’s a worthwhile, compelling, interesting, or moving photo and what’s not, in my opinion of course. Look at all the photos posted in this thread, both by members and by well-known photographers. I’ll bet many of us think some more compelling than others.
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  13. Sometimes a scene interest me because it is a banality.
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  14. There is an important documentary film on William Eggleston and his "banal photography" by Alan Yentob. It shows the aesthetics of the banal. What clearly emerges is that it is not only subjects, it is certainly how Eggleston handles colour. First he used the dye-transfer printing process, a sophisticated method yielding highly brilliant colours.

    Looking carefully, his compositions are never banal. They always base on a highly sophisticated composition, which clearly highlights the subject and the story behind it.

    The pictures that come to mind are
    • the orange trash bin
    • the shoes under the bed
    • the lady on the driveway
    • the drink next to the window plane
    • the oven
    • the red ceiling
    • the car in the backyard
    • the set dinner
    • the clouded sky
    • eating the sandwich against the red stripes
    • etc, etc.
    All outstanding.

    Stephen Shore has a different kind of aesthetics, even if "banal" may be associated with it as well.
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  15. I like this name. I feel it's more catchy and it feels fresh.
    What do you think guys? Does Banalography sound better than Banal Photography?

    As with any other genre of photography, I feel the composition, colors, shapes, light, etc. are still important. I would also argue that if the photograph is able to trigger some emotions of sadness/nostalgia/excitement/happiness/... than I believe it is more successful. And perhaps of those personal beliefs, I might disagree slightly with William Eggleston's approach in 'The Democratic Forest'. There are a lot of photographs there that, for me personally, are just not interesting. The other thing is, that it is impossible to say what is more compelling than other, as everyone being different and having different life experiences look at photographs from a distinct perspective.
  16. Sure. I suspect Eggleston would appreciate that. I doubt most good photographers would expect or want all their photos to appeal to everyone. Since, in many cases, the best photographers are defying given tastes and moving forward, they would expect and even embrace a certain amount of lack of appeal. It’s the photographers whose work immediately appeals to everyone that are likely to be trading in cliches and doing just the kind of work people already expect to like … the unintentionally banal.
  17. Eggleston's photos become more interesting as the years go by and we move away from that world. They are becoming nostalgic.
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  18. I agree. Some of the things that might be considered mundane in his day, are now part of a different era. Not totally, but maybe just the feeling of a time and place, thus maybe more unusual.
  19. Is there an irony here? If the thrust of the work was “democracy” and the everyday, what does it say to now consider them more interesting because of their nostalgia or unusualness over time? It’s almost as if they are being remade or reinterpreted into what Eggleston was moving beyond.
  20. That's just the passing of time giving them historical interest/significance. Take the most mundane of Victorian snapshots, and its contents are usually quite fascinating.

    One aspect of almost any photograph is that it matures like a good wine or cheese. Which other artforms rarely do.

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