Banal Photography - New Genre of Photography? A Debate.

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

  1. Those born later will simply have nostalgia for things common to their time- when ever that is/was. Chik Fil A, or whatever.

    Same as we older ones have nostalgia for things we knew in our own youth. Cultural trends or other unforeseeable metrics could figure into the equation- so IMO there remains a bit of a wild card aspect to it but one thing is certain and that is that nostalgia always sells.
    IPSfoto likes this.
  2. No. Have a look at facebook, instgram, etc. and you will see that the intent of all those users is to show through a.o. their pictures how 'unbanal' they and what they do are. Banality is to be found there, for sure. In heaps. But as a result that is diametrically opposed to their intentions. And that opposite intention is what banal photography is about: to stop making more of things than what they are. To stop ignoring things because we see no way of making more of them than what they are. To stop creating a record of only those things in our lives we find nice, glamourous even, at the cost of those things that are often much more important to us in our daily lives. The kitchen sink (look up John Bratby). A toilet bowl. Your bed. The tap/faucet your garden hose feeds off. Et cetera.
    'Creatively' is again putting focus on making things to be something else than what we recognize and appreciate them as and for.
    tom_kondrat likes this.
  3. Agreed. I even have nostalgia for things before my lifetime. I get nostalgic watching WWII movies or Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald performances from before my time. I think nostalgia is something that can be passed on through generations. And there's a fine line between nostalgia and romanticism. WWII is often romanticized through nostalgia by Hollywood, whereas a more "realist" approach to it, such as Saving Private Ryan, dwells on some of the more painful and less "glorified" aspects of the times. Like photography itself, nostalgia is, in part, determined as much by what it leaves out as by what is there. Banal photography, on the other hand, at least feels like it presents more of what is in a bit less filtered way.
  4. Both nostalgia and romanticism (the first is a subspecies of the second. A longing for something that is not here and now) are opposed to banal.
  5. What your good paper lacks is recognition of the fact that this isn't a movement in art that originated in photography, or in the 1970s, but was a school in painting and drama, originating roughly (it was first recognised as such then) in the 1950s. Art critic David Sylvester published an article about it in 1954, titled "The kitchen sink". True, however, that in those other fields of art, the intention leaned towards commenting on the banality of life, as in being bored, fed up, angry even. But that mostly in literature and drama.
    An even earlier example in literature is the 1947 novel "De avonden" by Gerard Reve.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2022
  6. To continue: that sentiment arose from disappointment. Disappointment that the promise of a new age (since the fin de siècle and early 20th century) ended in a war "to end all wars", which only led to another one. Disappointment in how life appeared to return to 'normal' yet again, without any of a better world in sight. The reaction was rebellious, both voicing how unwilling the post war generation was to accept things to remain as they had been, and how banal that 'normalcy' is. A 'look at it, do you expect us to accept that?' type of thing. But also a recognition of how far ideals were/are removed from reality, and the realisation that there was much 'banality' you could not escape. Such is life. Many of the ideals were subject to an Umwertung and were rejected, and 'small things' were valued more. If humankind could not create an ideal world, maybe individuals, in small communities, could. No more thinking Big, pushing worthless ideals. But thinking small and doing what you need to do using those means you have. A kitchen sink means nothing to those who design Brave New Worlds. But is at the center of our actual, here and now, lives.

    So presenting this genre as something that arose, from nothing, in the 70s, is missing quite a lot of relevant background.
  7. OT w.r.t. 'banal photography' but perhaps relevant to nostalgia, romanticism and disappointment.

    One of the (many) exhibitions at an upcoming local photo festival is "Hellish Eden" by Hungarian photography student Franciska Legát. Based on talks with her family, she exhibits 'staged photos' of life under the communist regime of Hungary in the 1970s and 80s. Fictional situations that could have happened but didn't.

    What I find interesting is her (and her parents' ?) mixed feelings about that period.
    Franciska Legát - BredaPhoto
  8. It dawned on me that what Eggleston (in particular) did wasnt based in nostalgia, and I, in afterthought, don't believe that the genre (or subgenera) of "banal photography" is or was driven by it. Eggelston captured things and placves that happen to hit home to me personally- but his work clearly has a universal appeal.
  9. No, neither Eggleston nor Kitchen Sink photography (i prefer that over present day constructions like "banalography") were inspired or driven by nostalgia.

    It is said of Eggleston that he borrowed from Photorealism. I don't know if that is correct. But also not that it would not be. Photorealism had its own motivation, reacting to abstract expressionism. And to the booming image culture, with photos (imagery in general) becoming too overwhelmingly present in all media, deflating the value of the image as such. (Pop art made ridicule of the imagery. Not something Photorealists appreciated.)
    And it is true that Photorealism, in their attempt to rescue the value of the (painted) image, produced images of rather banal things. But did Eggleston borrow from them? I don't know.
    And it's not his main 'selling point'. Eggleston broke the rule that Black and White was for Art and other serious types of Photography, colour photography for holiday snaps. He crossed the border, wiped it off the map, between serious and banal photography with that alone.
    But then, we all know Ansel Adams. And yes, we all know his B&W work. But his colour work is less known. Despite Eggleston. It lasted till Martin Parr, who finally landed colour in 'serious' (Magnum, right? Can't be more serious than that) photojournalism.

    And Martin Parr too is an example of turning away from using photography to idealise either the subject matter, or the process, or the photographer, but instead of showing ordinary people and the ordinary things that they get up to. Banal. Echoes of Eggleston, perhaps?
    Is he, Parr, in your paper, Tom? I forget.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
  10. Please google 'kitchen sink photography' and let me know what results you got :)
    Is there any research that prove the connection between the British art style called the 'kitchen sink painting' and William Eggleston's photographs (or others like Takuma Nakahira). I did not find any connection like this in my research.
    Where did you hear about Eggleston (or other photographers) borrowing from photorealism?
    William Eggleston took black and white, banal photographs in 1950s. Not sure why colour should be automatically connected to banal.
    'In 1982 Parr and his wife moved to Wallasey, England, and he switched permanently to colour photography, inspired by the work of US colour photographers, mostly Joel Meyerowitz, but also William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, and also the British Peter Fraser and Peter Mitchell.' I think there were few 'serious', colour photographers before Parr.
    Also I think Martin Parr's work is documentary or photojournalism photography.

    Regarding nostalgia - I feel it is highly personal, hence not an objective part of banal. For one person a picture would feel nostalgic, for other not.
  11. Maybe Eggleston was just lazy. He couldn't get up early to catch amazing rising light or find interesting-looking places to photograph. So he shot during the day whatever was around. I think we often give amazing credentials to people who are just fairly ordinary as Eggleston. Like his photos.
  12. Re Kitchen Sink Photography: this is exactly the weak point of your paper. You think you identified a new genre in art, and are told that is neither new nor specifically photographic, told how it links in to sociocultural and art movements in the last century, and reply by moaning about how you cannot find anything using Google (the Definitive Truth about Everything). Just take in what you are told. See how this is neither new nor confined to photography. Start seeing.

    The rest i will answer in due course. Or not. Let's see.
  13. I think you might have misunderstood what I meant. When you google 'kitchen sink photography', you get commercial pictures of ... kitchen sinks. Not the best name for a photography genre imho.
    There is no reason to be rude. I was curious if you read any articles that would confirm the connection between 'kitchen sink painting' and Eggleston's or Nakahira's work. I could always update the paper but I need to base it on something.
    I did find that Takuma Nakahira was inspired by Nouveau roman writers, especially Le Clézio. As Eggleston started in 1950s with banalities, it was difficult to see the connection there though.
  14. O.k. I apologize.
    But the thing to do is to look at art, including but not restricted to photography. And to look at history. And to combine the two, and look at art history. Then you will see how things fit in (or are something new).
    Yes, Kitchen Sink Photography is not a term in use. Banalography isn't either. And if we would need a term, i much prefer a term that at least links this genre to its kin in art history.
  15. I think it’s less a matter of connecting color to banal and more a matter of connecting color to Eggleston, since his color work and the color processes he developed were such a key move in photography.

    Also, I think black and white, for a variety of reasons, has among many audiences more of an authoritative sense of photography as art. Not a stance I myself take. And so I do think whatever it was that Eggleston was after started really coming together when he advanced it in color, because color could play with that kind of everyday seeing in a way black and white might have been wanting because of its established tradition of what people expected photographs to be. I think the depth, richness, and personality of color with which Eggleston imbued his content is integral to those photographs and serves as expressive comment on whatever banality might be found.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022
  16. And connecting banal colour to Eggleston, together with what you say about that 'sense of authority' illustrates the importance of Eggleston re colour. Our everday lives were and are lived 'in colour' and not using it is indeed a way of making something more of something than it actually is. So yes, i agree.
    I do not agree with you about that depth and richness thing. That was more a bit of a hobby he indulged in that rather took away from what he 'achieved' than added to it.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022

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