Bored by Photography

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by bobatkins, May 26, 2003.

  1. There's a wonderful link posted by Robert Johnson deep in another thread that I think deserves more exposure, so I'm giving it more exposure!,11710,963891,00. html
    From The Guardian (UK)
    I can't face it. I'm not going
    We tried to get Jonathan Jones to go to an exhibition of the world's most wonderful photographs. Here he explains why it is his idea of a nightmare
    ...To be bored in advance seems rude. But recently I've had to admit something to myself. I find photography in art galleries, framed and hung on the wall, almost entirely unrewarding. It was never my favourite, but I always thought it was, you know, modern and progressive, something to be taken seriously. The rot set in while looking at an exhibition of classic photographs of New York at the city's Jewish Museum. Here was a great Weegee image of people at the beach at Coney Island in the 1940s. A wonderful picture that I first saw in a magazine or somewhere years ago, and always loved. Here it was, a silvery print, on the wall. It was disappointing...
  2. Jones begins with an interesting premise: Photography has little merit apart from context, that context best being a document of the times, generally being photojournalism. Unfortunately his premise drifts a bit as ennui sets in.

    Still, I tend to agree more than disagree. I admire painting enough that I've tried my hand at it, seldom successfully. Creating one's own images without the constraints that some photographers like to place upon their craft is liberating.

    While other artistic expressions have grown beyond self-imposed contraints, photographers seem to revel in limiting themselves. There is no photograph so secure in its own merit that it cannot be assailed by zonie nerds ("Lacking shadow detail!" "Blown highlights!") or white-robed purists ("Screams PHOTOSHOPPED!").

    There was a time when new painters were assaulted for trying something new. Now they're more likely to be dismissed for being derivative. Yet photographers take great pains to be derivative. The state of the art is bankrupt for lack of currency.
  3. I enjoyed the article and felt there is a good deal of truth in it. As a piece of writing it succeeds well because Jones manages to retain his tone all the way through, without it degenerating into a rant. The argument is not crystal clear everywhere, but it's only a newspaper article after all. It will not alter my approach to photography.
  4. There is a book 'David Hockney in photography' (or with a similar title which I cannot remember for sure) where David Hockney himself, perhaps the greatest living painter in the tradition of Picasso, explains his views on art and photography and relations between them. The book is illustrated by many paintings and photographs made by Hockney. In short Hockney's views are similar to that presented in the above article. Highly recommended reading.
  5. Thanks for pointing that article out, Bob. The Guardian is often the home of poseurs and nitpickers but this article is only too accurate.

    Funnily enough, I just discovered that my local library is running a photo exhibition by the grandly named 'West of England Photographers' or something like that. All the photographs were perfectly exposed, beautifully printed and, in the mass, dead boring.

    I've always thought that photography is at its best when it illustrates something and its natural home is on the printed page (or these days, the web) as part of a written article or when it's in a family album or on a book cover. In other words when it's doing something rather than sitting in a frame expecting to be admired.
  6. I've enjoyed the article. It's good that there are still people able to speak up for real things, for instance painting and sculpture.
  7. I am finding that one of the most educational things one can do is sort through someone's old photos, deciding which are keepers and which are losers. This is what I have been doing recently with my father's old photos (colour slides and black-and-white) from the 50s and 60s (I'm gradually putting a few up on this site for those interested). Some were thrown out without a second glance. The first to go were all those animal photos taken with a telephoto lens. Next went all those flower closeups. We see so much of that stuff done so well that such photos have to be exceptional to be of interest once the memory of the particular outing has faded. Next went a large number of holiday photos. A few were kept if they a/ included an interesting portrait of a family member or b/ reflected their times in an interesting way. The ones we instantly decided to keep fell mainly into two categories a/ a few informal family portraits that we all agreed were particularly successful b/ a group that fell within the rough category of photojournalism or historical record. I intend to have fairly large prints made and put them in an album (I love the fact that one can now get enlargements from slides relatively cheaply, especially since I much prefer to look at an A4 than at a 10x15 cm print, and who has time for slide shows?). Not one would I frame and put on my wall.

    It is partly for this reason that I am suspicious of the current cry to simplify! simplify! ones composition as if that will finally create photography as art that will last far into the future, because what interests me so often in these old photos is context, and all that stuff going on in the background. I can't help thinking of some puzzled person in the future looking through someone's slides of closeups of perfectly focussed vegetables and feathers (on tasteful black backgrounds), and landscapes featuring a dark blue sky, turquoise sea, no more than one palm tree and one perfectly placed, but totally anonymous, boat.
  8. I could say the same thing about much current painting and
    sculpture - and also about music. Eighty-five percent of what I
    see and hear just doesn't move me. It's not the medium that's at
    fault, it's just that it's all so formalised. It amazes me that many
    of my students in their mid to late teens are into such as Pink
    Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Captain Beefheart. This suggests that
    much of what is currently available musically doesn't fire them up

    Finally it's all down to content and no amount of academic
    critique can give significance to the thoroughly tedious. For me
    the power of photography lies in its literalness and its
    documentary capabilities. I use it as a diary. It's a form of
    collecting and I accept the futility of collecting since one cannot
    collect everything. but it's a record of my own particular
  9. If Jones' take is correct, then Toronto is in the arms of a month-long nightmare. Each May there's a city-wide(OK, make that downtown-wide)exhibition scattered across dozens of venues.It's fitfully successful.Some venues are painfully unflattering, thanks to bad light, short hours, poor display, no parking, etc. It's work to see much of it and much of it isn't worth the trouble. What I admire is the collective delusion that it matters enough to many photographers and non-gallery going types to provide prints and eyeballs in sufficient numbers to keep the sponsors interested.Far more deadening is the ocean of schlock online(see Sarah Boxer's "Prospecting for Gold Among the Photo Blogs" NYT May 25, 2003).
  10. Thanks for posting this link. On first reading I was struck by the "Bored by yet more empty, posturing pseudo intellectual claptrap" feeling. But to be fair, it was entertaining and well put together in a journalese style, so I gave it another run through and on reflection... I concluded my first impressions were spot on.

    BUT, he struck one chord, the feeling of tedious despair that sometimes overwhelms me when I take a look at sites like photosig. The sheer volume of competent but largely uninspired photo after photo is almost enough to put you off the hobby altogether....then I come across an absolute stunner of a shot and the faith is restored.

    I've no doubt that if fine art paintings and sculpture were churned out at the rate photos are, the senses would be quickly dulled.

    Perhaps the moral is that while you can have too much of a good thing, you can much more easily have a surfeit of a mediocre thing...


  11. I think that Jones is correct; I, too am bothered by photography that tries hard that tries hard to be art.<p>What bothers me is a sort of anti-photography position that is frightfully prevalent among European art critics. Have you ever met someone who stoutly denies the artistic value of photography on the grounds that either the influence of the artist's hand is lacking or that it's a commodity, a utility? Try to find an intellectual in Europe who asserts that photography is art and you'll find a guy who poses as a proponent of an "art must be democratic!" position. (And if he thinks he's at the cutting edge of postmodern art theory he's correct.) In other words, being "pro-photographic" is a sort of pose. In turn, it makes being "anti-photographic" a pose, too.<p>All theories why photography is or isn't art are void, given what art was: a craft. To be precise, art as such didn't exist for a long time. The painters of Lascaux probably didn't intend to make art. The sculptors and painters who decorated the pharaos' graves certainly didn't intend to make art. Neither did the architects who built Angkor Wat. Bach's contracts included the number of music pieces (sonates, fugues,...) he had to deliver per week. Could it be that the idea of art as something non-useful is rather recent? That this idea of art being beyond the realm of the quantifiable gave birth to the idea of art being elitist by principle?<p>I happily assert I'm no artist because I prefer my photographs to be of use, and be it only that someone enjoys looking at them. I like the recent threads on art and photography--but let's not forget that photography itself is often fun. As at least 75 per cent of all Photo.netters are amateurs, why would most of us engage in it otherwise?
  12. Malraux once asked if we can only value art after we have first robbed it of its proper content and function and “buried” it in a museum? It’s a bit of a joke, of course, but it’s something that really makes me think. If art belongs to the ‘human environment’, why is our primary (and sometimes only) confrontation with it in the cold abstraction of art galleries and dinner parties generally removed (culturally and otherwise) from the realities of day to day life and the world that gave birth to a large part of photography as an art form to begin with. There’s something frightfully odd about viewing Weegee inside the sparkling façade typical New York galleries offer, no? I can understand the boredom (or at least the schizophrenia) of most (though not all) big-name museums, simply because the content is so often divorced from any trace of the realities that gave these images (paintings, whatever) birth. Something more immerse (and there are some galleries who have done this well) adds not just to the experience but the ability to truly appreciate the content and context of the items on display.

    [The paraphrase above is from A. Malreaux, La métamorphose des dieux, Paris 1957, if anyone is interested in it.]
  13. Photography is to Art what Journalism is to Literature.
  14. In some way's I'm kinda sick and tired of the elitism art gets in the modern era. It's not art it's vanity pure and simple most of the time. It's oh look I can paint or photograph this nifty pointless still-life. Art has to have a purpose other than it's own existance I'd say. Most of cubism just seems like an experiment in preparation for Guernica. The atmosphere of a gallery seems to be one of those environments that meshes perfectly with the elitist art simplification theme. It's sterile, completely devoid of all life. It is a house that one looks at and says "This is a place meant to be shown off, not a place where people live."

    Am I the only one who thinks sterility is butt ugly anymore?!
  15. I know that feeling too. I do not get it from photosig though; I get it from visiting modern art museums such as MOMA or the Guggenheim in New York. To be fair I found most of the exhibits in the Institute of Photography (also in New York) equally tedious.

    I find most modern art to be a struggle between pretentiousness and political correctness. Talent seems to lose out and everyone is too scared to admit that the emperor has no clothes lest they be accused of not getting it. I am not sure if photography is to blame for modernism though, perhaps it was the impressionists that started painting down that path.

    My favorite art museum in New York is the Frick Collection, the former private collection of a Steel Baron with exceptional taste. BTW The most modern piece of art in his collection is a Monet (just the one though).
  16. I see the point but I disagree on the fundamentals.
    Photography, as much as anything, can be art. Confining the realm of "high art" to autographic processes (painting, etc.) is pure intellectual snubbery.
    Now, I have to agree that I find it very hard to find photographs that can actually rival, in my own appreciation, paintings from, say, Tom Thompson. But that dosen't mean it can't and will never be. It just means that there are fewer people in existence or history that have produced works that tickle me the right way. Going to see a roomful of Weegees has about the same attraction to me as going to see a roomful of sixteenth-century religious art; I would go as a historical reference, but I don't expect to be moved.
    I think photography still has room to evolve. I suppose the same can be said of painting, but I tend to look at contemporary photography for interesting works, whereas I find that the best paintings are hanging in museums.
  17. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I find most modern art to be a struggle between pretentiousness and political correctness.
    I find gross characterizations of modern art to be meaningless, especially when they are just gross characterizations and provide absolutely no other information.
    Art is fairly complex and requires more than just a surface look. The negative comments here about modern art (and elsewhere on seem to carry that "surface look" to an extreme. It's a rant that has been going on for centuries, somewhat pointlessly, it's worth noting.
  18. I find it easier to think about art when I don't think about 'art'.

    What I mean by that (you're forgiven for asking) is that the word 'art', alone, is useless. This is primarily because it's one of those words that's been so utterly overused in such a miriad of contexts and applications that its meaning has become diluted to the point of worthlessness. By extention, the pursuit of art in photography (or any genre, for that matter), is equally worthless. How can your goal be the undefinable?

    The logical (and ultimately much more satisfying) reaction to such reasoning is to forget about 'art' altogether and define your photographic goals in other ways and using other words. Whatever those goals may be.

    If someone should call the result of my photography art, that's nice, I suppose, but I'm honestly left none the wiser. If someone (even if I'm the only someone) expresses admiration, affinity, or even honest distaste for it, that's much more important and meaningful.
  19. I agree with most of the above postings regarding art. Art is a hypothetical construct, proposed mainly by collectors and dealers as a way of establishing value for the purpose of making a profit. I believe that what actually happens is that humans are creative by nature, and many of us simply create with the medium we enjoy the most. We create because its in our nature to do so. Its not art, its expression. Art is the lable attached later by other individuals who need to put value on such expressions of human creativity. Photography is one such medium of expression.
  20. Harvey Platter wrote"it;s home(photography) is on the printed page!I agree ,with exceptions.Even on the printed page Photography can be considered art.A good photo does not have to be in a frame,hanging on a wall to be an exibit.Many sculptures in museums (art) were originally in gardens;in other words the venue does not make art!
    Photography has become the art of the masses;is this such as bad thing?Photography due to its volume has possibly created every artistic thought ever made by man either by mistake or decision & we see it every day.Just how many paintings or sculptures do you see in a day?Maybe we are just overwelmed by too much ( photographic)art?
  21. Art is about relevance. If J.Jones is not moved by these photos this doesn't mean much for another one who is...I personally like photos and I am not afraid to get bored by the boring ones and excited by the good ones.
  22. Inarguably some photography is art in the sense that it is a greater whole skillfully created from lesser parts. Experience, consideration for composition, evaluation of light, knowledge of exposure, etc., all preceed pressing the shutter release.

    Beyond that is processing and printing and that entails. Whether done in the traditional wet darkroom or digitally if it is done skillfully it is legitimate. In that sense photography also assumes that other definition of art: artifice. But we generally accept a certain amount of artifice, differing mainly in degree.

    But the problem with photography as compared with other arts is that sometimes we just get lucky. Sometimes all the elements come together and all we have to do is snap the shutter. Sure, it helps to have enough experience to recognize that opporunity. But we've all seen excellent photographs taken by inexperienced photographers.

    It is this element of pure chance, recognized by anyone who has ever picked up a camera, that introduces that nagging doubt about the artistry involved in photography.

    Does a painter or sculptor ever just stumble across an excellent painting or sculpture? Oh, an idea or inspiration, sure. But the work itself? Never. Every single piece requires skillful execution to make it happen. There is no equivalent in the other arts to simply being there when the light is perfect and snapping the shutter. I may happen to find a piece of buried rock in the shape of the Pieta, but that doesn't make me Michelangelo.

    And that's why we will always have to accept the nagging doubts about photography as a fine art form. Only the very few can appreciate the skill and inspiration that goes into *making* a photograph as opposing to *taking* a photograph. Fewer still can tell the difference.
  23. In light of some other discussions going on, I find this one particularly interesting...

    I must agree with a lot that has been said here... let's face it, there is a lot of photography out there that is both uninspired and uninteresting. There is a lot of work that is boring because the photographer is bored with the subject. I have run into an awful lot of photographers who are trying to create "art." You can see it in the work- and I look at a lot of work.

    For a lot of reasons, photography does not work very well on the wall- it's natural venue is the book, or as said earlier, the printed page. Photography is an intimate expression- it is one photographer and one viewer. If the "purpose" of art is to interpret the world around us and present that interpretation to others, then art has certainly lost it's way. Art has become self-reflexive and the more self-reflexive it becomes, the more irrelevent it becomes.

    Photography is one of two forms of expression that is the closest to us. The other is writing. And this is really the natural relationship-photography and writing, not photogrpahy and art. At some level, the author tells us who we are and at some level the photographer shows us.

    I have a friend who is a middle school teacher (8th grade language arts and social studies). In her classroom is a little sign that says if you want what what you write to be interesting, first you have to be interested. I think this speaks volumes for photography.
  24. At the risk of being labeled pedestrian, I would suggest that the author of the article has forgotten how to enjoy art altogether---a symptom not uncommon among those educated to appreciate art, including many artists, it seems, and most critics. He is, in short, guilty of that same elitism of which he accuses the snobbish among photographers. He may well be on point in some respects; but I doubt he appreciates the irony of the context within which he expresses his observations. I don't doubt that he is bored, but I gather even he doesn't realize why.
  25. "In the end, photographs don't deliver more than information - here's something grotesque, here's something funny, here's something austerely impressive. The mysterious and utopian possibilities of Picasso or Pollock are nowhere to be found as you walk through a photography exhibition."

    In my humble opinion, between these two provocative assertions from the article, that summarize it, there is an ocean in the middle.

    Let's not loose sight that not at every paint exhibition you find Pollocks or Picassos. And there are a lot of good photographs that deliver more than information, including fine art.

    I do agree that Painting and Photography do not stand on an equal footing. And the invention of Photography was very much the cause of it. But precisely here is the challenge of Photography, and of Painting, and of Mankind - crossing the limits.

    On the other hand Photography is performed by the millions. You can see it as a vulgarized deformation of Art, or, on the contrary, a "democratic" linkage. For me, a good pic is still a good pic.
  26. I didn’t think you thought gross generalizations useful Jeff. In any case I have to disagree with this one. Paintings (which I think is what we have been comparing to photographs), are two dimensional representations normally intended to hang on walls so people can give them a surface look. Art museums often like to give us some background information of course and this can be interesting.

    Anything that needs a tedious explanation to understand (care to explain the meaning of a blank white canvas or Mondrain colored squares) is probably not worth my time. Picasso's work never really excited me either though it is much more interesting than a blank canvas I suppose. I know someone who can do a pretty convincing Pollack BTW. Not sure if that makes them a great artist though.

    Another interesting "art work" I saw at MOMA was an Ordinance Survey map of Dartmoor with a line drawn across the moor. A nice map but I am still not sure why it was hanging in MOMA.
  27. My wife and I are art collectors - mostly paintings, also some intaglio or stone-plate lithographs, and some ceramic, wood or fabric works. But we've never bought a photograph.
    My wife is eager to buy some photographs. She favors large landscape works. We saw some nice silver gelatin prints that were about 3x4 feet at a gallery over the weekend. I, the photographer in the family, haven't quit been able to convince myself to buy. I think chiefly this is because the cost-to-uniqueness ratio seems high. True, the lithos in our collection are not unique, either - but they're not very expensive - Maybe the most expensive one was $600 and most were a bit less. And they were made at the turn of the last century so you know that no more will be made. The photograph we saw was around $1000 and there's no telling how unique it will turn out to be.
    But the photographs have a bigger "uniqueness" problem than just mechanical copies being churned out. ALL photographs look the same! At least compared to paintings. Sure, I know every photographer has his own style, his own preferred subjects and lighting and framing. Anyone can tell a photo by Cindy Sherman from one by Helmut Newton. But the physical photos look relatively the same. It's like watching movies - every director and cinematographer is unique but the SCREEN and PROJECTOR are the same.
    Not so with paintings. I can tell the works of many painters apart upside down in very poor light. Some painters paint impasto, some painters paint with knives, some use lots of thinner. Some paint on canvas, some on linen, some on panel. Some use ultra-fine 000 brushes, some throw paint from 6 feet away. There is a HUGE range of textures and brushwork and even SMELLS to paintings.
    My wife and I spent the weekend gallery-hopping so here's a test (we did this). Go to some galleries that sell works of several artists. Go to a painting gallery and a photography one. When you walk in the door before examining anything, glance for a second and see if you can tell where the work of one artist ends and another begins. In the painting gallery you can easily tell in that short glance because paintings by different painters look so different. In the photography one you probably can't tell unless you look at the individual photos.
  28. What a ridiculous notion - all photographs 'look' the same - look closer man
    That was exactly my POINT (and that of the test I proposed). You HAVE to look closer than you do with paintings. Photographs have fewer degrees of freedom than painting which is one reason they are more boring.
    Let's face it - go to any major city where there are a few dozen or a few hundred art galleries and see how many of them feature mainly photos compared to how many feature mainly paintings. The public basically agrees with the guy from the Guardian.
    Sure, photos feature differences in composition, style, abstraction, subject and lighting. So do paintings, but imagine how boring paintings would be if all artists just used watercolors.
  29. Thank you, Bob, for posting this article. There was a time when I enjoyed framing photographs -- either my own or someone else's but I no longer enjoy this. I agree that the strength of the photograph is that it is possible to make and view many of them and then see what resonates and then hold on to those. I enjoy seeing many photographs and from time to time I see one I want to see over and over again. Those photographs are rare and important to me. But I don't want to treat a photo like a great oil painting.
  30. Let's try another approach to this problem- I look at a lot of work and so much of it is so similar- similar limited subjects, similar approaches, similar overall look- The work looks like the guy's down the hall or the girl's across the street- this is what they see, so it's what they photograph. It is done with a great deal of technical merit but without the passion that comes through when someone is truely interested in what they are shooting.

    The issue is not the photograph itself- the issue is what the photograph shows us. The issue is how the 10 or 17 or 22 photographs link together to present a fuller view of the subject. I still see plenty of portfolios that are simply a collection of prints with nothing linking them.

    We need to photograph what we are interested in. Photographing simply to photograph or because we think we are creating art is the visual equal of verb conjugation exercises. They can be technically perfect, and we can learn a lot, but they have little to offer a reader.

    Photographers have to photograph what they are interested in. We photograph because we are interested in the subject, not because we are interested in photography- the photography is only the vehicle.

    If you find yourself talking more about the qualities of the print than the qualities of the subject, it's time to re-evaluate.
  31. Art is in the air, the wood floors you're walking on, the beautiful sunsets you wake up to see, and art is your neighbor next door. As long as art has existed, its tried to capture the essence of being, whether it may be the misery of lonelyness or the peace one may feel walking through thick fog covering rolling green hills. Life is art. Whether it is the pure emotion of a dream or the simple beauty of a still lake, the scences of life which are most arresting have been recorded by artists nearly as far as history can reach. Whether an artist is using a paintbrush or camera, the artist is still only making a record and it is what he is making a record of that is art. Artist are simply attuned to the more artistic moments in life, which is what starts to separate painting and photography. The painter want to record life, and life heavily involves emotion, so the painter who can portray emotion in his art will be succesfull. The ones who can't simply never make it as artist. However every photograph records the art of life, capturing every detail of the emotion and the surroundings. Joy is captured in almost every photographic art piece produced; the smiling vaction photos, the smiling prom picture, the smiling family photo, even the cute pictures of kittens batting yarn. The problem is these art pieces depict the art of life in its most common mundane form. The photographer who crosses the line to become an artist simply depicts the art of life in its more rare and emotionly deep times.

    Art is life and the good artist is simply able to pick out the masterpieces in life, the medium he record it in has no matter.
  32. Be it photography, painting or sculptures, all it really boils down to is if you like it enough to hang over a crack in your wall or to be put on that empty shelve in your bookcase. (don't even get me started on (classical) music and poetry!) Call it naivity of youth, but I cringe when I hear any work being described as "important". While I can see the skill invloved in Rembrandt's "nightwatch", I just don't see why a silly painting of a bunch of flowers deserves it's own museum.
    Don't get me wrong, there are many beautiful or interesting photographs, paintings and sculptures out there. Some make me take a second look, some make me smile and some make me think: "That is really cool/clever" but all too often I get the feeling these snobs just clan together and make themselves believe they see something/feel that's just not there simply to feel superior to "non-apreciators".
  33. Here's an interesting quote from Helen Vendler's "Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology" that I think is relevant to this discussion. I think you could fairly substitute "photograph" for "poem" and "photographer" for "poet":

    "Life itself is a continuation of successive moments in one stream. Art interrupts the stream and constructs one segment or level of the stream for processing. In a single act, it describes, analyzes, and confers form on that segment. The form it confers by its ways of organizing the poem makes visible the contour of that life-moment as the poet perceives it. The poet discovers the emotional import of that life-moment by subjecting it to analysis; the analysis then determines how the moment is described, and the invented organizational form that replicates it…
    Just as an archaeologist studies ruins, while the rest of us simply walk through Pompeii not understanding much of what we see, a student of poetry becomes more than simply a reader.
    You become more like a conductor who studies the musical score before conducting the piece in performance...Through we almost always respond first to the quickly sensed "message" of a poem, the reason for our response (even if we do not at first know this) is the arrangement of the message (on many intersecting planes) into a striking and moving form. To give a poem its due as a work of art, we need to be able to see it as an arranged message."
  34. I did read the article - my wife passed it to me - and it did ring a bell, especially when Jon Jones reduced photography to a means of communication.

    Personally, I see photography as the perfect symbiosis between art and science, materialism and getting in touch with nature, and lots other seemingly diametrical conflicts which confront us daily.

    However, who can say the same thing about their telephone or car? Or a painting even?
  35. don't you think that photographs that all look the same is a problem with galleries? In my point of view, too many galleries (photographic, at least) seem to have a very narrow view of what type of photos they will accept. one gallery only does "street", another only landscape, etc., etc..
  36. In 19th century France the hierarchy of painting had landscapes at the bottom, the
    theory being that the artist only copied what they saw.
  37. For a little different take on this whole thing, try this:

    I would have posted it here, but it's fairly long.
  38. An interesting read but as usual we are blinded by words and ignore the statistical implications. How many photographers are there in the world who consider themselves artists ,a million ,ten million;how many could possibly be hung in such a gallery, half a million? We are comparing these self designated artists with a handful of painters who we considered to be outstanding artists. Of course the odds are that much of the work of these photographers will be boring.
  39. Peter Nelson, what are your views on literature given that writers
    from a certain culture will write in the same language? Are
    books boring?

    To me, a lot of painting looks the same. There are fundamental
    elements that define a painting as a painting. Um... use of paint,
    for instance. To the poster who didn't "get" the blank canvases, I
    believe the artist was reducing painting to its purest form, to its
    essential element, in order to allow future painters to redefine
    the art (actually, it may have been Rodchenko, who was also a
    famous photographer).
  40. Yep. A lot of paintings also look the same, as photography, as literature as cinema.

    I think it's the feeling of 'all was already invented' that we feel when someone points a sort of art as boring. I was thinking specially about cinema, that in 1920's already has the same language and aesthetical issues that we use today. So, 80 years and we can't make anything really different.

    But that is the way it is. Don't care that much about it.
  41. It wouldn't hurt to reconsider the old saw "I don't know what's 'art' but I know what I like."

    This is normally quoted in a disparaging manner to put down some "plebeian" who doesn't care for the latest fad, but think, don't we all have a favorite color, flavor, texture? Is one better than the rest, or are our brains just somehow hardwired, our entire experiences ordered to say "that's it, that's the one!" I think that art appreciation is as intensely personal to each of us as is faith, and that it's on a level as basic .

    If your idea of "art" is da Vinci, Breugel, Picasso, Weston, or Norman Rockwell, so be it, and I'm happy for ya! If you have to give it names like "high modernist", "Baroque", that's fine, we might need a frame of reference. If you want to point out that one artist appears to be derivative of another, or that the subject matter has been done in a different style, and that the viewer might want to make his/her own comparisons, well, that seems like a neighborly thing to do.

    If you imagine that your own tastes are innately superior, that any one in disagreement is less intelligent, educated, tasteful, moral, "sensible" etc., then you might want to consider an adventure into performance art.
  42. I think many have missed the point the author makes, which is that photography needs to be immediate and accessible, rather than framed and 'museumed'. I agree with his main points. Too much pretense in photography, with the self-serving term 'fine-art photography' the first indication of 'hackicity'. When I see that term used, I know I'm going to see a time exposures of water running over rocks.

  43. To return to a quote from the article in The Guardian that initiated this discussion thread: "...I find photography in art galleries, framed and hung on the wall, almost entirely unrewarding...."
    I've visited a number of shows at major venues for "avant guarde" work in photography, such as the Hirschorn and Corcoran meseums in Washington DC, and find myself in agreement with the writer's statement. The work shown at these museums was meant to be controversial and non-traditional. Unfortunately, unless one is somehow closely "plugged-in" to those groups that emerge to define and dominate contemporary trends in art and photography, the intent of the work on display will be totally baffling as to the photographer's artistic intent and as to whether that intent has been successfully realized in the work that is being shown. That is why I feel that forums such as offer the potential of being a more successful venue for presenting new work to an interested community, a much better venue than that offered by the established brick and mortar galleries and museums. Another advantage of online exhibits over conventional museums is that online exhibits such as do not depend on government grants to fund their operations.

    Politicians with conservative agendas have used the threat of denial of Federal funds that support certain museums as a weapon to try to control the content of these museum's exhibits. This type of threat cannot be used against online displays in virtual galleries, as government support is not a factor in sustaining online operations. My last point goes back to the issue of being "bored" by "an exhibition of classic photographs of New York at the city's Jewish Museum. " Perhaps the Jewish Museum chose to exhibit classic photographs, rather than newer more controversial work, in part because such controversial work might antagonize the Museum's patrons and engender a drop off in financial support to the Museum?
  44. Doesn't this remind you of something that would have been written by Hunter Thompson from a motel room in Las Vegas in lieu of actually attending an assigned event? Photography is a form of folk art not approached by any other visual medium in its accessibility. In this regard, it is truly fascinating. If there is a problem with the exhibition, it is not the fault of photography, but of the jurying. I think a hard core photographer could live without food on elation for several days at such an event. Thoreau said that it takes a great poet to properly appreciate great poetry. The same principle applies here. What kind of a photographer is J. Jones? I don't recognize his byline.
  45. I think I read that article awhile back - it was great.

    As I'm sitting here, minding a public gallery showing Ansel Adams The Manzanar Photographs, I find myself wishing I could see this work in his book, with his text. I've always found viewing works in galleries to be uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. I'm not sure what it is but galleries always seem to dull my senses. Perhaps it's the always-too-hot-n-dry atmosphere or the fact that I have to stand on my feet too long, but invariably I get tired and lose interest. But give me a book and good light and the works never fail to come alive.
  46. This reminds me of a lot of British art criticism. It's just another
    way of saying "i'm too cool to care." If you don't want to see the
    real prints made by the photographer who made them, not some
    printer in Singapore, or if you are lucky, Italy, then stay at home.

    If you do want to see the real deal, then buy some orthotics for
    your aching feet so you can actually stand long enough to look at
    30-80 photographs, and drink some tea for your poor dry throat
    and put some vicks vapor rub on your upper lip for the burning
    sinuses and get out to the gallery or museum and at best form
    an opinion about how a show is curated rather than whine about
    how you don't feel comfortable actually walking about looking at
    real photographs.

    If the show sucks blame the curator, not the fact that you are
    looking at real prints, standing alone without the support of
    anything else except the white walls they hang on.
  47. Photographs have fewer degrees of freedom than painting which is one reason they are more boring.
    this is a lie.
    photography has every degree as much freedom as painting. i do both. the problem is that it is HARDER to use this freedom. we're stuck photographing things that exist. we have position them, light them, etc.
    frankly, i take no great pains to be derivitive. call me young and crazy, sure, but i'm out to defy just about every rule of good photography. just to prove it can be done, and people need to quit being so stodgy about it.
    i think digital is ruining the medium, personally. the world of photography is now filled with six-megapixel-amateurs who think they are pro's, but couldn't operate a camera to save their lives. i see smoothed over, no detail, over sharpened digital pictures trying to be film and failing miserably. even when the subject matter is good (or at least something other than boobs, photosig), the pictures are just... boring.
    because i do digital crap. but i don't try to hide what i'm doing. they're very clearly compressed, oversharpened, with unrealistic colors and too much contrast. in fact, i don't even use a decent camera. i use a webcam with fixed aperature and shutter speed, unreliable shutter delay, and no focus. it's the modern brownie.
    i'm currently working on getting these pictures i do together in a portfolio and trying to get a show. they look beautiful when printed very, very large.
    anyhow. here's my answer to digital crap. someone do please tell if and where they have seen anything like it. is it new and exciting? i don't care if you hate it, as long as it's not boring.
  48. "Road Trip." Boring and I've seen it 100's of times. But this illustrates a point I've made time and again in these forums and with other photographers. Some famous too. Everyone sees a different idea or feels a different emotion when viewing an image. A responder here said they saw an exhibit of images taken "west of England or in west England" and they conveyed their lack of emotions. Why? Others apparantly felt the images worthy of displaying. Was that just their opinion about the lack of emotion in the images? Yes. Obviously. And here is the strength of photography. Something for everyone. A weegee in a print boring and lifeless? Hardly. To everyone. Boring to someone? Yes. Adams seems to take the brunt of the disdain for his landscape imagery. But it sells far and away better than Nactway, Weston, Callahan, Gowin, Mapplethorpe, Arbus, Capa, on and on ad infinitum. Each to their own. That's what makes it so interesting. But maybe we should look more deeply at ourselves when we discount an artist's work. There is value in all of it. The less we like of others work, the more shallow our own vision. Think about it.

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