Is photo-art really in dire peril?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by andy_laycock, May 31, 2004.

  1. Alot has been written on here about the death of photographic art
    and in some cases I can only describe what I read as hysteria,
    especially those who envision a conspiracy. But is this really the
    case and if yes why are people not doing anything about it other
    than complaining? Rather than dredge up material from other people's
    opinions in numerous essays I'd rather just describe how I see it
    myself.

    Personally I see no great conspiracy to stagnate art, especially
    photographic art. Number one, conspiracies amongst people
    geographically and temporally separated is impossible. It's hard
    enough to have a few people keep a secret let alone thousands.

    You also have to look at the fact that art is the area that is
    allegedly under control. Anybody who has looked at art even
    superficially will realize that art is, by it's nature, all about
    freedom of expression. Most artists I know are almost paranoid about
    being controlled and especially by large organizations or
    institutions.

    Finally, we are in an age of unprecedented accessibility to media.
    The internet and digital printing has provided the means for people
    to get their work out without relying on galleries or museums. It
    has also provided a fast, expansive network for people of the same
    ideology to meet and organize. Artists no longer need toil in
    isolation. So, for me, if anybody is really that worried about the
    art world then they should be using what is available to them to do
    something about it. To change the face of art to what their own
    vision. I don't see this happening. The internet has also allowed us
    to have a good look out there at what galleries are actually showing
    and what I see is a huge mixture of styles and genres. I don't see
    the conceptualists taking over as some believe. I see a mix of
    everything. I think the photoart world is better than ever.
     
  2. Paranoia. That is the answer. Currently photography is in a golden age. The technology is mature, and the social side of photography (and many other interest areas) are creating prospering communtites that were unimagineable 20 years ago. The internet has made it possible to form communties based upon interest without regard for geography. This is creating more communities with diverse interests than were once imagined. Those who worry about the death of creativity need to put down their beers, pick up their remotes, and turn off their idiot boxes and think for themselves a wee bit.

    just one opinion,

    Sean
     
  3. In 1984 Weston Naef, on behalf of the Getty Museum, made the single largest purchase of photographic images in the history of the medium. That purchase rocketed photography, as art, into he consciousness of the main stream. Since then , the medium has moved far beyond it’s traditional beginnings. Although, visionaries such as Sam Wagstaff (former curator of 20th Century Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Robert Mapplethorpe’s partner) were building major photography collections, photography was not a true part of the art world. Since then, photography in all it’s forms has advanced in content and technology by leaps and bounds.

    More people/artists than ever are using photographic tools to create their visions. The Internet has allowed for the greatest access to photographic images in history...certainly inspiring many to pick up a camera. If one searches the net, or goes to galleries and museums, they will see a plethora of breakthrough original and inspiring images. That, of course, assumes an open mind.

    I’m tired of hearing criticism and a damning of the medium because someone is offended by "Piss Christ", or because today’s Avant-garde doesn’t coincide with their narrow vision of what makes for an acceptable image.

    While there is a small world or galleries and museums that wield influence over what is seen, to think there is a conspiracy to exclude is ridiculous. It’s a market that lives on fresh talent.

    If one doesn’t want to be part of that world, then fine.
    Do what you want. But, if one is upset because they’re excluded, then perhaps they have to look at their work in a more objective way.

    I have been involved with creative people for most of my adult life. Generally, what I have found is real talent rises to the top whether it’s a writer, an artist, an actor, whatever. Are there visionaries who are ahead of the curve and lead a frustrated existence? Sure. But they are a minority.

    To end this mini-diatribe, I think there has never been a more exciting time for photography. Creativity is running rampant. What could be better?
     
  4. Very well put Jake. No matter how hard some try to embitter my opinion I get excited every time I go gallery hopping, look up one of the many internet lists, or buy another photography book. It's a great time to be involved in this area.
     
  5. My own assessment concurs with Andy's. The local "art scene"
    in Nashville is flourishing, and local artists are very supportive of
    one another (even across disciplines and genres).
     
  6. Andy wrote just the other day to Thomas G: "I think you should just put down the books, quit worrying about the art world and go out and enjoy the wonderfulness of photography. Have some fun with photography why don't you. I know I do".

    So why are you worried about it? according to the advice you gave Thomas G you should go out and have fun and forget it. Photography will be around as long as people enjoy it and do it. Really it's more like are humans going to be around? Will we evolve properly and make the proper strides forward peacefully before we all reach destruction ourselves at the hands of megalomaniacs. If we're gone photography is gone. Just a thought, not trying to start a rant on politics or arguments on non-photo.net issues.
     
  7. Annie L. of ring-lit portrait fame put a (bad, in my opinion) book out a while ago about the olympics, in it she printed a bit of humorous advice from her teacher: "Shut your snapper and Snap your shutter!" We're in no danger here, mediocrity speaks for itself. Besides, unless you're a poser, you're doing this for the love of it. The only contention I'll bring to this discussion is my unhappiness with the gradual dumbing-down of the medium. As you observe, digital media has quickened the pace, reduced the amount of work involved by leaps and bounds, and allowed work to be seen on line that would never reach a gallery, but is that a good thing? This isn't a war of attrition, what's the hurry? The only comparison I can make is to Watercolor: One can produce a finished painting in just minutes, but unless the brush is in the hands of a seasoned master or a natural genius, the result is no more than a colorful place-mat. Since anyone with $5000 to throw at digital equipment is now a 'photographic artist', there's a lot more place-mats out there. They don't pose any danger to serious work, but they do subtly lower the bar.
    008PoZ-18217284.jpeg
     
  8. "I think the photoart world is better than ever."

    I agree 100%. Oh, happy day!
     
  9. That has got to be one of the funniest pictures I've ever seen.
     
  10. Yeah, I love that pic too. Whose is it?
     
  11. I can't believe our favorite curmudgeon has not yet weighed in on this thread. But, it's still early.
     
  12. Um, who's your favourite curmudgeon?
     
  13. Harvey, if you've got a few hours to kill see the following thread, which is still going strong into it's fourth day:

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=008Oo9
     
  14. Well, from the responses I see on here there appears to be no problem. The majority of the people here realize how good we have it. I'm sure at least a few people will say that we are brainwashed, blind or stupid but I don't believe you need to be a brain surgeon to see how things really are.

    PS when I stated in another thread to just go out and have fun etc. it was 100% sarcasm. It was directed at a well-known curmudgeon.
     
  15. yes.... go home everybody ... there's nothing to see ... go home to your families ... :eek:
     
  16. I am at home. Turned on my computer so's I could feast my eyes on bunnies with pancake hats. LOL! Alex beat me to the watercolour analogy. Just think of the marvellous botanical studies done by Beatrix Potter, better known for cutesie bunny pictures and stories. At the time, her plant portraits were not taken seriously because she was a woman. It's all a matter of fad opinion. We're currently bombarded with new technology which many people are taking advantage of, and all showing off what they're doing with it. The good images, the true "art" will survive no matter how they're made.
     
  17. i agree... photographic art is fine.
     
  18. Well the prevailing opinion is that photo-art is doing just fine.
     
  19. whats photo art?
     
  20. Ye Ol' Flap Jack Rabbit!
    Hey Is there anyway you could send me a print of that?
     
  21. Here's a link: this guy in Japan evidently really got off putting
    thing on his rabbits head. No text, just ???????'s

    http://sokaisha.hp.infoseek.co.jp/020820/020820.htm
     
  22. The advent of online photo art galleries has certainly "leveled the playing field" for photographers who are unknown versus those photographers who have well established gallery connections. For example, one of my own images Closeup of Flower of the "Air Plant" (Tillandsia) has been viewed almost three thousand times in the past year on photo.net. I don't believe that, had the image been on display in a venue such as an art gallery, that so many people would have taken the trouble of examining it.
     
  23. I think that the photo-art which you are discussing is indeed in peril, primarily because it is stale and outdated. As Generations change, people want to see something different and more contemporary. Visiting galleries that smell and where the framing of the image is often more important than the image itself is passe.
     
  24. John Falkenstine what would you suggest to please the new generations? Hopefully it's not going to be like Hollywood, which just increases the 'flash' of their movies in order to hide the same old, lame stories.
     
  25. What, and would you rather see yet one more boring severely grainy 20x30 platinum print of a leaf where it is called fine are for the printing process and the grain (and perhaps the fancy frame).

    Whereas, I think some of the finest compositional work in the world comes out the the "flash factory" (and a lot of junk too). But when it comes to a refined and idealized viewpoint I have never noted the work of a single photographer that can compare with what comes out of Hollywood. Albeit, some of that magic of cinematography comes from the choreographing of many people through a symphony of clean and idealized compositions that cannot be achieved in stills. And the marriage of story and image that "Hollywood" achieves is something that I have never noted photographers achieving either. There are many great things a photographer could learn from "Hollywood" without mimicing it. There are many narrative techniques that cinema has pioneered and created as recognizable visual cues in the collective conscious that would not work without captions if cinema had not driven them home many times.

    But this is not to say everything "Hollywood" cranks out is great. But it is not all trash and flash either.

    As for older genres dying, that happens when the people who lived in the world where those iconic styles had visual meaning begin dying off. The world evolves. The only constant in nature is change.
     
  26. The newer generation, meaning kids in high school or currently in college are more diverse ethnically and have some really different, refreshing outlooks on photography and its interpretation. There aren't enough of them on photo.net, which actually is quite conservative to the point of being regressive and which certainly is not tolerant of innovation or difference. Numerous publications involving at least a part of photography come and go quickly, some only have one or 2 issues. In these mags, very different ideas and trends are showing. This type of material is not making it to photo-galleries, which now appear to be stuck in a different century and which effectively filter out innovation, and appear to have completely missed the seventies, eighties, nineties and part of the sixties as well. Proof of this observation is the almost cult-like behavior of only referring to leading photographers as examples, all of which have something in common; they're dead.
    The whole era is a bit reminiscent of art galleries in France that were horrified when impressionist art started showing up.
     
  27. "Proof of this observation is the almost cult-like behavior of only referring to leading photographers as examples, all of which have something in common; they're dead"

    I can't argue with you on this one. I think probably the biggest reason for this is that in previous decades the top photography was much more accessible to people. They understood it and it provided them with the escapism that they were looking for. Still today I believe that most art is bought or looked at for purely aesthetic qualities. After WW II there seemed to be a rejection of the romanticized idea of man and nature and, especially in the 60's, art became more concentrated on showing the truth. The New Topography is a good example of this. Before them, landscapes were the last word in romantic visions. The West was shown as a powerful force of nature, perhaps to give us comfort that we were able to live prosperously while living side by side with nature. Kind of dreamy. But then others finally showed the way it really was. Just to left or right of those viewscapes lurked highways, housing developments, coal-fired generators, rusted out cars, litter etc etc etc. People don't want to see the truth. It's depressing. Most modern art seems to reveal our worst side. It's often cynical and negative. It's hard to take.

    Fortunately I'm not bothered by it and for me often the excitement of modern art is the clever way that the ideas are presented.
     
  28. Sean my reference to 'flash' and Hollywood was meant to describe the use of strong visuals instead of substance. There are some good Hollywood films...although I can't name one right now... but what I see is more an increase in explosions and special effects becoming the main reason to see a film. More often than not these effects come at the expense of storyline and character development. They appear to be more superficial in recent years, but perhaps that's me just growing older and more cynical.
     
  29. Andy wrote
    They understood it and it provided them with the escapism that they were looking for.
    It's not just escapism Andy. Some actually derive benefit from what you call escapism. Having positive influences in art isn't a bad thing. Showing happiness is inspiring to many. Beauty helps refresh the soul and gives purpose and meaning to many people. Showing positive images gives hope to the weary of mind. It's not just escapism:)
     
  30. Andy wrote
    People don't want to see the truth.
    Now that's being silly Andy. People know that the rusted out cars are there, that's what wrecking yards are for; to recycle the junkers. There's a difference between not wanting to see the truth and having dealt with the truth. Once you've dealt with truth, what's wrong with having a good time?
    In the image that's attached to the link below. There's a farm house straight ahead in the trees. Directly below the camera is a six foot chain link fence. To my left is rush hour traffic and about a hundred yards away is a McDonalds in a large shopping center complete with a gas station and traffic lights. To the right is a raised freeway and behind me are a few hundred houses. Everybody knows these things are here and everybody knows the area I set the ladder on is going to become a boulevard and the land before you is going to become executive style housing.
    Sunrise in Silicon Valley
    The point? Enjoy it while you can Andy because tomorrow it becomes a parking lot:)
     
  31. I never said escapism was bad Thomas. It's wildly popular, especially in western art.
     
  32. Andy wrote
    There are some good Hollywood films...although I can't name one right now... but what I see is more an increase in explosions and special effects becoming the main reason to see a film.
    If you want to see a movie that's as about pure art as you're gonna find, go see "Kill Bill" by Quentin Tarantino. The movie was a horrible movie but again it was pure art.
     
  33. Andy wrote
    I never said escapism was bad Thomas. It's wildly popular, especially in western art.
    My misunderstanding, based upon prior exchanges.
     
  34. "There's a difference between not wanting to see the truth and having dealt with the truth. Once you've dealt with truth, what's wrong with having a good time?"

    It's called escapism Thomas. And before The New Topography the truth was rarely shown in landscape photography. Not everyone wants to just use art as an escape all of the time. And we haven't dealt with the truth yet. We've acknowledged it but we certainly haven't dealt with it.
     
  35. The Rusty West...
    008UCb-18307084.jpg
     
  36. Andy wrote
    It's called escapism Thomas. And before The New Topography the truth was rarely shown in landscape photography. Not everyone wants to just use art as an escape all of the time.
    But it's not "ONLY" escapism. And you're right, not everybody uses only escapism as art. But, "The New Topography" is not the only form of valid art either. Also, is the truth being shown or are people being exploited by selectively being showing these myopic images. Also, when one's artistic view gravites towards only one sort of artistic expression, then that's trying to give you a clue how narrow your field of view has really become. A healthy mix is a good thing.
    And we haven't dealt with the truth yet. We've acknowledged it but we certainly haven't dealt with it.
    I don't know how it's done in Vancover (Sorry about Calgary's loss:) ) but we are proactively dealing with environmental issues directly and on a daily on going basis in the San Fransico Bay Area as well as the whole of the State of California.
    For many, many years in Silicon Valley, we have had recycling programs gallore. Hundreds of millions of dollars (US) are spent each year locally dealing with these issues. This is done at all levels of government from Federal to local special districts. We have proactive programs dealing with toxic waste cleanup, recycling of electronic parts. We deal with heavy metal issues, of mercury, lead and chromium; pick your heavy metal and it's being tracked down and removed. We have proactive programs dealing with pesticide issues of all sorts, in all differing venues of your choice. The number of chemical changes that the pest control industry has been through over the last ten years is quite impressive. California has their own Environmental Protection Agency to improve and verify the Federal EPA program. We have programs dealing with water and air pollution that are constantly being discussed, reworked and implemented. We have programs that deal with water runoff, sewage, recycling of waste water and how the environmental pollution affects ground water. We have programs that proactively deal with these issues. Discussions of how waste water impacts the estuaries of the San Francisco Bay and San Pablo bay water regions and programs that directly mitigate this affect are in affect as changes have been inacted. We have on going programs committing tens of millions of dollars (US) annually to the buying of land for open air districts and addressing issues and implementation of programs dealing with the health of waterways locally. We have programs, monitoring stations that deal with continually testing and updating of how and what is allowed to be developed and let loose into the environment. We have proactive trash abatement, abandoned vehicle removal programs and code compliance enforcement teams. Big time push has been on for years for finding and implementing alternative forms of energy ranging from solar, wind, geo, hydro, fuel cell, natural gas and recycled food oils. Photo Voltaic systems are rebated for and going up all over the valley as I write. We deal with air and water pollution issues via diesel scrubbers for trucks, retro fitting existing manufacturing and power producing plants with state of the art pollution control devices. Requirements of new construction are constantly being reviewed and upgraded to accomodate new technology. Insulation, R-30 minimum, is required of new and retrofitted structure, double pane windows are being installed in existing homes by the tens of thousands; locally, energy efficient appliances, fuel efficient vehicles, smog controls, mass transit, timed rush hour lighting, water purification, the building of housing next to job locations, recycling of demolition construction material and the list continues on ad infinitem.
    So in our neck of the twenty acre woods, it's being dealt with BIG time, directly and with purposefull intent.
     
  37. "Also, is the truth being shown or are people being exploited
    by selectively being showing these myopic images"

    As far as The New Topography group is concerned, my experience is that most laypeople have never heard of them. They know Ansel Adams but not Robert Adams. The vast majority of general photography shows idyllic scenery. People do not want to see the truth, they get the truth everyday and want to escape.

    As for the laws in California they are only there because it's already reached the danger point. Nothing is done until that time and many think the procedures are too little too late.
     
  38. Andy wrote
    As far as The New Topography group is concerned, my experience is that most laypeople have never heard of them.
    Nor is it resonable to expect them to. Most haven't heard on Clement Greenberg and don't know who the prime minister of Canada or England let alone let alone the president of France or the United States:)
    The vast majority of general photography shows idyllic scenery. People do not want to see the truth, they get the truth everyday and want to escape.
    I think it's a little deeper then that when you speak of "general photography". The term "general" is your first clue how to view their reasoning as opposed to photography of artistic content. People also like to have their values reaffirmed, their souls refreshed and have purpose and meaning to their lives encouraged. It's not all about escapism or a empty attempt to escape the truth. Nor is it all about the negative. You don't give people enough credit in your review of their motives for wanting to view photoraphic images.
    As for the laws in California they are only there because it's already reached the danger point. Nothing is done until that time and many think the procedures are too little too late.
    Two points to ponder in your above. If they're there because of it's reached the danger point, isn't that a good reason to force or enact laws of compliance? These laws were being enacted back in the late 60's. And as to the too little point that shows a lack of understanding and to what extent we've pushed the issues locally. You might know photographic history but clearly you don't know environmental pollution control history:)
    Starting with pollution control devices on domestic cars manufactured in the late 60's to the first "Earth Day" in 1970 and it's annual celebration, to the major changes in the way environmental issues are adminster today, it's not a case of too little too late but a case of successfully addressing issues over the long haul and active planning for the future.
    As more and more peoples lives are extended and more and more people demand better life styles around the world and the population continues to grow, the world is going to be challenged more and more so the challenge to protect the environment is going to be an ongoing practice that needs to be dealt with world wide, not just in Silicon Valley.
    Being alive and aware of pollution issues pre 1970, I have seen the changes that have taken place locally. Being in the pest control, purveyor of pesticide business, I have seen first hand the changes within the industry that have taken place over the last twenty plus years, for the better. I am fiscally aware of smog checks and the changes in vehicle smog systems that have taken place over the last thirty plus years. Having voted for over thirty years, I have seen the affect that voters have made at the ballot box to create additional taxation which directly addresses these issues. I have voted to the affirmative for state bond issues which address these issues statewide as have millions of other Californians. Currently the Governor is pushing for the installation of hydogen fuel stations so fuel cell technology can move into the main stream as without a system in place, one can't get their fuel cell equipped vehicle refueled.
    These changes have been taking place over thirty years at a cost of tens of billions of dollars (US). Because of this statewide spending there's a very robust and active system in place that is continuing to address these issues and continue to administer and impliment programs which address these pollution issues both in the here and now and provide for identifying and addressing issues that have potential of becoming issues in the future. I don't know about Vancover but this end of the woods is clearly on top of their game:)
     
  39. "People also like to have their values reaffirmed, their souls refreshed and have purpose and meaning to their lives encouraged."

    Most people do not do this with art Thomas, at least in my opinion. They have religion or other forms of self-affirmation. I know I tend to lose sight of the fact that photography doesn't seem to play as much of a role in most people's lives as it does for guys like us. For most the only photos hanging on the wall are photos of their family and maybe of Jesus :)

    As for the pollution part I'm afraid I don't have the time to get into it right now.
     
  40. Andy wrote
    Most people do not do this with art Thomas, at least in my opinion. They have religion or other forms of self-affirmation. I know I tend to lose sight of the fact that photography doesn't seem to play as much of a role in most people's lives as it does for guys like us.
    Photography plays a very important role for people in this area. It's not just for guys like us. I won't go into your above as it's your opinion and you're welcome to it. The executive version goes something like Romantic Pictorialism is much more than just escapism to those that are into it because of the good it provides.
    We'll leave, as you suggested, your views on the issues of pollution to another thread:)
     
  41. Andy wrote
    People do not want to see the truth, they get the truth everyday and want to escape.
    Silver Creek Valley Road
    The truth is always there Andy, it's just a matter of perspective and how you view life. If all you want to see is the negative, then negative is what will be reflected in your images. If you see the good in life and that there's hope for all, then you'll continue to see the good in life and this will be reflected in your photography.
    Silver Creek Valley Rd
    Wishing all the best on this day.
     

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