“Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.” - Walker EvansRecently, I've been reading and viewing a book on Walker Evans put out as a catalogue in 2000 by New York's MOMA in conjunction with a showing of Evans' work. The text of the book is broken up into different sections, by different critics, each one talking about a particular phase of Evans' work. Unfortunately, I cannot find the specific section that inspired me to write this post. Essentially, it dealt with a particular photograph by Evans and discussed, in detail, the specific elements of the image that caused the writer to praise it so highly. I studied the photograph, and although I could see what the writer was talking about, I failed to find many of the elements on my own, and even upon finding them questioned the validity of them. Very often – too often, I fear – I look at another photographer's work and allow the feeling it gives me to guide me in my appreciation of it. I am capable of discerning certain basic technical elements (composition, color, tonality, etc.) but I am often at a loss to “see” what critics praise so highly in certain images. For me, this applies especially to some contemporary work, and to many abstract works from the past. (A few brief examples and not limited to these – Minor White, Man Ray, or some of the selections made for the annual photography show in Paris.) My impression of much of certain contemporary work which seems highly regarded is that it seems to be possessed of either an extreme post-postmodern ironic banality, or it is a highly produced, fantastical neo-pictorialist construct. I am not railing, as some are fond of, against the so-called “Art World”. I am seeking greater understanding. Another example (and here I can present an actual link) might be the work of Tina Barnes (I came across an article about her in a recent issue of Vogue). Her 1982 photograph, “Sunday New York Times” hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. When I showed it to a friend (one who is far from being an aesthetic neanderthal lacking in sensitivity to significant/artistic photography) to ask her opinion, she dubbed it “awful”. Perhaps the director who selected the photo moves in the same wealthy, East Coast WASP world as Barnes and it struck a chord that only those from that world might understand. I don't know, but here is a link for those who might be interested: http://mobiletest.moma.org/collection_images/resized/019/w1024h1024/CRI_117019.jpg?moma_url_type=img&moma_title=Sunday%20New%20York%20Times Regardless of the work of Barnes, or Minor White, or some contemporary wunderkind currently making the rounds of the “Art World”, I still feel that whatever critical faculties I possess need to go beyond mere “feeling”, or a simplistic technical understanding. I have no problem relying more heavily on feeling in regard to creating my own photographs, but I think I need to temper my review of the work of others with something more. If that makes sense... I often feel that many of you who post regularly on the POP discussion board are more experienced and well-read in certain areas than I am. So, to Arthur, or Julie, or Anders, or Fred, or the many other posters here – What do you see when you view a photographic work? What do you draw upon in viewing? Is there a prevailing (or more than one) aesthetic outlook that is currently in vogue in the Art World? I realize I have left this very broad and open-ended, but I'm very much interested in what anyone has to say on whatever aspect of this post strikes them.