Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Norma Desmond, Nov 11, 2017.
With out the "commercial" aspect no one would have seen the images.
LOL. In other (apparently too postmodern) words, no one got to see the photos “standing alone.”
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Seriously, though, it’s one thing to put a label on an idea, but I’d appreciate knowing why you think it’s off to say art is influenced by its presentation (especially in the case of Maier) and art has to have some sort of presentation in order to be seen or heard.
I am glad to!
Yes. Specifically, without the owner of the negatives asserting copyright, in order to make and sell prints, no one would have seen the images.
A real shame a museum or university was not engaged to take the collection and handle processing, curation, and public display (physically and online).
No one sees them if they stay in a trunk. Somebody has to be smart enough to realize their value, catalog them, print them and then display them. If the owner of the photos makes some money off the deal, no big deal in my opinion. As to the documentary, what documentary ever made doesn't spin things in the direction of the makers narrative?
I think more people are aware and have seen some of the images the way it has been done so far than donating the images to a museum or university. They would have sat on them for years trying to figure out what to do. Somewhere down the line they probably will go to either of those venues so you will get your wish.
Really, are these just not two points along a continuum? First the mode and channel of presentation--which most always demands certain protocols for how something (and how much of it) is displayed or 'rendered' to the consumer--and then the ultimate venue and interpretative impact that venue or channel imparts or provides? Do a gallery showing and coffee table book carry the same sort of "influence", gravitas, or some intangible experiential episode? I think we can safely say no. 'Murica, it's all in the package!
I would say that no 'art' outside of that created by nature and its actions is not in the end a creative version of processed cheese. Someone, either the artist, a representative, gallery, or other gate keeper must make a decision of what to show and how to best show it. Otherwise we have one of the all too common Flickr type displays in which a hundred images are vomited out in a batch--leaving a potential viewer to attempt to sort some useful pieces out of the spew-field. FAIL.
Perhaps the complicating issue here is that the artist is not alive to provide any input. To provide any context. To endlessly drooooool out the expected intentional and subtextual meanings behind their work. Indeed, the experiences of her life shaped her work. Perhaps some cognitive issues developed across time--there are enough indicators there from her early life onward. People need the story. Often they need to meet the artist--or read the authoritative biography on them to 'appreciate' whatever creativity, angst, madness, or intent they might have had. Everything in the world--and even what we ascribe to being outside of it--has a narrative. In the absence of a clear one, history shows us that we simply make crap up and retell it until it is fact...
Did you mean the owner of the negatives?
Tim, you didn't answer my question about postmodernism and why you thought my statement that presentation influences art is too postmodern.
To answer your question directly, ("What documentary ever made doesn't spin things in the direction of the makers narrative?"), precisely none. What makes you think I think differently? Just because I reminded someone that their impressions of the work have been influenced by the impressions Maloof wanted to give off doesn't mean I don't think that's typical of documentaries. It bolsters my point, though, so thanks. The point being how influential presentation can be. Of course, though all documentaries necessarily come with some bias or at least personal perspective, some are obviously much more manipulative and biased than others, sometimes (not in the case of Maloof, IMO) bordering on or actually being propaganda. It's important, when assessing documentaries, to consider dimension and degree of bias and not lump all together at the same level.
I'm mostly agreeing with you, Tim, that the work is being seen in great part due to Maloof (which doesn't mean that his doing what Brad suggested and handing them over to experts who could have edited and presented her work in a better way would have been a bad idea). All I'm disagreeing with is your comment that presentation influencing how we see art is too postmodern, which you seem to contradict in most everything else you say.
Just the point I've been trying to make.
Yippie! The thing is solved, the discussion concluded.
Let's celebrate and open up a keg and get roaring drunk. Then we can go rough up some pretentious pedagogue in the philosophy department!
It has been mentioned in one of the two documentaries (I'm not sure which one, maybe both mentioned it) that Maier was well aware about the history of photography and that she frequently visited museums and galleries to study the work of the masters. This clearly shows in her photographs, there's an unmistakable awareness of a keen visual and photographic literacy.
When I look at the images being presented at the 'official website' of her work I can see three different genres appearing throughout it: humanist documentary, often humorist street photography with a pun, and a more layered and moody surrealism. Either one of those three when tightly curated would give a very different photographer, but all three of them show a commitment to photography as a language.
We take it for granted today that we can easily publish our pictures for the whole world to see. We are spoiled as photographers (self-publishing possibilities, connecting our work directly to an audience,...) even though the same technology that makes all of this possible has created ever more noise which makes it hard to distinguish the signal in it (I think the cream will always rise to the top though). This ease of publishing wasn't the case in Maier's time and the fact that she left so many negatives undeveloped and images unseen might have had simply to do with life getting in the way and doesn't mean that she never intended for her work to be seen. To me the proof is in the photographs, she clearly intended to communicate with them.
I think I am interested to see the photos from her that are left out, rejected by the compiler, who selected her works. Most of her photos appear to me as kind of conservative, careful following the rules of composition, technicalities. Are there surprises, silliness or simply fooling around in her photos too? I am curious to see those as well. I agree with Fred, that what we see of her is heavily colored by people who have selected and presented her works. She never had her say in what is being displayed, unlike most living artists.
I don't see that at all, at least not when looking at all the images presented at the website (in which I can distinguish three main categories or genres). It doesn't seem that there is a selection and I guess it's the more neutral approach to show all the scope of her work rather than only showing particular aspects of it (like humorous street photography vs moody surrealism vs humanist documentary). There's also some abstract pictorialism in it besides those three genres.
I am saying, we can never be sure unless we see whats left out, thats all. What if there are other works that don't fall in the categories that you just mentioned. What if the people who compiled her works didn't get a few of the works and rejected them. Anyway, I don't want to argue too much since I am speculating here. Its just that I am curious as to what was left out. In my own experience, I have often seen that many of my photos that I outright rejected while reviewing, turned out to be great after months or years later when reevaluated. Selection of art is a complex process, and almost always colored by people's biases and present moods that determine taste. Experienced curators probably can get over those biases to some extent, but may still be subjected to the the influences of the prevailing culture at large.
IMO, a lack of selection is as influential as a carefully-considered selection in terms of what the viewer is going to take away. I imagine a lot of us realize what a different impression our own "body of work" would give viewers if everything we shot was put out by someone as opposed to each of us being able to decide which of our photos to show.
Yes, that's always a possibility. An experienced curator knows how to curate based not only on his/her own experience but also based on something aesthetically gathered and universally intuited by humans over centuries of making art.
Winogrand for example when exhibiting was known to leave his editing (in the sense of choosing which image to select for viewing and which one to ignore) up to curators like Szarkowski. Winogrand left many undeveloped negatives that were taken near the end of his life when he shot compulsory, without much thought. While those images too being interesting on a curiosity level I think most curators have rightfully dismissed many of them when compared to Winogrand's work taken in his prime. (The postmodern mantra by the way would be the opposite, saying that everything is equal and that there can be no viewpoint - in this case on art and aesthetics - that's more authoritative and more true than any other).
Yammer all you want guys!. . . I think the work is outstanding.
Winogrand's work is a great example. Five years ago San Francisco MOMA hosted a GW retrospective showcasing 25 years of his photography, with many photos not previously exhibited. Much of it, IMO, was not very interesting. One visit for me was enough, and I do like GW's work in general.
Needless to say SF MOMA's Robert Frank "The Americans" exhibition, held three years earlier, with his photos sequenced and displayed as they are in the book (essentially Frank's tight curation), along with other Frank related material such his editing wall, brought me back many times.
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