Walker Evans and Sally Mann

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jono_allen, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. Hello
    I am currently work on a project and have been looking at two artist models and had to answer some question on there style of photography, I was wondering if you guys would been able to help me??
    "
    What is happening in their photographs?
    How is it happening in their photographs?
    Why is it happening in their photographs?"
    What are the similarities and differences between their approaches?
    these are the question I have to answer and the photographers are Walker Evans and Sally Mann.
    Thanks Jonathan Allen
     
  2. I would not like to seem off-putting, but please furnish evidence that you have made some effort to research this subject yourself and then ask some more specific questions.
     
  3. Walker vs Sally .... hmmmm.
    He's a man and she's also a Mann but she has an extra "n," so there's one difference right there. On the other hand, he has a "y" and she doesn't. So we could ask about means and "n"s, or we could ask: "Y"? "Y"? "Y"?
     
  4. There are no objective answers to your questions.
    What do you see happening in the photographs you are looking at?
    How and Why? Because they composed and framed the subjects in the manner and light they thought was most appropriate to express what they thought and felt about the subject. The question becomes: how do their choices that make you think and feel about what you are looking at? And what you are looking at has two separate natures: that of what is depicted and that of the finished photograph.
    Not knowing which specific photographs of theirs that you are looking at it is impossible for anyone but you to answer your fourth question.
    Photographs work within us on three distinct levels and in a specific order: Emotional ( how we feel about what we are looking at); intellectual (determining what we are looking at and how it connects to our individual internal world view which is shaped by the entirety of our existence at the moment of viewing); and finally aesthetic judgement. These three stages of filters work together in this hard and fast sequence and in nanoseconds. Sorting all of that out is what takes time and repeated viewings, even for our own photographs.
    As Arnold Newman said: "We make photographs with our hearts and minds, the camera is just an extention of our hands.
     
  5. What do you see happening in the photographs you are looking at?
    To expand on that: Start by describing everything in a photo and the spatial relationships of one thing to another.
    Keep in mind that photographs do two artistic things very well: They describe and imply. They describe things very precisely and specifically and how they describe them implies something larger than those specifics.
     
  6. What dreadful questions. Intellect is given far too much credit. Look and feel what these two astounding artists have created for you and the thoughts will come. If the thoughts are of rabbits, thats your business. There are no correct answers.
    Art, photography, whatever they call it, is meant to evoke responses from within. Modern people, especially in the west, are so corrupted by over rationalizing we actually have to relearn how to simply feel and accept who we are.
    Just indifferently finishing some class is a sure ticket to becoming dull about a thing that could potentially grow into a lifetime of enjoyment. Make some effort and I bet you will see for yourself why they are great photographers.
     
  7. Dear Jono,
    On the basis that you may have had enough of an ear-bashing by now, here are some brief thoughts from me, a 62-year-old semi-retired photographer/journalist. I would mention that my statements are based on Sally Mann’s pictures of her children and Walker Evans’ FSA pictures, which are their best-known work, at least as far as I am aware:

    What is happening in their photographs?
    Literally, not much. The subject matter in both cases is fairly static.

    How is it happening in their photographs?
    See previous answer.

    Why is it happening in their photographs?
    Because of their respective motivation, which was very different. Walker Evans worked for a while for the FSA, a Government agency charged with saving poor farmers from starvation during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He was one of a team of photographers hired by the FSA boss Roy Stryker to record and publicise the work of the FSA to hopefully gain it more funding (and not entirely by chance to show what a good job Stryker was doing). Aside from this motivation, Walker clearly had an eye for classic composition. Evans also undertook the well-known project “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” together with the writer James Agee, in my view a pompous alcoholic windbag who was anything but an asset.
    Mann elected to photograph her own children naked, which may have been an expression of the way they had been brought up to have a natural uninhibited attitude to nudity or may also have been an extremely hypocritical and exploitative act by a mother (I incline to the latter view). I find it hard to say much about photographers whom I dislike.

    What are the similarities and differences between their approaches?
    In my view, Evans and Mann are a highly unlikely pair to “compare and contrast”. Aside from the mundane fact that they both used 8x10” cameras and produced some kind of record work, these two photographers seem to be not so much poles apart as totally unrelated in their approaches.
    I do not know if you are a college or high school student, unless you have an exceptional teacher your project will no doubt be a matter of telling the teacher what he/she wants to hear, so take it away Jono!
     
  8. Just look at the work. The personal profile of an artist is a waste of time. We are in no position to judge anybody we don't actually know. Much is made of sensation, and much is slanted towards morality based on repression. Forget the cynicism of those that will always find uselessness in endeavors that don't match their own ideals. Just look at the work. There is a world coursing through those images, because we as humans have an internal world and are capable of more than dull detailed external readings with no insight.
     
  9. Just look at the work. The personal profile of an artist is a waste of time. We are in no position to judge anybody we don't actually know. Much is made of sensation, and much is slanted towards morality based on repression. Forget the cynicism of those that will always find uselessness in endeavors that don't match their own ideals. Just look at the work. There is a world coursing through those images, because we as humans have an internal world and are capable of more than dull detailed external readings with no insight.
    Er … yes! Looking at the work is a pretty good way of engaging with a visual artist. My problem is with what I see – not pornography (Mann is by no stretch of the imagination a pornographer) but images of children which are oddly static and expressionless. Mann’s children clearly are not embarrassed or hesitant to do what their mother asks, but equally they feel no involvement in what they are doing. Mann is using her children actually not as models but more like wooden dummies to be arranged as she thinks fit (which is what I mean by “exploitative”). Ultimately I think Mann is in love with her camera, somehow thinking that 8x10 camera = Edward Weston et alia = art. Her results are artsy rather than art - they have the superficial appearance of artworks but for me also a disturbing and total emotional sterility.
     
  10. I recently attended a talk given by a photographer who is also in love with 8x10 photography. Her photographs of (clothed) children were unintentionally unnaturally static and forced. Because of the relatively long exposures, large format photography seems to require more active participation between the subject and photographer in setting an attitude. The best of Nadar proves that long exposures needn't limit emotion.
     
  11. I recently attended a talk given by a photographer who is also in love with 8x10 photography. Her photographs of (clothed) children were unintentionally unnaturally static and forced. Because of the relatively long exposures, large format photography seems to require more active participation between the subject and photographer in setting an attitude. The best of Nadar proves that long exposures needn't limit emotion.
    There is perhaps an interesting comparison (in the sense of mum photographing children on LF) between Mann and Julia Margaret Cameron (who shot on 12x15 plates). For me, JMC's work has a great spontaneity and sense of fun and exploration which I really don't find with Mann's work.
     
  12. I only looked at some pictures I saw on the web so it's a quick judgment. Evans seems to be looking as an outsider into intimacy. A recorder of fact, as personal as it is. Mann seem to be part of it.
    Anyway that's my take.
     

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