What is the current photography trend?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by brambor, Apr 15, 2004.

  1. I hope I'm posting this in the right forum but I have just been
    thinking about the current photography. Where are we now
    historically? In layman's terms guess in the past we have had pinhole
    photography trend and field camera trends with breathtaking
    landscapes and as the cameras got smaller there was a street
    photography trend... I'm rambling a bit but stay with me. For a while
    now some must be feeling that everything has been done ad nauseum. We
    have the abstract photography masters, or the shock photography
    masters, we have A.Adams or HC Bresson... Who is the current
    revolutionary photographer or where is he/she taking us?
  2. Dear Rene,
    I think any answer you get is going to be a personal opinion.

    I do agree that digital has a bearing on current photograpy. Though many photographic "purists" argue that digital is not true photography somehow, I disagree. These same arguments occured years ago when negative retouching was attacked as unpure.
    I feel that digital workflow can allow some pretty exciting techniques. In a recent digital photo magazine, photographer Vincent Versace was interviewed while he shot digtal images in San Francisco. His approach includes bracketing exposures widely and combining elemements from different exposures into a final image. This approach seems to allow a sense of time passage that would be much more difficult with traditional materials, though photographers such as Jerry Ulesmann have achieved this sort of result.
  3. My feeling is that there is probably nothing new under the sun. People who have forgotten (or never were aware of) the history of photography spend a lot of time experimenting with effects that had been tried (and abandoned) 80 years ago..they just use newer technology.

    The sad part is that they think they have come up with something new and different and, those who also don't know any better, marvel at their 'creativity'. Weren't our 'old masters' of photography influenced by the portrait and landscape painters who came before them? They were subject to the whims of style just like we are.

    I think if there is a current trend (and an unfortunate one it is) it would be the tendency to try and make everybody competent. There is a 'self-referential' philosophy of what constitutes 'art' in general (not only in photography). This attitude holds that it is the individual who is the ultimate arbiter of what cosntitutes art. So, we get people saying things like, "If you think it's art...then it IS art!" "If YOU like it, it doesn't matter what other people think!"

    While this may appear (on the surface) to be wonderfully democratic and egalitarian, it has the effect of lowering standards to the point of making ANYTHING acceptable and NOTHING open to criticism. So a bunch of primary school kids are handed disposable cameras and everyone is ecstatic over their 'creativity'. Like the elephant who paints abstract swishes of random colour on a board is hailed as a genius. In an effort not to discriminate against people we have lost the ability to discriminate between what is good and bad in art. As in Lake Wobegon...all the children are 'above average'.

    So, I think the current 'trend' in photography is that people no longer have to 'pay their dues'. They don't have to work hard at their craft and progress in their art from neophyte to master....no, everyone starts out as MASTER...instantly.
  4. How sad to say there is nothing new! How can a person be creative if there can be "nothing new"? Pure Hogwash! Why are you concerned and upset about anyone else believing "something might be creative" when you disagree. Why should you care or be upset about someone "erroneously" calling something "art". Especially since there is "nothing new" to be done. Further, I am in complete diagreement with the proposition that if somebody unknowingly creates something previously done, then that current maker has not been creative!Very,VERY short sighted!
  5. Meryl wrote
    My feeling is....
    Very nicely stated.
  6. "it has the effect of lowering standards "

    Elitist nonsense, I'm afraid. What Meryl bemoans is the fact that there is no longer a small coterie of people defining 'standards' because a hundred years of general education (in the west at least) has raised a generation of people who at least have the opportunity to think for themselves.

    So what if I don't like the same things you do? Get over it and get on with your own life. There never was any a 'progress[ion] in their art from neophyte to master', simply a process of making sure that everyone learned to apply the same standard and the standard was set by an 'elite' who were self selected. In other words, just another status game.

    I'm pleased to say that, these days, there are an awful lot of little boys pointing out that the emperor has no clothes on.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I think if there is a current trend (and an unfortunate one it is) it would be the tendency to try and make everybody competent.
    Anyone who has been to a museum, decent gallery, or picked up a few monographs in the last ten years would know that this statement is ridiculous. If you go out and read what people are writing about photography, not whining about on a board where people think having good equipment makes for a good photographer, you would know that this is not what is happening out there.
    There is a lot of interesting new conceptual work out there. Whether it represents a strend or not is debatable, but it's definitely pushing the boundaries. If anyone is in New York City this month, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art in Soho for an interesting exhibition by John Waters.
  8. There is no current photography trend. The statement itself is not valid.
  9. The above is true in a design and themeatic sense.There's nothing new unless you shun the 'trend' and create it.
  10. Meryl, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you. I think you have really
    nailed some deeper issues in our society. In a way it's all about a politlcal
    correctness that wants to empower all of us by not saying that anything or
    anyone is better than anyone else. We are all exactly the same, totally equal
    in every way. That all art is great that all opinions valid no matter how off the
    wall they are. It's sort of like the vision that Ayn Rand had of the world in "the
    Fountainhead" I think instead of praising mediocrity in order to include
    everyone, we should praise achievement in order to inspire or motivate
  11. Photography has lost it's identity of being like a child wondering with amazement into the world. Photography is now an adult full of cynical thoughts thinking that everything is wrong. Sometimes photography wants to go back to it's lovely childhood but than again that would never be for real, it would only be fake. Maybe it's the best for photography not to look back, maybe it's the best just to look ahead without to much troubleshooting.
  12. Where are we historically? Doing over, and pretending not to do, what has been done 1-100 times before. Everything, more or less, photographically, HAS been done "ad nauseum". It is not that different from someone trying to come up with the next "great" rockabilly or heavy metal song, etc., etc. etc. Where would you start? Seriously, where? What would you do? Imitation is it, and you reach the point where the imitators are imitating older imitators, who are copying things they may or may not even remember. Thus is life ... so be it...
  13. Nick Knight, Martin Parr, Gregory Crewdson are, in my opinion, the revolutionaries of
    now. Although you might add Terry Richards if you like...or not. Heck, David
    Lachapelle is probably in there too, even though I don't personally care for his stuff (it
    all looks plastic to me) Pierre and Gilles, Annie Lebowitz, etc, etc....notice a trend yet?
    Probably not. They are all very diverse.

    When it gets down to it though, there is a common vein there, in the CONCEPTUAL
    nature of their work. Whether it's Crewdson and a crew of 30 staging cinematic-style
    superproduction images, or Parr out on the street taking pictures of cheap souvenirs,
    they are all trying to make a statement about the world we live in. While this isn't
    new--the world we live in is.

    Art is born out of a society and thus has a resemblance to its mother. As the world
    changesm art goes along for the ride. Right now, Western society is all about fashion
    and celebrity, so it's no wonder that the shooters I mentioned above are mostly
    fashion or celeb photographers. But at the same time, we are comming to realise that
    all that fashion and celebrity has left us with a whole pile of unanswered questions
    about life and how to live it--thus we get Crewdson and Parr.

    But, IMO Nick Knight is one of the people who gives us both the style and meaning we
    hunger for. In fact, unitll anyone comes up with a better answer to the revolutionary
    photographer question, I'd have to say it's him. But where is he taking us?

    It's hard to say.

    Knight's style changes almost bi-weekly. There's an 'essence' in all his work that is
    unmistakeably his, yet when you look at his stuff as a body of work, there's no real
    continuity. One day it's highly manipulated images of semi nude girls (this year's
    Pirelli Calendar), the next it's farily simple portrait style stuff. All in all though,
    Knight's work has an infusion of humanity that takes him above the typical 'trendster'
    label. In his images of people with visible disabilties, he captures their human
    essence in a rather uncommonly compassionate way. So, when I think about it, I
    guess the new trend in photography is that anything is possible, we are only limited
    by our imagination and humanity.

    Go to an art gallery and have a look at the old masters work, then look around for
    someone who isn't that famous...the 17th and 18th c. rooms are best for this...then
    try to figure out what, say, Rembrandt had that the others didn't. Then compare any
    of the photographers I've mentioned above to the cover of Cosmopolitan. I'm pretty
    sure you'll find that the difference between the greats and the less great is the same
    now as it was three hundred years ago...imagination, skill (read also: technical
    knowledge, craft, etc.) and humanity.
  14. Brendan, I feel you hit it on the head with the comparison to the old masters. I cringe everytime someone knocks a centered photo because it does not conform to the rule of thirds. The example I always use is the Mona Lisa (because everone knows that painting). Something was right about it - it's still being admired after hundreds of years However, I suspect today, it will be bash for it's centered subject:)

    Therer was a quote I saw years ago on a theater marquee years ago in Time Square:

    "Art is either plagerism or revolution"

    You can copy everyone else or create your own style and stand out.
  15. Jeff,
    I hear that. It would seem in some way that there is a struggle to retain mumanity in
    photography...what else could explain the existence of LaChapelle and Knight's work
    on the same newstand. For a while, the trend was plastic looking women in
    subordinate poses, then plastic looking women in dominant poses. But if you look at
    the cover of W magazine this month, you'll see the romantics have won again!

    As Antoine de Saint Exupery said, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
    what is essential is invisible to the eye."

    I think to be an artist is to be able to show the world the invisible. The rest is cold,
    lifeless composition based on rules, tits, lighting and the already-gorgeous. One
    thing is a lifelong search involving a half-mad and doubly-fanatical devotion to
    something which we may never be able to quite put our finger on. The other is
    something we do when we can't play golf.

    So perhaps the place where photography, and all art for that matter, is going, is in
    search of that one image that explains the universe in it's entirety to everyone who
    sees it.

    Sure that sounds pretty far out new-age and impossible. But then, if you know
    something's impossible, then you know it's never been done.
  16. here are some thoughts on the future of (traditional) photography,nothing new, but it shines some positive light.
  17. No trends. Just a lot of people using anything from the pinhole (moi) to the cell phone/camera (see buzznet.com)

    Photography seems to be in a "paint by numbers" phase. The results are very interesting to iconolclasts and very alarming to others.
  18. I think that you need to more precisely define what you mean by "trend" if you're going to really discuss this. Do you mean: where is photography going as an everyday activity, what is the modern avant-garde art photography, what is the current professional fashion photography style, etc...?

    I think that the naysayers who believe that photography is moving nowhere, or is simply repeating ad nauseum things that have already been done are perhaps simply unaware of the incredible diversity of work that's being produced everywhere.

    I'll address the current trends in avant-garde art photography, which is going in many many directions at once.

    One very interesting fellow is Adi Nes, an Israeli fashion and art photographer who plays on classical images and compositions and brings up questions of war, manhood, fashion-as-prison, homoeroticism, and many other interesting societal issues. He's having an exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor right now (San Francisco, CA, USA) and they've got a pretty nice website up:

    Another very good photographer is the controversial Andres Serrano (famous for Piss Christ), who does (some would say scatalogical) work that address things like our relationship to our body fluids (milk, blood, urine), the "history of sex," homelessness, the KKK, etc... There are interesting interviews with him about his work with the KKK (a series of generally sympathetic portraits [don't get turned off, they're very well done, not apologetic] of klansmembers), which one would expect to end badly, considering that he's hispanic, but the klan appreciated his work so much that he's considered throughout the states as a 'cool dude' in their book.

    "History of Sex" : http://www.photology.com/serrano/
    "Comments on Andres Serrano by Members of the United States Senate": http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/361_r7.html (interesting, but not artistic)
    A small collection of photographs: http://www.artnet.com/ag/FineArtThumbnails.asp?currpage=1&aid=15342&ViewSize=large

    One of my favorite photographers is Richard Misrach (partially because he was a student at UC Berkeley who thought of going into mathematics, just like me...) who has done epic pieces of work (organized like epic poems interestingly enough) on the desert landscape, Telegraph avenue, the Golden Gate bridge, night landscapes, etc.

    General images: http://www.edelmangallery.com/misrach.htm
    An interesting interview: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/dialogs/dialogs_a-m/richard_misrach.html

    And finally, a photographer couple I was referred to by my art history professor about a month ago when I asked her precisely this question: Bernd and Hilla Becher. They have made an impressive collection of industrial landscapes, printed extremely large. I only checked out some of their books from the library yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to really look through them and figure out what they're on about, but my professor said that they are redefining the direction that art photography is moving in relation to the rest of modern art.

    It's difficult to find their images online, here's the best I could do: book covers: http://www.urban-resources.net/pages/bernd_becher_authors.html

    Modern art can be very difficult to understand. In response to Mr. Arbing above: "I think if there is a current trend (and an unfortunate one it is) it would be the tendency to try and make everybody competent ... it is the individual who is the ultimate arbiter of what cosntitutes art ... it has the effect of lowering standards to the point of making ANYTHING acceptable and NOTHING open to criticism." I must respectfully disagree. I think that perhaps you are simply missing the much more subtle meanings beneath the image's surface. Consider Andres Serrano's work - a lot of pictures of cheap plastic figurines in tanks filled with the artists urine, taken with a cheap camera in a basic studio. Sounds exactly like what you're lamenting. But consider for a moment the questions it raises about how we hold small, cheap, plastic figurines in such high esteem (to deface a small, cheap, plastic crucifix is sacreligious), and how we relate to things like urine (what's wrong with urine? Jesus had urine, you have urine, I have urine... it's pretty natural, it's sanitary before it sits out too long (just like meat or anything else), what's so bad about urine?). So, you see it's a pretty incisive social critique. Not something that's unopen to criticism, and certainly not something that's art just because he says it is.

    So look around, learn about the history of art in general (the 20th century got VERY interesting), take some classes, check out some books, but don't discount modern art photography because of what you've seen on photo.net
  19. >Who is the current revolutionary photographer or where is he/she taking us?

    Don't waste your time thinking about it. Most work that is both good and revolutionary generally isn't recognized as such until its creators are long dead and buried. Go out and look at other people's prints and interact with other artists - photographers and otherwise. Figure out for yourself what matters and go do it. History will take care of itself.

    That said, I think Thomas Struth's is excellent - likewise for the Bechers and Paul Caponigro (not John Paul Caponigro, John Paul is Paul's son). John Szarkowski and Robert Adams have done some good writing on photography as an artform. (Adams is a photographer himself but I'm not particularly familiar with his work.) Their essays have gotten me to go out and see work - good work - that I mightn't have seen otherwise. The more you look, the more good work you'll see. (You'll see a lot more lousy work than good, but that's true of any medium.) I stick with photography as a medium because there are so many things still worth doing - and I work in black & white and print traditionally.

  20. I disagree with Meryl Arbing mostly, It sounds like she is very bitter, but whatever, Here is a good quote that she is lurking on. Williard Hunting Wright in 1915 said "Any attempt to democratise art results only in the lowering of the artistic standard."

    I'm about to write a very long paper on "contemporary photography meant to shock and disgust" I'm gathering information and i would like some input on you're ideas. I learn more from you photo nerds than from college.

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