Zoe Strauss: " I have noooooooooo f*****g idea!"

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by cyanatic, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. I thought I would pull a "John Kelly" and utilize a link as a jumping off point for discussion. (No disprespect intended, John. You came to mind when I thought of posting the link.)
    http://megawordsmagazine.com/zoe-strauss/
    A number of thoughts after looking at this interview...both the words and the accompanying photographs.
    She talks about different kinds of her photographs (people, signs, buildings): "I feel like all three are connected and they all need each other to have resonance. They need to kind of bounce off of each other to really have the kind of epic scope that I’m looking for—or hope to achieve." The way we group our own images: perhaps obvious resonance ("Street", "Landscapes", "Migrant Farm Workers"), or subtle resonance, or obscure (to most viewers) resonance.
    Her method of working with people and the interviewer's distinction between the world the subjects live in and the world inhabited by Strauss and the interviewer. I didn't take it as snobbery, but it registered.
    And her response when asked what her "epic scope" actually is. Nary a speck of fluff to be found in her words. Or her images. I suspect the latter work better overall if seen as a body of work, rather than individually. Seems to me that they do indeed need each other to have resonance. Imagine a Critique Forum response to her Christmas shot as a standalone. Do we take shots like that? I probably wouldn't. Not lately. In the past, perhaps, as an "oh look at that!" kind of snap. Not that I disdain it, but I wouldn't see it as Strauss apparently does, the resonance. Or does she see it as an "oh look at that!" snap? Odd, to talk about a photograph that way. It's a shot of cluttered Christmas decorations. Or is it? "A" and "A prime" again. I know...some look upon this as navel gazing. But to me it's more than that. It's seeing beyond the see. It's not being enamored by her work, or wanting to emulate it. It's the dim awareness of her concept, or perhaps better to say it's being a witness to her own dim awareness of her reaching toward a concept...the epic scope. It's the search for what is hidden, but hidden in plain sight. Somewhere, a pond of outsize bream await us.
    00YtHA-369291584.jpg
     
  2. Thanks for the article and your thoughts.
    I like her idea (and your picking up on it) of resonance. I was just discussing a new photo of mine with a photographer who knows my work well. It's a bit of a departure for me and somewhat darker than I often go. (You noticed a "departure" in the self portrait you recently commented on.) My friend commented how much it would influence what would generally be perceived as a couple of my "nicer" portraits if they were shown with this one. I agreed. It would somehow give one or two of them in particular an edge they never had before.
    Such resonance is why we can go back to earlier work and find that we rejected or didn't pick up on certain of our own photos because they didn't yet resonate, with us and with our body of work. Now we can see them in a different light.
    I, too, noted how she talked about the world of the subject and the world of the photograph (and the photographer) as different. I feel that sometimes myself. Even when I establish some intimacy with my subjects, there's also a disconnect I can feel. I try to be honest with myself about the reason for establishing some of these fleeting relationships. I am interested and often enticed, but I am also using people. That's got to be OK with me and I don't try to deny or spin it.
     
  3. Recently I came upon a post titled F*** Kodak! Last week I encountered a thread titled Goofy: WTF, which I didn't know what it meant till a helpful member informed me. And now this. I am neither a prude nor a religious zealot but I find this offensive and detracts from my enjoyment of photo.net. I don't care what people say on their web sites or blogs or in their homes or on the street, but there must be better ways to communicate on photo.net with out the need to sensationalize ones post with outright vulgarity. I hope the moderators take note.
     
  4. Sorry the thread title is offensive to you, Louis. It's a direct quote from the linked interview with Zoe Strauss and is relevant to her response to a question regarding the scope of her work. Perhaps I am jaded, but I had thought the F word had long ago lost any cachet of "sensationalism".
    What did you make of the interview? Or did you read it? It does contain a certain amount of profanity. Or is your appearance in this thread merely for the purpose of registering your displeasure with the quoted profanity of the title? Not being snide...just curious as to your motivation.
     
  5. jtk

    jtk

    I don't know why anybody posts written interviews online. Hell, this is the 21st century and the photographer isn't shy or dead.
    Stuck with the interviewer's limited insight and gelded technology I imagined a voice for Strauss : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjD4eWEUgMM
    The voice would tell us more than the words, just as the photographs do. Just as opera or Shakespeare does.
    To summarize my take on Strauss: she's a photographer. She's averse to windbagging and has no need to draw much attention to herself therefore she does the work and talks coarsely. She's an honest person so the alleged transcript couldn't find much self-referential hype. Very few commas: Commas measure deception and lack of clarity. Tick, tick, tick, tick. That's not her trip. She ain't no narcissist.
    Why would anyone talk at length about one of her photographs? She doesn't do photographs by ones. Other photographers do that.
     
  6. jtk

    jtk

    Considering the various online renditions of her photographs: Maybe her work isn't unlike Avedon's. Their subjects perform, the photographers do what photographers do and display prints. They evoke and perhaps direct performances. Their prints are photographs: that's all. They're not performances.
    Maybe Strauss has discovered and developed a peep hole into something and the something somehow makes stimulating shadows. It's the "maybe" and the "somehow" that signify importance and the shadows that drew our attention in the first place. Just as with everything else.
     
  7. Steve, think of Zoe as an ecologist -- as opposed to, for example, a land developer. Viewing the same scene, the ecologist sees interconnections, systemic structure; the developer sees the things and ways that he/she can use it, what can be done with it. Neither cares about what falls outside the scope of their ecological or developmental intentions, i.e. the superfluous (to their needs) one-of-a-kind peculiarities of its individual components (quite the opposite; they wash those out). Which is as it must be. If one has a goal (and one always does; don't argue with me!) one can't be responding to the personality and needs of each particular worm and troll that happens to inhabit one's domain.
    [Zoe is interested in the (generic) pond. If it typically has fish in it, then there will be (generic) fish -- and whatever else.]
     
  8. Her coarse language is very much a way of windbagging. It calls attention to itself and to herself. (I'm not offended by it.) My guess is she knows that. My guess is she also would not much care how or whether others judge her. She's playing the game.
    Though she says her choice of subjects is random and unconscious, they look purposefully chosen and many do have a certain "look" despite her protestations to the contrary. It's a good reason to look at someone's photos alongside their own commentary.
     
  9. Steve, I was thinking about your fluff comment. True, for sure. I do wonder, however, if obviously "coarse" language and an evasive or just minimalist approach to an interview might not be just the flip side of fluff, kind of like the devil in disguise. It can certainly be as self conscious and even as affectacious.
    If I cared more about her photos (they seem as empty as her rhetoric on first look . . . I will allow them all time to grow), I might more appreciate her demeanor and style when it comes to the interview. Lacking much photographic draw for me, the whole package leaves me cold . . . which may very well be her intention, if she has one.
     
  10. Julie -- thanks! Zoe as an "ecologist" makes sense.
    Fred -- I had the same thought about her coarse language. At the beginning of the interview she even wants to make sure that her cursing at the noise is included. (In that sense, Louis is correct about using profanity to sensationalize.) It serves as an "anti-artspeak" and I agree that she's conscious of it. I think it comes naturally to her, however. It's really her, as opposed to a manufactured persona.
     
  11. Steve, I found her rambling interview difficult to follow and the content not particularly interesting to me. I cannot say her images are without merit but they are not to my taste, although I do enjoy doing street photography sometimes as a break from my studio work and can appreciate her efforts.
    Yes, it was the title of the thread, as seen in the unified view, that caught my attention. I am not a regular contributor to this forum although I do sometimes enjoy reading the cerebral topics and intelligent discussions. I'm not standing in judgement of you, Ms. Strauss or anyone else on the way you wish to communicate. The selection of language, phrasing and tone are personal choices we all make and are often adjusted to suit the circumstances, the place and the company. My opinion is subject topic headings on photo.net is a inappropriate place for expletives no matter how pseudo-sanitized via the use of initials or letter exchange. I think there could have been a better way to naming the thread in order to direct attention to this interview. Thanks for your understanding.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    Rather than think of her as an "ecologist" I think of her as a successful photographer who swears. I find the swearing annoying, but I find bad writing more annoying.


    She's "successful" in the senses that a) she's done what appears to me to be outstanding work and b) she's hung the work in a way that distinguishes it from routine bourgeois art exhibition. In other words, she's "better" in some absolute sense than exhibiting photographers who are dedicated to collectors, decor and celebrity-consumerist "photos of" (Mapplethorpe and Leibowitz for example). The swearing is incidental, local color.


    People who swear a lot do it mostly because they inhabit a culture that swears a lot (eg military). Look at the people she photographs if you have the time to consider the work she does.
    Do her subjects swear?

    Many people swear because they are inarticulate and socially awkward. Is that reason to dwell on the obscenity?
    I think attributing negatives to this photographer on the basis of a badly done interview is more than a little ridiculous.


    Prissy attitude by people don't appreciate her work (as admitted several times above) is prissy attitude...it's a smoke screen. One doesn't have to "like" someone's work (or her subjects) to see the strengths.
    Why stoop to pop psychologizing someone on the basis of work not seen? I've not seen the prints so I've not seen the photos, but I have seen enough of her online images to want to go out of my way to see the real work.
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    I appreciate Louis Meluso's well-considered point of view, but it's a little late in the day to worry about the crude anglo saxon elements of our lingo (Chaucer anyone? Is Henry Miller OK?), especially on Photo.net...which buries a tremendous amount of merest porn in portfolios that begin with innocent yawners of vacation snaps, flowers, red rocks in AZ, and cute doggies.
    How about a rule on the content of images on P.N: no photos of people who use bad language.
     
  14. Not appreciating someone's work is not exhibiting a prissy attitude. It's giving an honest reaction. Sometimes the prissiest queen in the room doesn't recognize prissiness in him or herself. It probably comes from a lack of self awareness, usually because that prissy honeybun is so busy criticizing everyone else that they forget to look in a mirror now and then.
    Saying work is outstanding is the easy part. Not being able to say any more is either bad writing or superficial viewing. Isolated declarative statements may be short and sweet and easy to understand but they don't take us very far. The risk involved is in saying why. Not doing so is the sign of a coward.
    Zoe herself recognizes that she doesn't inhabit the world of her subjects. Pretending she does is a nice fantasy for the viewer, but it has nothing to do with her or her photographs.
     
  15. I spent summers between ages 12 and 18 working in a scrap metal business in Buffalo, New York. As a result, so-called coarse language is simply language to me. It's routine, humdrum, and insignificant. Louis, if it bothers you, I suggest you grow broader shoulders and a thicker skin.
    What bothers me is when people use 4-letter words in an effort to be "cool" or otherwise to impress others. This is nothing more than base grandstanding and most people can see right through it.
    As to the work of Ms. Strauss, I will reserve further comment until I've had a chance to look at it.
     
  16. jtk

    jtk

    We recently had a long thread about Bruce Davidson, whose views are eccentric and harsh. As a result he was slammed right here by his photographic inferiors. There were of course plenty of convoluted sentences.
    "Appreciation" is not the same as "like" or 7/7. Language lesson: we may "appreciate something" in the sense that we enjoy it or like it, or we may appreciate it in the sense that we try to understand its value. We can appreciate something to which we react viscerally and negatively.
    If we appreciate a photograph, responding viscerally and negatively to it, that may indicate that the photo is of tremendous value and it may raise questions for us about ourselves. Thats a Minor White kind of idea, incidentally. And I think it has something to do with Zoe Strauss's work.
     
  17. It has something to do with cowardice. Not making a commitment. Not taking a stand. This so-called visceral reaction, in some hands, is a mere excuse. And it's transparent. Now count the commas and get on with it.
     
  18. I like her work it is fresh and original and captures an honesty devoid of the usual fluff.
    Her personality, muses and graces, is to my mind inconsequential ; for me it's all about the photography.
     
  19. "It has something to do with cowardice. Not making a commitment. Not taking a stand. This so-called visceral reaction, in some hands, is a mere excuse. And it's transparent. Now count the commas and get on with it."
    That's a bit strong calling someone a coward and telling them to go and count commas,Fred. We all have differing opinions.
    I've thrown garbage heaps of bad grammer into John's face buzzing with flies of bad punctuation. It has not really bothered him and he has just responded in his usual style.
    To be challenged is stimulating and interesting. Let us not take it too personally.


    Chill out folks.
     
  20. Not that I disdain it, but I wouldn't see it as Strauss apparently does, the resonance. Or does she see it as an "oh look at that!" snap? Odd, to talk about a photograph that way. It's a shot of cluttered Christmas decorations. Or is it? "A" and "A prime" again. I know...some look upon this as navel gazing. But to me it's more than that. It's seeing beyond the see. It's not being enamored by her work, or wanting to emulate it. It's the dim awareness of her concept, or perhaps better to say it's being a witness to her own dim awareness of her reaching toward a concept...the epic scope. - Steve​
    One of photography's main challenges is that it draws from the physical world and the physical world is not infinite but stuffed with recognition, despite chance. The way a photography ( not a photograph or a series of photographs but a photography ) might work is in off-setting this recognition through juxtaposition, allowing for re-cognition. In that sense, every sort of subject or photograph is game to my eyes. Resonance, yes, like the words in a poem or a book are meant to work together and not apart.
     
  21. jtk

    jtk

    Allen, I've never been bothered by your style (or Brad's or Spirer's). You deal in substance.
    It's significant that hardly anybody on this thread has said anything about the work of the photographer.
    "Make a stand" suggests "tea party" in 2011. I'm irresolute on lots of matters, adamant about a few (such as reasonably conventional word useage...since this isn't a poetry forum). I'm most alive when I don't have answers.
     
  22. jtk

    jtk

    Take Steve Gubin's dead crappie, for example. Is it more of a fish now than when it was struggling on the line? Isn't that a bit of a let-down when the fish dies? Don't know about fisherman, but that let-down is common among hunters. But both fishermen and hunters can eat what they kill, no matter how they feel about it.
    "taking a stand" in defense of a cast-in-stone verbalization seems like pretending one has caught a fish.
     
  23. Allen, for your info, though I don't want to belabor the point, I was quoting John verbatim back to himself. You may not follow the Philosophy forum often enough to know he says those things with regularity about individuals and about many of us whom he lumps together as a group. I imagine if you google "count the commas" you well get quite a few hits.
    As for John, I have noticed that he hasn't said anything about the photographs either, other than that they are "outstanding."
    I remember a first grade teacher always reminding us not to start reports off with "I liked it because it was great." She was an excellent teacher. Taught us to think for ourselves and be articulate about it.
     
  24. A very uninforming interview with few visual examples of what she is referring to. I'm not bothered by her use of profanity, but my experience has often been that easy poor language is either a crutch, or worse, a "hey, look at me, I don't give a f*** about anyone and I am knocking down your polite barriers or paradigms. Profanity becomes a paradigm in itself, of course. Lookig for meat in what she says, I find only fat. Even the smart trendy word "resonance" means nothing in that interview. Talking about something and not providing examples for the reader or viewer is wasting our time. I may be proved wrong, if amything of substance is later forthcoming at some point, but it doesn't auger well from the clarity of that interview. Is it a popular movement in our era to say you are photographing randomly and unconsciously? She simply makes me feel sleepy listening to her, and to the lack of incisiveness, curiosity or boldness of a maladroit interviewer. Resonance I can relate to in other contexts but this apparently vapid interview and examples. But "epic scope" reminds me of what might emanate from the rear of a bull, at least in the superficial way she uses it in the interview..
    But thanks anyway, Steve, you have a good sensitivity in photography and I was therefore expecting something along those lines. It wasn't a complete waste of attention, though. It is good to come to face with interviews like this, if only to encourage slightly higher expectations.
     
  25. I'm still laughing at "what might emanate from the rear of a bull"!
    I thought it would be interesting to take a look at someone contemporary, who is not necessarily well known. And someone who is a bit of a challenge. Separating her words from her photographs, I think she qualifies in that regard. I would like to see an exhibit of her work, indoors or out, just to get the impact of her work.
    Well, if Zoe Strauss is not to many people's taste, take a look at the pinhole work of Guillame Zuilli. Grain and blur in spades.
    http://www.agencevu.com/stories/index.php?id=1146&p=86
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    fwiw I don't even "like" Strauss's work. Who cares what any of us "like?" It's more interesting to see what people contribute in response, and what kind of photographers they are, than to attend to their judgements.
    Strauss would get low ratings on P.N specifically because she deals with some sort of substance. Her photos aren't pretty, don't even pretend to reveal the inner workings of the subjects. They don't attribute depth or sensitivity to meat puppets. They raise all sorts of questions. Rather than doting on Strauss's language, an honest interviewer might have ignored it, made brief reference to it, or shared an audio interview. That would have required near zero technical skill and resources. Instead he was preoccupied with Strauss's language.
    Analogy is one of the ways I respond to photographs. I made this analogy earlier: Strauss's work reminds me of Avedon's. Why? Because she allows the subjects to be the performers. She may direct, certainly selects, but doesn't make herself the subject. I doubt she'd refer much to herself if she was writing about photography, or that she'd refer to her own photos to illustrate ideas (I'm taking a risk: I'd rather be wrong than pretend my "liking" was of value).
    I have an Ansel Adams artificial lighting book in which about 2/3 of the photos are his... he doesn't credit himself but he does credit the other photographers. He wrote generously to teach, had no need to draw attention to himself. Strauss's interviewer would have evaluated Ansel's fashion sense.
    The interviewer, like some of us, saw so much opportunity for himself in her obscenity that he ignored her work. She's a photographer, obviously not talker. Where are the photos? The single example (Amy Winehouse fan?) isn't representative. I easily found and posted a link to her work on another thread. Why didn't he? Because he was determined to use her to seem superior: a common "critical" affectation. He is, after all, writing about himself. He wants to be the performer.
     
  27. Zoe Strauss's is but one way of working. So is Avedon's. Many will emulate their way of working and photographing (or, more likely bow at their feet without being able to accomplish anything like it) because they lack their own individuality, substance, and ability to take risks. They worship heroes as a substitute for doing what THEY want.
    I am a photographer/performer for a variety of reasons. I do perform as much if not more than my subjects. It gets me where I want to be. I owe my subjects that honesty. We can share in the performance. I respect other photographers who work differently. It sounds like the above post is ridiculing photographers who talk about themselves, their own work, or their own process. I can't imagine why. I embrace that kind of talk and self awareness/reflection. It may well go along with my being a performer.
    Regarding Struass, dealing with meat puppets, not dealing with prettiness, not dealing with the inner workings are all astute observations. What's not terribly astute is assuming that that would or should raise questions for another viewer or is somehow substantive in everyone's eyes. It may just be ugly and work that's not going to interest some people. Whether others respond to this work with passionate curiosity or reject it as garbage, or somewhere in between, says that there are differences of taste. It doesn't bring with it a lot of the pretended superiority of vision and viewership that is apparent above. Those who don't like it, don't appreciate it, or don't respond to it (I imagine none of those words will be acceptable, but one can't simply remain mute in the face of a word dragon waiting to pounce) are not prissy or to be thought of in terms of the PN ratings game. They are actually the equals of the Avedon sycophants.
     
  28. Strauss's work reminds me of Avedon's. Why? Because she allows the subjects to be the performers. She may direct, certainly selects, but doesn't make herself the subject.​
    That's not what Avedon said about his portraiture ( like how he preferred to photograph "Avedon people" in which he could find something of himself ). Quite the opposite in fact. He did make himself very much the subject of his subjects.
     
  29. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, as you mentioned, Avedon said he photographed his kind of people. They're not him, they're somebody else.
    He selected them (or had help or was assigned them by an editor, as for The New Yorker). He was a humanist: They had something of him in them. That does not make him the subject, it makes a huge array of people the subjects (their performances, nothing that he dug deeply for).
    Maybe you'd arrive at a different understanding if you were familiar with the breadth of his work. Portraits of his wife, the Vogue model? Portraits of the evangelical Billy Graham, the racist George Wallace, President Eisenhower? 16mm Minox candids of mental hospital inmates? Gays, straights, celebrities, unknowns? Impoverished nobodies, Johnny Carson's famous neurotic pianist with incredibly bad teeth? Roadside people in The West? The only consistent characteristic I've noticed is that most are caucasian (notable exception being James Baldwin).
    Just from his work I'd say that Avedon saw something of himself in everybody. Don't you find something of yourself in everybody?
    When I'm photographing someone the subject is their performance, I can't see into their skulls and I don't think about myself. I think that was Avedon's approach...and I don't think it's an uncommon approach, just uncommonly direct.
    Maybe I could, like Fred reports he does, concentrate on people of my age and gender and social style. That wouldn't work for me because I don't see people-photography as a mirror so much as someone else's stage.
     
  30. Maybe you'd arrive at a different understanding if you were familiar with the breadth of his work​
    Maybe I wouldn't, as I am familiar with the breadth of his work, and so was Avedon, and he could and made the distinction between his fashion photography and photographs of presidents ( which were both simply a job, work ) and his personal work, which was the portraiture of people through which he aimed and expressed ( a performance of ) himself in. Hence, he could talk about 'Avedon people'.
     
  31. WTF, which I didn't know what it meant till a helpful member informed me.​
    Why The Fuss?
    Wasn't That Funny?
    Wow, That's Fantastic!
    :)
     
  32. For those who may be interested, this is a wonderful book of Ms. Strauss' work.
    http://www.amazon.com/America-Steve-Crist/dp/1934429139
    For a signed copy:
    http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=zd563&i=&i2=&CFID=18882701&CFTOKEN=11369521
    Some images from the book:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=zoe+strauss+america&hl=en&biw=751&bih=379&prmd=ivnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=qE_7Tdj6EcmTtwfhyuG8Dg&ved=0CFIQsAQ
    On the subject of words & Zoe Strauss;
    "ZS: I think there are a number of things that go into the text photos for me. One being that I am very conscious of the history of photography -- it's important to me to reference it and to talk about how photography is still a burgeoning art; it's important to pay homage to these specific forms that have essentially just occurred and which we are still working through. Another big part of it in terms of the I-95 project and the installation is that I want people who walk through it to get a sense they are reading these images. So the literal act of reading is something that is really important in moving people back and forth when seeing the images, it creates a different way of seeing. Personally I am very drawn to text, I am interested in reading and language, I am interested in more than one meaning with the text and how we can make our own meanings out of these things. Many of them are incomplete statements but they are solid and they say enough for a person reading it to create their own narrative without telling them the whole story."
    Source:
    http://www.photoeye.com/magazine/articles/2008/11_06_Zoe_Strauss.cfm
     
  33. Thev PhotoEye interview makes much more sense, and one can have some sympathy for her approach, although Strauss' America seems to me to be like one of Eugene O'Neill's dramas ("A Long Day's Journey into Night"), both typical of its subject and at the same time atypical, and perhaps even irrelevant. But the photography follows a contemporary fashion of concentrating on one reality of life and no doubt pleases the arts council grant boffins.
     
  34. Arthur, I am curious...why do you find Strauss' work irrelevant? what's one example of someone whose work you would deem "typical" and relevant? And one atypical and relevant?
     
  35. "One of photography's main challenges is that it draws from the physical world and the physical world is not infinite but stuffed with recognition, despite chance."
    Stuffed with recognition I would agree with. Dispite chance I would disagree. We are not painters,we are photographers. You are confusing the two worlds. And they are different worlds.
    We perceive chance and react to it. A painter/artist creates a conception. Totally different.
     
  36. I do more than react in taking photos. I set them up, I may or may not position my subjects according to the lighting in the room or on the street, I will consider my own position, I may ask for a kind of gesture or expression. I may have planned something to look a certain way the night before while I was lying in bed. Of course, included in my process, like a painter's, is being open to chance and able to react to the moment. Photographers can create conceptions. I do, both as a matter of individual photos and as a matter of body of work. I think Strauss's creation of concept, as she is stating, is in the resonance of her various series, one with the other. Photographers are different from painters. And can be the same in these and other sorts of ways.
     
  37. "Photographers are different from painters. And can be very much the same in many ways."
    I don't think so. A Painter/Artist has the total free range of their imagination to express their creativity in any way.
    We are always restricted by the image in front of us.
    Total freedom of the imagination is the final destiny. And that is what the Painter/Artist has.
    We can never be equal partners.
     
  38. Hello. Phylo.
     
  39. The painter uses paint and a canvas (or whatever materials he chooses) and is "limited" by those materials as the photographer is "limited" by his raw materials. We are all finite and it is always within our limits that we find freedom. No one is beyond those limits. Painters do create more directly from their imaginations to the canvas and photographers create by building with the raw materials of the world. But the photographer's image is not, by any means, in front of him. The photographer creates an image from what is in front of him. And even that image is not the photo anyway. The photo is created by adopting a perspective, setting an exposure, focusing or not, clicking at a certain moment, processing . . .
     
  40. "and is "limited" by those materials as the photographer is "limited" by his raw materials"
    I don't think so. And neither do you. Sort of like saying you need a Leica to take special photos.
     
  41. Anyway, it's my bed time. I'm going to tuck up with my teddy and Leica..
    And God bless you all.
     
  42. Luis, the irrelevancy was to do with Strauss's choice of subjects for her volume "America". While I connect with and have feelings for people who are downtrodden, abused or living on the margin, I don't think her photography represents the multiple nature of humanity in your country. Much contemporary photography seeks subjects like hers. Is she titling her volume America (a very all embracing refrence) simply to create an awareness of certain of its citizens? Is she simply enamoured of the contradictions? America is much more complex and layered than her themes and subjects. What is her purpose? I struggle a little with that question.
     
  43. Allen, to recap: Phylo is confused and Fred doesn't really think what he says he thinks. And presumably Allen knows best. Over and out.
     
  44. Arthur - "I don't think her photography represents the multiple nature of humanity in your country."
    I don't think she does either, and I'm sure she'd be the first to agree with you on that. Should her or anyone's photography reflect on a fair and balanced cross-section of the entire US demographic? I can't think of anyone of note whose work does. Can you?
    Arthur - "Much contemporary photography seeks subjects like hers."
    I don't know. I see a lot of beautiful young people being pictured these days in the art world. Specially beautiful young things. Many of her subjects are from her neighborhood. She lives there. She is not slumming/visiting/being a tourist around these people. They're not beautiful. A lot of people have remarked that her that she "photographs ugly people".She has been compared to a recontextualized Jacob Riis-like sensitivity, but I'm not sure I agree with that. It's what she knows and has lived with. Would it be surprising that it's affected her work and world view?
    AP - "Is she titling her volume America (a very all embracing refrence) simply to create an awareness of certain of its citizens?"
    Perhaps. It's America, by Zoe Strauss. It's her America. Just like Robert Frank's "Les Americains" was his. It wasn't a cross-section by any means.
    AP - "Is she simply enamoured of the contradictions? America is much more complex and layered than her themes and subjects. What is her purpose? I struggle a little with that question."
    I do not think she is depicting a cross-section representing all 300 million Americans. She's photographing what she is drawn to, just like the rest of us.
     
  45. Allen - "We can never be equal partners."
    Speaking for yourself, Allen that may be true. It's a different medium, but an artist is an artist, and many painters photographed, or painted from photographs, and still do. I recently saw a clay/performance artist perform, something that had never occurred to me.
     
  46. jtk

    jtk

    If one wants to think about "statements," perhaps "America, by Zoe Strauss" is hers. See Luis G, above.
    I'm not convinced she was "drawn to" them. Maybe so. I think she saw something others didn't see, saw an opportunity to do her work usefully, exercise her ego.
    Do her subjects want exposure, do they need "help?" Not in the political or social-worker sense. But she gives them help in another way and gets rewarded for it (recognition and more).
    As with Avedon's, Strauss's photos reflect the performances of the subjects. The photographer provided the performance space.
     
  47. "Should her or anyone's photography reflect on a fair and balanced cross-section of the entire US demographic? I can't think of anyone of note whose work does. Can you?"
    No. That is indeed the challenge I think in defining a country by its people (One doesn't need all 300 or so Americans, but a reasonably complete cross-section of the peoples/types that make up and define the country. No, not Liebowitz (Photographs, 1970-1990), who concentrates on stars, or Robert Frank, as you say. The German photographer Sanders comes close to doing it in his own jurisdoction. That is the indeed challenge I think in defining a country by its people (One doesn't need all 300 or so Americans but a crioss-section of the peoples/types that make up and define the country.
    We may be luckier in Canada to have Karsh's book "The Canadians" and some of Notman's incisive photos of his Canadian countrymen in the middle to late 1800s ("Portrait of a Period, 1856 to 1915"). Both are more formal (studio imasges in some part, not all) than Strauss, but even though there is a large number of stars in their portrait constellation there is a better cross section of countrymen and women. I recommend either to those wishing to better understand a country through its images of people of different vocations and ideas.
    I hope this answers your question, even if their are few definitive works available.
     
  48. Arthur - "One doesn't need all 300 or so Americans, but a reasonably complete cross-section of the peoples/types that make up and define the country"
    Not just to Arthur, but to everyone, Do you agree with the above? Does one need to do a cross-section of the entire nation? I thought in between posts that Ms. Strauss' title was in the spirit of including her subjects in whatever "America" is. Or perhaps that this is her own America, that which is directly part of her universe (in a manner similar to Milton Rogovin), not the America, just as Robert Frank's The Americans was more of a poesis than a census, like Avedon's The American West.
    Thanks, Arthur, for going the distance with this.
     
  49. No. One doesn't need to do a cross-section, though seeing through Arthur's idea of a cross-section could be a valuable project for someone who wanted to do it. Strauss seems to photograph with a more individual passion and toward a more particular end.
     
  50. Perhaps another way to look at this. Zoe Strauss and Robert Frank are not showing a cross-section of America. In other words, they are not trying to represent America or provide a complete picture of America. But they are each showing something uniquely American. And it seems totally appropriate to me for them to use America or American in their titles.
     
  51. Hey Commenters! Thanks so much for thinking and writing about my work. I'm deeply appreciative. With Love, Zoe
     

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