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An interesting report by ABC

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This relates to the debate here about the difference between "artsy"

photographers like Friedlander and those who choose instead to take

photos worth looking at.<br><br>


Here's the link: <a


by John Stossel: You Call That Art?</a><br><br>


It's not specific to photography, but art in general. They did an

experiment, mixing the works of famous abstract artists with things

painted by 4-year-olds, elephants, etc, and asking various groups of

people to identify the "real" art vs the kiddy art.<br><br>


It turns out that the kiddy art actually did better with the general

public than the works of the masters. Artists also could not tell

them all apart. Even an art historian, presumably familiar with the

styles of these famous artists, mistook one of the paintings by small

children for the work of a master.<br><br>


Here's a quote from the story: <i>One artist, Victor Acevedo,

described one of the children's pieces as "a competent execution of

abstract expressionism which was first made famous by de Kooning and

Jackson Pollock and others. So it's emulating that style and it's a

school of art."</i><br><br>


At least one artist was more grounded. Says the article: <i>An

artist who calls himself Flash Light told me, "The function of art is

to make rich people feel more important."</i><br><br>


This really parallels the conflicting opinions about photography that

I've seen on this site.

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Well, I guess that proves it. People who take quizzes on websites really can't distinguish selected masters works from selected children's paintings by looking at thumbnail-sized images on the web.


I admit though, those 4-year-old girls had a very cool painting.

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Sometimes you need background information to appreciate a work of art, e.g, Orwell's "Animal Farm" means little if you are ignorant of politics. I always say learn what you can from other people's work and pay no attention to popular opinion.
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Heh, you guys are really missing the point.


There's nothing "great" about producing something any child (or, dare I say, monkey) could create at random. Nor is it in any way difficult. The greatness of this kind of work is completely imagined in the minds of art buffs and historians who get so caught up in silly trends that they forget about making things that are good-looking or emotionally powerful. Instead they focus on the "greatness" as defined by some goofball standards they picked up in art history class.


And even they can't recognize that kind of greatness when they're forced to distinguish it from a pile of work by the "greats" and a pile of random works by children and animals. It doesn't exist; it's in their head. If they don't know that they're "supposed" to think it's great, they don't know whether or not it's great. That's not judgement.


All of these avant garde trends are basically ways for people with no artistic talent to make it big if they get in with the right crowd. Someone may not be able to paint, draw, or take a photo worth a darn, but if he makes the right connections he can draw a circle and sell it for more than someone doing real work (artistic or otherwise) makes in a year.


It's all just nonsense. That's the point.

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Nobody's missing the point.


Having seen what children can do with art when taught properly instead of in the American way, I can say that what happens is the creative brilliance is lost along the way. Only a few retain it.


People who spend their time being hyper-critical of modern art are the ones that are missing the point. They have no spirit, no imagination, no creativity. Things have to fit in a specific box to be "good" or worthwhile" when it is them that have lost any value to the rest of the world.

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What Jeff writes about children losing this ability is right on. This is done by well meaning parents that push their children into more serious, practical paths other then art as they grow older. A four year old throwing paint is charming, a 14 year old doing the same scares the daylights out of most parents. I was lucky to come from a family of artists. Dad, was a photographer, Mom was a painter, Grandma was a fashion designer and also a painter. Everyone took music lessons, attended museums, and so fourth. Nobody made a living from art, but works were often sold. I recall a time when I was in my early 20's (I'm in my mid 30's now) where I became obsessed with Cubism. I must have painted 50 canvases of portraits and still lifes in a cubist form. When I didn't get the results I liked I went into pure non objective works. Trust me, it is very difficult. One thing that all great artists have in common is that they make it look easy.

I recall once my grandmother looking over my paintings and basically telling me modern art was a farce. She said it required no skill whatsoever. So I walked over to where some of her recent work was (which was large extremely detailed landscapes she painted from photographs from magazines like Arizona Highways) and told her she hadn't created anything new since this scene already exists. Her strength was in her craft whereas mine was in my imagination and drive to create something new even if I was drawing from the inspiration of great artists from the past. Besides, I even recall reading someplace that Picasso once said it was perfectly ok to rob the ideas of other artists and to put your own stamp on it. Remember, cubism was born from Picasso's interest in African art and masks.



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The article only stated that what's been stated many, many times here and elsewhere.


"It all depends on which "White Elephant" is goring who's "Oxen." and whom is willing to pay for the show."


Enjoyed the truth of the article as there are those who will deny and/or argue quickly, "What is truth."




"Here it is on a plate, does the plate exist?"


"That all depends on if I hit you with it or not." :)

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"This relates to the debate here about the difference between "artsy" photographers like Friedlander and those who choose instead to take photos worth looking at."


I've always enjoyed Friedlander's photos. Maybe you could enlighten me with a list of photographers with work worth looking at? The best thing about art is how it's best when everybody is doing the same thing and thinking the same way. ;)

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I agree with Jeff.


We fail our children's education on a consistent basis in this country. The first thing we cut, when it comes to education, is music and arts programs. Then we wonder why kids don't perform well. Maybe it has to do with extinguishing that spark of wonder every kid was born with. Maybe it's a failure to instill a value system based on something other than making a buck.

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The thing that strikes me about Frielander type photos is that they are only considered artistic because "he" shot it not because the actual image has any artistic value. If these photos were circulated without his name behind the image nobody would consider them of any value. Its only when someone says "Friedlander shot this" that people start to convince themselves that there is more to it than meets the eye. If a photgraph can't stand on its own and has to be coupled to a name or explained to death, than it does a pretty poor job of conveying a message in my opinion. All it takes is a few college professors or MOMA types to start praising someone and everyone else follows like lemmings. If Friedlander signed a photo I took of my kitchen wallpaper the "merits" of the image would be discussed ad nauseum and those who disliked it would be told they are ignorant, uncultured neanderthals who can't appreciate "true art."
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It's hardly surprising that the people who only accept the value of work that is conventional (which conforms to the "standards" which they've been exposed to most frequently) insist that those people who like something unconventional must only like it because those people are unable to think for themselves. When you're actually capable of independent thought yourself, it doesn't seem so unthinkable that others might also have that ability.
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<I/>Mike's post and mine aren't mutually exclusive.</I><P>


The problem is that you and Gary are using the same style of broad generalizations that was evident in John Stossel's garbage article. If the U.S has been producing only "grade-A shyte" as you say, then how do you explain Avedon, Newman, Arbus, Nachtwey, and many others? As Lee and Jeff pointed out, there are massive problems in U.S and (from my observations as a canuck)Canadian educational systems, especially in focussing on liberal and fine arts, but to make such asinine generalizations as you and Gary have is just as problematic.

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The majority of artists of whatever genre or style work their tails off, worry about bills, worry about recognition, have self-doubts, usually get less per hour for their work than a day-labourer, take side jobs, try to play the schmooze game in the hopes of being able to support themselves and their families, sometimes "make" it, mostly don't.


None of them EVER have the assumptions or suspicions of other artists' work that either the producer of that show or some of the posters on this thread do. Because they've been there.


The ABC production says more about the producer's view of [what would interest] his audience, than about art or artists.

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I think I found my way to photography after I realized I couldn't paint. I would like to make eye catching illustrations, have achieved a few, and like to keep looking for scenes to capture in ways most people don't see them. I really don't think of myself as creative.


The picture on the home page that represents the featured portfolio was taken about a mile from my home. I wander that waterfront 3 to 6 times a week carrying a variety of equipment. My friend and I drive through there after breakfast 3 times a week and often stop to see what's moving on the river. If I had taken that image I'd have thrown it away. Looking through the portfolio one can see his interest in capturing people in ordinary settings and I wouldn't rate the images low, but I wouldn't bother to take them either. I don't wish to demean the man's work, it just doesn't interest me.


When I read the rave critiques I'm always guessing are these people a bunch of sheep following a shepherd or is there some true art that is beyond my vision. The comments don't really relate the source of the admiration.


Some years ago I wandered a few Art Museums in Toronto with an artist I dated a long time. I had attended openings for her art club's exhibits and had a sense of what her club members thought were good paintings. In the museum I saw a lot of paintings that were no where near as good as her club presented and she concurred when she sensed my disappointment. I do appreciate that hundreds of years ago these artists couldn't walk into a store and buy the equipment available today nor could they acquire the books or anthologies of art we can view. Many of the paintings I saw were of ordinary scenes in the artist life, buildings or events, marketplaces, family and the like. Not terribly creative but excellent as documentary material.


In many of the forums at pn it is often suggested that the photography is not an art if it doesn't stick close to reality and I wonder if that means that post processing destroys it's documentary value even if it makes an image more artlike or creative. When I set out to put an image in my book or on my computer, I don't care if it is actually what I saw when I triggered the shutter. I don't mind taking elements out of a picture but I feel quite different about adding them. I've done it but I call them illustrations rather than photos. I want my photos to look true to life, even if I've altered them a lot. But then, I shoot to please me not a customer or critic.


Getting better at photography means learning from somebody else's skill. I don't always like what I see on pn but I try to avoid low ratings if I don't like an image. Rarely does the person requesting a critique explain what his goal was when he set out to make the image. If I don't understand that I'm reluctant to comment or rate. I rarely shoot with a plan ahead of time. I'm go where I might find an interesting setting a see what I might capture. I'm sure there are a million other approaches to creation.

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A simple thought in regard to photographic art; Read and learn and create that what makes you happy.


If you're not gonna show in a museum and you don't care what the curators think, then what the notables do, (learning,) doesn't matter.


I haven't a clue how my recent education of the last three years has influenced my artistic efforts. I know that subconciously, like it or not and to what unknown degree I've been contaminated; my studies have influenced me.


So if, in the end, one is not impressed with what's being shown in museums, then stop going and don't worry cause all the worrying in the world isn't going to change the status quo.


Personally, I gave up on museums as the efforts being shown was laughable and not worth the continued effort. But this reaction is not to say that this behavior, on my part, should be the standard which others follow.


If one think the artistic effort they're looking at is junk, it's junk. If one thinks it's a wonder, then it's a wonder and if the curator wants to do a show and "they" come, what difference does it make what anybody, outside those who go, thinks?

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It never ceases to amaze me that people who are ostensibly interested and even passionate about an art form (photography) should choose to remain ignorant and refuse to think about the specific issues of that form.


Friedlander is not a would-be Salgado who just can't manage to point his camera in the right direction, but rather an artist who takes seriously the idea that photography is about photography - just as poetry is about poetry and not about trees or flowers. His work is informed by an exploration of what the camera alone can show, and that is often quite surprising. The pictures work by establishing a tension between how we see and how the camera sees, and winding up that tension as far as it will go (I will just add that I haven't seen any recent work by him, my comment only applies to his work from the seventies and eighties).


As for the claim that a seven year old can produce abstract expressionist paintings, sure, he might be able to accidentally do so, or be able to do so because he has no other means at his disposal - simply because he is a child. But when a forty year old painter with a long development of his means of expression behind him and all the technical skills of the academy at his disposal produces an abstract painting or uses the idiom of childish painting, it should be evident that he is making a specific statement about how representation and the nature of painting itself. The two paintings might be superficially similar, but the painting by the mature artist is culturally inflected in a way no child's picture could ever be.


As an example, if a photographer who has completely mastered his processes makes a series of out of focus pictures, then it should be evident that this is not in any way comparable to the work of an incompetent who cannot focus his camera.

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