Jump to content

Taste and Prejudice in Photography


Recommended Posts

<p>A <a href="http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4015&sid=4d0f2fd58888b3dc42132890629d479d&start=875"><strong>LINK</strong></a> for Wouter-who-is-learning-about-wine that I think he may enjoy. Wouter, I'm dropping you into the middle of things with the <a href="http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4015&sid=4d0f2fd58888b3dc42132890629d479d&start=875"><strong>LINK</strong></a> ... in which one finds much puzzlement on the mysteries of taste.</p>
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Well. Adi had hard life and never been to academic education, to say the least badly driven by circumstanses of ideological nature and very emotional too - as we all know hardly an authority, but he was very popular nethertheless, so, who knows, maybe it's not whole wrong after all. One shold assume he had clear set of criteria plus contextual definitions mostly borrowed from Schopenhauer stuff which he seem had not had understood quite well and ever yet not to be gaining some popularity these days although I would say it is too early to cheap in but keep money ready just in case.</p>
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Taste involves in part assigning value to a photograph according to its merits: that skill takes an inclination, time, and effort to acquire. One issue suggested in the following quote from Steve:</p>

<blockquote>

<p>My prejudice toward Ansel Adams and those who speak of him in reverential tones (the cherrywood view camera "Lenswork Magazine" crowd)...</p>

</blockquote>

<p>That quote suggests to me, and I may be misreading it, the danger inherent in developing one's taste to a degree which some others don't: the danger of being thought, by one's self or another, as a sort of art snob, for lack of a better term; or thought a wine snob just for having developed one's palate, less so if one has a refined taste for cheeses, where many cheeses are with good reason generally regarded as disagreeable if not disgusting. Yet no one's character is blamed for having a taste for odd cheese.</p>

<p>But with art, wine: are we doomed by our hard won differentiation to be misunderstood, our enjoyments of either art or wine never appreciated by some of those with whom we venture to share the pleasure of these two joys?</p>

<p>There is a more serious issue here too. In the film <em>Dead Man Walking</em>, the nun played by Susan Sarandon: a flashback to her youth in the film showed her going along with the other children when they all attacked a defenseless animal. Yet as a mature woman, she defended an animal, the killer played by Sean Penn, from the murderous hysteria of the crowd.</p>

<p>We don't know how, why, or when the Susan Sarandon character matured. Nor do we know in another all the reasons that a piece of art may have moved them or know even know the fact that it did or didn't. No do we know how being so moved integrated itself into their life to become an essential part of who they are. So on the one hand we talk of taste and merit when the main reason we would speak of such things is because we were affected or wanted to be affected. So on one level these questions of taste and prejudice seem as insignificant in a way as selecting cheeses; but on other levels it's a lot deeper than that and has to do too with how we can find a place in the world where something of who we most deeply are is reflected, reflected in a broader culture that at times seems silent or indifferent to the hardest questions involved in being human. Where except in art can we find these finer things not considered by mass culture as of any merit, mass culture always selling and hierarchical?</p>

<p>When we talk about taste and prejudice we are, but mostly aren't talking about yet another affectation though it's an easy cheap shot to say that we are mostly talking about yet another affectation: art is supposed to be, in my mind anyway, about something more real and essential than yet another affectation of conscious/self-conscious display of knowledge, more than just another gaudy parade. Art critics help us to know the difference between a fashionable statement and a work of art. But we don't know what we don't know and it's hard to tell a good critic from a fashionable one.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>New Topographics, Steve: "...but I think there's a big difference between the way Evans photographed a gas station and the way that Shore photographed a gas station."</p>

<p>I'm no so sure there is a fundamental difference? Walker Evans, best known for "his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression" (is that a google sidebar??), in other words, had a critical approach as was critical the approach of the New Topographics per Wikipedia: "They all depicted urban or suburban realities under changes in an allegedly detached approach. In most cases, they gradually revealed themselves as coming from rather critical vantage points." These are 'ruined' landscapes, those New Topographics "a somewhat ironic or critical eye on what American society had become."</p>

<p>I find a critical eye missing in photographs I see nowadays of urban decay and rust: conveys more of an interest in ruin for its own sake perhaps? Or am I missing the critical approach existent in the motivation today for such captures?</p>

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Charles, I don't know about the "for its own sake" part. You're likely right, at least in part. But I also notice a tendency toward a more abstracted view of urban decay rather than a critical or narrative view. That's in the good stuff. The more typical stuff, and less inspiring, is simple decoration. Rust looks cool.</p>
We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<blockquote>

<p><strong>Charles W</strong> -- That quote suggests to me, and I may be misreading it, the danger inherent in developing one's taste to a degree which some others don't: the danger of being thought, by one's self or another, as a sort of art snob, for lack of a better term; or thought a wine snob just for having developed one's palate, less so if one has a refined taste for cheeses, where many cheeses are with good reason generally regarded as disagreeable if not disgusting. Yet no one's character is blamed for having a taste for odd cheese.</p>

</blockquote>

<p>Charles, I'm sorry but I don't quite grasp what you're saying in the quote above.</p>

<p> </p>

<blockquote>

<p><strong>...</strong>on other levels it's a lot deeper than that and has to do too with how we can find a place in the world where something of who we most deeply are is reflected, reflected in a broader culture that at times seems silent or indifferent to the hardest questions involved in being human. <em>Where except in art can we find these finer things not considered by mass culture as of any merit, mass culture always selling and hierarchical?</em></p>

</blockquote>

<p>I'm requoting this less because I have something to add to it, but more because it strikes me as something that gets at "art" in a way that makes more sense than many theories, definitions, or examples. ("Finer things" for me not meaning "refined", for art can be found in the crude, the boorish, and the ugly.) In short, I like the way this was put.</p>

<p> </p>

<blockquote>

<p>Walker Evans, best known for "his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression" (is that a google sidebar??), in other words, had a critical approach as was critical the approach of the New Topographics per Wikipedia: "They all depicted urban or suburban realities under changes in an allegedly detached approach. In most cases, they gradually revealed themselves as coming from rather critical vantage points." These are 'ruined' landscapes, those New Topographics "a somewhat ironic or critical eye on what American society had become."</p>

</blockquote>

<p>The "big difference" of which I speak may merely be my personal interpretation.<br /> <br /> When I look at Walker Evan's gas station <a href="http://hopwalkerevans.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/walker-evans_reedsville-wv-1936_levels.jpg">here</a>, I see and hear him saying, "Here it is. Look at this." There's a formal quality to the image, right down to the composition of it, that causes me to see a fairly serious look on his face when he's asking me to look at this gas station. He may have been critical in showing this slice of America, but he was fairly serious and straightforward about it.</p>

<p>When I look at Stephen Shore's gas station <a href="http://www.whitehotmagazine.com/UserFiles/image/Rachel_Bateman/Beverly_Boulevard_and_La_Brea_Avenue_Los_Angeles_California_June_21_1975.jpg">here</a>, I see and hear him saying, "Here it is. Look at this." But there is, to me, a distinctly different quality about the way he presents this gas station in comparison to Evans. When Shore asks me to look at "his" gas station, <em>I see a smirk upon his face.</em> He too is serious, but at the same time he can't help laughing at the absurdity of it.</p>

<p> </p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Steve, thanks for the links to Evans and Shore. Big difference, see what you mean. The Evans one looks inviting and inefficient; the Shore one efficient and uninviting, no place to just hang out. Interesting. In Shore's the people have been displaced.</p>

<p>So would Shore have been aware of and influenced by the Evans gas station photos? Dumb question, but do these two photographers talk to each other across time?</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p><em>"do these two photographers talk to each other across time?"</em></p>

<p>If the photographers don't, the photos surely do.</p>

<p>And it's not just photographers. <a href="http://www.sciencemusings.com/blog/uploaded_images/hoppergas-703575.jpg">Edward Hopper</a> is in on the chat as well.</p>

<p>Art speaks to itself through the ages.</p>

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Fred -- Love the reference to Hopper. I completely agree. (That's one of my favorite Hopper paintings, btw.) Charles -- I don't know enough about Shore to know whether or not he openly acknowledged a debt or reference to Walker Evans. Given the nature of Shore's work, I don't see how he could not have been influenced, or at least aware (of Evans).</p>

<p>I did come across <a href="http://www.aaronschuman.com/shoreinterview.html">this interview </a>with Shore (brief excerpt below):</p>

 

<blockquote>

<p>SS: I didn’t do that a whole lot. I don’t think my personality or persona changed particularly. I mean, I remember a couple of days where I would kind of run into a dry spell in the middle of a three month trip, and say, “Okay, today I’m going to be Walker Evans, and what would he photograph if he came to this next town I come to, wherever it happens to be.” <br>

AS: Had you developed any sort of relationship with Walker Evans personally by this time?<br>

SS: Not at all. Only with his work. </p>

</blockquote>

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>There are two interesting related questions.</p>

<p>First, do photographers "talk" to each other across time? Sometimes, yes, for sure. Through direct reference, homage, or imitation or through much more subtle influence, as Steve mentions.</p>

<p>Second, from our perspective in the here and now, it is worth considering that, whether or not these two photographers ever even heard of each other (which obviously they did), the photos can, for us, engage in a dialogue that we can become part of, as viewers and as photographers ourselves.</p>

<p>Me, I love the idea of the art historic party line.</p>

<p>Seeing that Hopper painting live recently at the Whitney in NY gave me a "taste" for gas stations. I've tried photographing them a couple of times since, to no avail. I'll keep trying.</p>

<p> </p>

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>"Art historic party line" sounds good, but even better I think would be an "Art vision party line" where the accent is less on what was well done in the past and more on what can be done by photographers in the future (difference between philosophical-historical and philosophical-challenges (or philosophical-approaches).</p>

<p>In that sense, and staying with the subject of gas stations, how about a challenge to all PNet members to do a series on gas stations and with possibility of entering at the end of the challenge period three to five images that will then be critiqued by fellow members (To be able to submit you must also be available to constructively critique the work of others, with critiques been judged as much as the works) on the basis of various benchmarks such as:<br /> <br /> -perception of the subject matter<br /> -originality of the approach<br /> -significance of the work (interpretation) to the subject and its environment<br /> -research of the subject (impact of the curiosity or background considerations of the photographer)<br /> -what the images communicate effectively (if anything)<br /> -how the images showed the viewer something new or unexpected about the subject or theme.</p>

<p>The work must be current and undertaken between November 25th and December 10th (or any other acceptable timeframe). Maximum points for originaility and message and minimum ofnegative points for mimicking past works related to the gas station.</p>

<p>.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Too many restrictions for my taste.</p>

<p>For example, if someone wants to mimic or pay homage to a past work, I wouldn't want to be in a position to discourage them from that, since I think it's viable, important, and often good form. If I didn't think it was well done or I didn't like it, I'd say so in my critique. Or, as another example, what if the photo significantly reinforced viewer's views of gas stations rather than showing them something new? Why would that not be encouraged? Much prefer to be given credit for being able to create the photo I want to create rather than adhering to an imposed set of guidelines.</p>

<p>I do like your idea of a communal challenge to photograph gas stations. That's all I would say in establishing the process. I'd leave all the rest out, except for maybe a final date of submission.</p>

<p>Just my own opinions on specifics. I do like the idea itself quite a bit and, so as not to sideline this thread too much, hope you'll consider a thread devoted to it and to drumming up interest.</p>

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>I have entered a number of juried offers of service and the guidelines are often very much stricter than those I mentioned. One of the most challenging things for an artist is to have to meet certain guidelines and to succeed in doing that with brio, by inserting his or her vision or creativity and approach, notwithstanding some constraints that may be there simply to orient the activity and to place it within certain timelines.</p>

<p>New can be a way in which the photographer treats something that is easily identifiable by the viewer but not really seem previously by him in that way. The familiar made more revealing or meaningful.</p>

<p>I remember when 24 hours in the life of a country was a photographic challenge wherein all photos had to be taken within a very restricted period (a specific day). The gas station theme of new work suggested a 15 day period in the not too distant future.</p>

<p>Anyway, I have no desire to argue the pros and cons of a challenge. I simply thought it interesting to suggest one, with an underlying desire to see what sort of originality might come out of it - in other words is the gas station subject/theme dead or not - I think not - and believe there are many other ways of looking at it and its relationship to our life, than just those creations of the past.</p>

<p>So I will do it just as a very personal exercise - without the hassle of meeting everyone's demands about the format or content.</p>

<p> </p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Arthur -- Actually, I like your idea. I have never been much of one for those types of exercises (one sees/hears about them all the time on flickr, photography clubs, classes and workshops) but I can see the value and benefits that could be derived from it. Amongst this group I think it would also be a rather fun exercise. I'd rather emphasize the fun/experimental side of it than the points awarded/removed aspect (with the understanding that the types of things you've outlined would be taken into consideration).</p>

<p>Just realized I roughly approximated what Fred had already written about this. Regardless, I say yes, let's do it.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Julie, thanks for the link to the wine seller forum, some nice chuckles there - but I do not see the discussion there being about taste. It is mostly prejudices. Prejudices from the sellers of the wines (customers generally being ignorant and uncultured about the product; they're rather snobbish in my view) as well as from the customers themselves (acting fluffy about the product generically, and thinking a good label makes a good wine).<br /> A lot of that is cultural as well; in some countries, wine is approached differently than others. I notice, living in a wine-producing country there is a lot more respect for the skill of the cultivation and production of the wine, than I've experienced in a non-producing country. Because one understands what goes into creating a good wine.<br /> None of this is about taste, it's much more about prejudices, and its anti-dotes: knowledge on the product and its processes, the approach to enjoying the product, and a (huge) dash of open-minded thinking.</p>

<p>Any similarity to photography, or art in general, is pure coincidence.<br /> ____<br /> I'll catch up with the rest of the thread asap, but well, I'm behind on my catching up, and it's not the timezones...</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...
<p>Well I think both are quite different from eachother. I don't think art should be subject to prejudice and bias for what I believe is in the universality of art. It is something that extends beyond borders and appeals to the human mind irrespective of caste, creed, nationality and colour.</p>
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...