and the decisive moment
perfect, pictorially dull
Im impressed that you took the time to research my position,
but Im afraid you mistook my misgivings regarding most photography
for an outright dismissal.
Also, I do not equate eye candy in any way with abstraction. For
examples of that, see the bourgeoisie fare at the Pottery Barn,
or the annoying Pamela Anderson. Further, razor-blade content does
not merely describe. It transforms, and this transitive
aspect is core to what I write about.
I do selectively like some photography, as my articles and extreme
admiration for Stieglitz should bear out. Actually, I set the bar
significantly higher for photography than most other media.
In other words, Man Ray, Andreas Gursky and Robert Maplethorpe
are just as important to me as Duchamp, Andrew Wyeth, Still, Clemente,
Cornelia Parker and Richard Serra. But I think Cindy Sherman is
overrated and Andreas Serrano suffers from a similar lack of rigor
There is a reason photography is often where young collectors start.
A lot of it panders to what is already somewhat familiar. That isnt
necessarily bad, but it usually is.
I review a photography show it will be because it was more salient
than other shows I had seen that month.
These days I like the photography of Todd Johnson (Portlands
best conceptual photographer), Anna Gaskell and Melanie Manchot
because they are more rigorous and difficult. They dont meet
me halfway like most photographers do.
If I review a photography show it will be because it was more salient
than other shows I had seen that month. In fact, my first piece
for this e-zine was an Erika Blumenfeld show at PICA.
Part of the problem is the extremely conventional nature of 99.99
percent of professional photographys output. You can hear
it when photographers talk of composition as if they have a magic
It's often a strategy that minimizes risk and increases the odds
for a certain acceptable style of photo. Bah!
Not all photography is like this, but most of it feels way too
formalist for my tastes. Finally, let's drop the black frames and
white mattes for chrissake. Ugh!
Then theres the whole issue of photography being everywhere.
Frankly, I think it is suffering in the same way allegorical academic
painting suffered during the early 20th and late 19th centuries.
It takes a hell of a photograph to cut through the very high level
of image competency out there.
Once again, I think too many photographers are very conservative
even when they think they are being rigorous. At least a painter
is being somewhat primal. What is primal about a Nikon?
Yes, photography is everywhere. But is it possible that this mainstream
aspect of photography is lessening the cultural charge the medium
once had as a marginalized and debatable art form? Art does best
when it is marginal and riding one or more fences. William Wegmans
best works are his early films; now hes becoming the Nadelman
of the 20th century (for those who pine for the 80s and 90s).
Overall, I would rather write on any artists strategy for
inviting failure than a particular artists unique strategy
for avoiding risk. I play 12 instruments, so technical ability isnt
as impressive as risk for me. Long ago I learned practice does not
make perfect if you produce exactly what you rehearse. Instead,
how one pushes and gets pushed by their limitations is a central
question on both personal and environmental levels. It really has
nothing to with media preferences; if I feel the risk in a show
I might write a review.
Still, I do tend to care less for art made in mechanical processes
(FYI: I dislike brushes, too), as that seems like another risk-adverse
behavior. Also, when I wrote inherently derivative,
I meant that most photographs are usually an inferior simulacrum
of the original image. Still, being a simulacrum alone is no sin.
Maybe the reason Im not a gregarious lover of all photography
is that Im not much of a second-hand voyeur and do distinguish
between illustration, documentation and high art. Mind you, I like
illustrations and documentary photography (Im a magazine fanatic),
but high art is more sphinx-like and loaded. I dont write
reviews of illustrative photography. Maybe some day ...
Photography is not the primary vehicle for understanding decisive
moments as you suggest. The eye and the mind are the real
instruments of this sort of perception. From my experience, if one
pays attention, all moments are pretty decisive since time is perceived
linearly. Photographs are just one medium that can be used to focus
ones attention. I prefer my own observations to most photographic
compositions, probably because Im a historian who doesnt
believe much of anything entirely.
Besides, if I wrote on all the decent photography out there Id
be inundated. So much of it is, as Stieglitz pointed out, technically
perfect and pictorially dull.