Monday, May 16, 2011

The FOAM And The Agony...

Convoluted logic? Circuitous reasoning? Or worse?

Jeeez, you can almost feel these guys squirming in their seats: How do we fix this so we: a) don't seem insensitive, and b) don't look like we're... squirming in our seats?

So this is the separate but equal clause FOAM devised in their wisdom...

One has to reply to my original post, on my blog to validate a question they solicited for their site. Just how many people have to respond to "validate" the question? If you respond to this post and not the original- does it still count? The terms aren't quite clear- there aren't any.

This is beyond ludicrous, it's demeaning- to the very merit of the question itself. Has any other question on Foam's What's Next? been subjected to this extrajudicial vetting process? This futile little exercise in second class citizenship fools noone- it is merely their way of conveniently addressing dismissing the issue, and washing their hands of it.

UPDATE:  Discussion continues...


colin pantall said...

I think the comment Eric Rose made regarding the site layout does apply - and though the Foam site says it's about dialogue, I'm not sure that's the case.

What's next? Same as ever was - the story.

So says Soth. Or What's Next - don't trust pictures!

So say Chanarin and Broomberg.

Which is really true as we can see from the last few weeks.

The Foam exercise got a few interesting comments, but I'm not sure they had anything to do with what's next.

And as for your questions on race - or anything else that might be more political and scratch beneath the worthier-than-thou face of a certain kind of photography, that's not what's next.

Is there a place for people of colour in photography beyond tokenism? Well, no, photography at a certain level is outrageously non-inclusive - almost by definition.

Isn't that why I'm answering this question here.

John Edwin Mason said...

Let's see... Option 1: The folks at FOAM are dismissing the issue in a consciously insulting manner. Option 2: They're utterly clueless -- staggeringly naive and uninformed about racial issues.

colin pantall said...

The question is such a difficult one and there is no real answer to it - not one that will satisfactorily make it go away. It does rather put photography and the arts in the dock - which is not a place where it likes to be. It likes to be doing the accusing and pointing the finger.
I don't know, John. I tend to be more charitable than you and put it down to a somewhat supercilious high-handedness.

The problem is the question has been asked and answered again and again - always unsatisfactorily, and the answers do tend to be rather repetitious, evasive and tedious.

I rather think that is why Foam is handing off the question back to Stan. They can deal with racial issues no problem.

But just because a question is repetetive and tedious and contentious doesn't mean it should be ignored - quite the opposite in fact.

So keep asking the question, Stan. It's a great question to ask. You'll likely as not get an answer but as long as you keep on pointing out there is a question...

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Colin- Truth is (despite what some may think), I get tired of harping about this myself. But some things are just so damn blatant...

I was going to give FOAM their props for finally responding, and what do they do- stick my question in a "separate but equal" waiting room. As John Edwin Mason so accurately put it- "they're utterly clueless..."

They could have easily included the question as just another valid topic for discussion, instead they chose not to "taint" their forum with the issue of race- now they're knee deep in it. Another "learning opportunity" purposely squandered, lost and mismanaged every step of the way.

And yet, the majority out there will vehemently testify that the racial make up of photo organizations such as FOAM will in no way affect what is ultimately selected, seen and valued.

Peter Brook said...

Stan. In some sense, your pestering seems to have paid off! You have their attention. (I'd love to have FOAM directing people to my site.)

However, the issue at hand. I think you could've been a little more measured in your pursuit of FOAM, AND I think they could've been less dismissive in their reaction. Although I give FOAM marks for being evasive, rude and funny all in the one gesture.

The way they've phrased their question sends any debate down a dead end. This is, of course, unfortunate because race & diversity and their awareness should always be on the table for discussion.

So, in answer to FOAM's question. Yes, FOAM's What's Next? platform is a suitable venue for collected thoughts. If that is to happen then we may have to think of ways to rephrase your original question:

What countries or continents will lead photographic production?
Is racial inequality an issue in the various fields of photographic production? If so, which? And what can be appropriate responses?
How will representations of race & diversity in still and moving images differ in the future?
How will photojournalism communities across the globe connect and share content and stories?

I've tried looking through FOAM's categories to see where these types of questions might fit and it would appear 'The Photograph', 'Visual Culture' or 'The Institution' could be categories for inquiries about future careers for photographers of color and also inquiries about representations of subjects of color.

Perhaps best, would be to answer their question "What should the role of the photographer be in modern society?" Answer: The photographer should be an advocate for equality as they stand behind the camera and as they stand besides their photographs.

Amanda said...

Looks like the Jim Crow antics are in full effect. I'm not surprised though, considering the geographic location of FOAM. Have you been to Holland? Spoken with Dutch people from the colonies (eg. Surname) about the racial politics in Holland? I am not saying that it the same BS wouldn't have happened in the US, but unfortunately the civil rights struggle in the fine arts hasn't fully occurred across the pond yet.

Respect for following up and fighting the good fight. That is the only way that things are going to change and people of color will become THE artists, art admins, owners instead of as the latest group of poor, disenfranchised, malnourished, uneducated (slip in any adjective you like here that describes misery) that appear as the objects (because usually their subjectivity has been stripped from their) in the latest emerging photographer's images.

Stan B. said...

Amanda- Thanks for your comment. I was in the Netherlands very briefly (couple of days), I noticed a sizeable number of people of color in Amsterdam, but as you well know- it takes time to suss the nuances and subtleties of racism in any given country. Unfortunately, dealing with FOAM has left a less than positive taste in my mouth. One would have liked to have thought that Europe had a lead in working out these issues (and I've been in contact with some individuals there who are most definitely above the curve), but like so many other regions throughout the world- they got a long, long way to go...

Binbaz said...

I've spent a grand total of one week in Europe so far but based on the books, movies, comics I've consumed over the years France, England, and Italy are at least a couple of decades behind les Ricains.
Sometimes I wonder if a sort or strategic disenfranchised-initiated segregation wouldn't be beneficial. Do the TV on The Radio guys owe more of their opportunities from the context created by NWA than the one carved out by Fishbone?

Stan B. said...

Binbaz- I once thought Europe had a head start on ethnic, racial and cultural interactions and relations. They had suffered through two, long, costly World Wars; certainly, they more than anyone had learned the price of playing various groups of people off each other. Years ago, I was fond of "proving" just how right I was with just one word... Yugoslavia, I would say- a country where Muslims, Christians and several nationalities all live, marry and party side by side in peaceful harmony.

Yeah, I still got a lot to learn...