Monday, June 13, 2011

A New American Picture- Doug Rickard

Photos: Google/Rickard

Upon first viewing Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture online, I filed it under "pretty cool gimmick," or at best- "pretty cool... next!" Then I just happened to see the actual show at The Stephen Wirtz Gallery- and Rikard's work (like his blog) is pretty damn cool, period!

It plays with a lot of preconceived, misconceived photographic truisms- like the Photo 101 course that has you spend the day shooting "blind" without raising the camera to eye level. If you're a photographer, it just plain messes with your head as to what a good photograph is, and can be. The first thing you notice about these "photographs" (can they be considered photographs?) is that they're as modern and contemporary compositionally (and printed just as large) as any other work seen hanging in any fine art gallery. The second thing you can't help but notice is that they are of such wretchedly poor technical quality- low resolution to the extreme, you'd get more detail from a half frame camera loaded with TMAX P3200. The third thing you notice is that despite the markedly stripped down technical limitations- visually, they still manage to pull it off and shine! There's zero grain but plenty of artifacts from what are essentially cropped online panoramic views from Google Street View, and the lack of detail gives them a very... painterly look. And yet, they retain the look and feel of a photograph- you'd swear they were composed in camera (albeit with a very primitive, pre-2k digital test model). The main thing lost (more important to some than others) is that you can't get up close and appreciate the detail. Other than that (and a significantly shorter tonal scale), they seem to exist hovering in a blurry Bizarro netherland of Eggleston meets Shore.

I could not look at A New American Picture without also calling to mind The Killing Fields- extraordinary work created as far away from the pretense of art as humanly possible, that nevertheless remains some of the strongest, most vital portraiture ever created in the history of photography. Neither body of work qualifies as photojournalism (these images didn't set out to tell any particular story per se- their initial purpose simply to document in the most basic of terms)- but as "Fine Art" (that ever so redundant oxymoron), they most certainly fit the bill.

For more on this subject, see here, and here...and here- where the Comments eventually get into the "ethics" of "photographing the world" from the comfort of your home computer. While an ingeniously inventive use of the mediums involved, and certainly worthy of its 15 minutes, as was the large format, selective focus craze of a couple years back, how long this one trick pony lasts... as of this writing, it's up to at least two.

The person pushing the button in front of the monitor that guides a military drone may be quite effective, at times, but it's a safe bet no one will ever mistake them for a warrior born.

Photos: Google/Rickard


Mark Page said...

I'm not sure about Rickard but Mishka is a friend of mine and I know how much work went into that series. It would probably have been easier for him to fly to each of the spots and take the photograph. I think of this whole online snatching thing as something fun, a new kind of collage, and like collage some will do it well and other's... well won't. Wether it will be more than a passing fad I think depends what gets made. Hope you are well.

Stan B. said...

And he would have definitely ate better too!

Be interesting if it somehow evolves to another level (assuming there is one beyond "online snatching"). Then again, it could devolve into some kind of typology nightmare...