Monday, March 3, 2014

Reality/And The Lack Thereof...

Two loyal readers and very competent photographers in their own right sent me two interesting posts this week, one photo-related, the other not. Both should have had the element of surprise, even shock, if it wasn't that both are thoroughly logical... coming from their particular schools of thought.

Eric Rose alerted me to this particular affair; but at this point, I'm more just plain exasperated than infuriated. These people have neither shame nor scruples, they translate lack of wealth simply as lack of moral integrity (coupled with zero work ethic)- it doesn't matter that they either inherited their wealth, or that they "work" pushing numbers around while taunting and degrading those they steal their money from, those who have far less than them and actually do have to work for a living. Of course, this is what they do to celebrate and excuse their inexcusable actions! And whether some actually meet to conspire in top level secret meetings of the Illuminati no longer concerns me, whether they do or don't- they get their evil done, their agenda gets pushed through, regardless...

I'm too jaded at this point. That's why it takes someone like a Snowden to do what he did. Young enough and still wet behind the ears enough so that the extent of the malfeasance he unearthed rocked his very world and... shocked him into action! That's why we need the influx of informed youth, and why they do everything to keep ours, ignorant, underemployed and imprisoned!


Dave Reichert alerted me to this interesting Burtynsky article citing the prevalence of staged photography that has currently taken hold (see below). I suppose one can put forth a number of reasons for such an overwhelming prevalence, and while I certainly don't travel in those circles... I certainly can't see every illustrious university with a photo program training their grad students in how to advance their careers through journalistic endeavors. Everyone knows that kite's no longer flying- they have to sell a much stronger drug. They're teaching them to be artists of the highest caliber- and you certainly have to create (and live in) your own separate reality these days to believe that you are actually going to succeed in the photo art world once you  graduate. They have to delude themselves into believing that- that's what their money's buying them...

You know it already, so how do you say something new about it? It locks us into a cliché, or a genre of understanding. We immediately understand it, so there’s nothing there.

I just came back from a conference on the future of photography, where we had an interesting conversation around this. One of the curators of a museum in Switzerland had invited students from any art school, anywhere in the world to submit work to be included in a survey of photography of the new generation. The one thing that was consistent in 1,200 submissions was that not one of the students was showing anything that had to do with spontaneity. Spontaneity was gone completely.

There were no pictures with light coming through the glass on the table or a Robert Frank kind of street photograph or a decisive moment photograph—nothing like that at all. It was all very staged and all very deliberate—not photography as the act of seeing the world or reacting to seeing the world, but rather a photography of crafting things in the studio. We didn’t find one that varied from that, which I thought was fascinating.

We were wondering, why this is? In school, are they teaching that all the possibilities for taking photographs of reality and interpreting reality and reacting to reality in a spontaneous way have all been done? There seemed to be a feeling that there is no new narrative that can be found by pursuing that avenue of representation, and that they have to move into creating their own world.


Brian said...

Stan, there are lot of things to say about the reasons for the proliferation of staged photography -- post documentary -- or whatever. But it seems to me that the art world has always tended to relegate "photography" to the periphery.

I remember when Light Gallery was one of the only places in New York showing photography by the likes of Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank. I also remember when Sonnabend began showing Jan Groover's early conceptual images, and later her still lifes of kitchen utensils. It was a big deal at the time. Photography had made it out of the photo ghetto. But it was staged photography, not to denigrate Groover's beautiful pictures, that made the breakthrough.

Now, decades later, we're back where we started, except that there are now a thousand times as many people working in or with photography. Real world photography is once again not gallery art. Unless, of course, you're already well established and bankable.

They've been trying to kill photography since day one. How many times have we seen headlines over the years asking whether photography is dead? Surely, it must be dead by now.

The ultimate staged reality was the selfie made by Ellen DeGeneres with a gaggle of movie stars -- most tweeted ever -- all for the purpose of advertising Samsung Galaxy phones.

Stan B. said...

Brian- I'll be the first to admit my "explanation" was pure conjecture (even if it does make some kind of perverse sense). I'm not worried about it either way, as you alluded to, these things go in cycles- one could even say the current street photography revival is photography's "working class" rebuttal.

Light Gallery... ah yes, whenever I have daydreams of what "heaven" looks like, I always think back to the heavenly hallowed halls of that most allusive, unrivaled and sought after piece of photographic real estate.