Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting It Wrong/Getting It Right

Before we get into what's wrong, lemme just say that that's one of the most rare and truthful statements you'll ever hear uttered in any photographic art forum. So... who am I to call out these photographic greats on what I perceive to be major lapses in their artistic judgement? The same guy who has justly praised and admired them on many another occasion- does that make me right when it comes to the former? No. But at least, it shows I ain't carrying a grudge (sorry, Cindy).

Paul Graham- Films

Like anyone else, artists, and photographers sometimes get it wrong, really wrong- and to be fair, it comes with the territory. The quote above comes from a piece that centered in part on Paul Graham and the wave of photographic experimentation he's ridden the latter part of his career. I've commented previously on what I thought of his experimentation: the overexposed prints, the shots before and after what may or may not have been "the decisive moment," the entire book on... close ups of grain! And it all just strikes me as something every photographer contemplates, experiences and yes, comes to terms with in the field or in the darkroom, as they become knowledgeable with the art, the process, the craft. We study and learn how over and under exposure affect not only the finished print, but our emotional empathy as well; how timing is so crucial and critical to composition and meaning; yes, we've even considered the effect of grain. Does that mean we can't play with it further, of course not- but then, by all means show us something... new! Eamonn Doyle showed us a gorgeous "new" take on street photography utilizing the most basic of visual elements (a different viewpoint, literally)- not so unlike what some guy called Graham did when he first used color to document the social landscape.

Bruce Davidson- E.100st.

Another guy that "recently" came to mind is none other than one Garry Winogrand. My ears certainly perked up on that video as he took none other than Bruce Davidson to task for undertaking- "a personal misunderstanding" of Diane Arbus. He was particularly referring to E100st., the seminal photographic work which he also insinuated he had no business photographing since the subjects were of a different social, economic and cultural background. The thought of Davidson doing a bad copy, or some kind of wayward Arbus homage is truly beyond ludicrous. All due respect (love the guy), but... one really has to wonder what far flung region of his anus ol' Garry conjured that Arbus analogy from. His second criticism is one that definitely merits discussion- particularly in a day and age when we have photographers running "workshops" during major catastrophes. Except, of course, that Davidson is amongst the least exploitative photographers one can possibly name. His respect for his subject matter is always forefront- or as one photographer of color said a few decades back on this very topic, "Damn, argue what you want- I just wish I could have done as good a job as he did!"

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