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Tuesday, 08 April 2008

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Very interesting review of the two books Mike, made me curious to see more and I found some Hoppe at
http://www.eohoppe.com/books/3-amerika/3-2.html
and then some Salignac by Google searching for images of "Eugene de Salignac".
The Hoppe photos really do seem to be from an earlier era but certainly have plenty of charm. Your comments about his poor technique put me in mind of Atget - let's not forget that although Atget had a great eye for a subject he didn't always produce technically perfect photos of those subjects despite his famous decription of his work as "Documents (for artists)".
Based on a quick look it would seem that the de Salignac work is the serendipitous result of a fine technician who happened to have a great eye for composition which doesn't look old fashioned to us so many years later.
Hmmm, really not sure which to choose on my next visit to Amazon. Thank's again for bringing them to our attention.

Cheers, Robin

Mike, nice piece, your command of the english language is inspiring. ch

I read with interest your comment about the technique of Hoppe. You are expressing a technician's view, in my opinion. Sure he may lack some strict, academically accepted rules of composition, and his focus may not be where you would like it to be. But his photographs have charm, and they communicate his vision of America. What you call 'unasured' may in fact be the exact visual translation of what he did feel when looking at the subject, and taking the pictures. Like in 'unassured' about the meaning of what all this typical american commotion, for the time, was about. 'Unassured', like a European photographer shooting the 1920s' America. You make clear your distaste for his photography. But you are only expressing your taste, and maybe an inability to put things in perspective (no pun intended), and understand why Hoppe's images come across in this particular way. I saw thousands of photographs, in galleries and museums, over the years, perfectly executed, technically magnificent, and absolutely insipid and shallow that, in comparison, Hoppe's work speaks out loud. About life. But again, this is just an opinion, which happens to be mine, and which brings to mind Cartier-Bresson's statement about focus, such a bourgeois concept. So, should we put Hoppe and Cartier-Bresson in the same bag, as far as technique is concerned?

"So, should we put Hoppe and Cartier-Bresson in the same bag, as far as technique is concerned?"

Luc,
No, we shouldn't. (Since you asked.)

Mike J.

Hoppe also visited Australia in the '30s & that work was re-presented a couple of years ago as a book & exhibition. I thought most of the work was quite good & some shots were excellent. Generally he came across as a high class newspaper photographer. Still I love seeing old photos of Australia so it was interesting enough on that level. I agree with Mike that there does seem to be a mix of pictorialism & modernism in his style.

"You make clear your distaste for his photography. But you are only expressing your taste, and maybe an inability to put things in perspective (no pun intended), and understand why Hoppe's images come across in this particular way."

Luc,

It seems to me that while Mike is certainly expressing his opinion (this is a review, after all), he has done more than just state his naked opinion. He has provided reasons (poor technique and composition, lack of stylistic consistency) and an example that demonstrates the faults he has mentioned. He also took care to note that "The meaning of work does change with time and fashion; innovations can be eclipsed", etc. Finally, he goes on to compare Hoppé's work to that of a contemporary photographer.

You are certainly entitled to disagree with Mike's opinion (you're obviously in good company, given all that I have read about Hoppé recently), but I have to ask: what more do you want out of a book review to prevent it from being only an expression of personal taste?

Best regards,
Adam

Well Mr. Hoppe may or may not have taken a good picture, but he sure did make for one.

Luc,
Actually, if someone were to feel the opposite way I do--liking Mr. Hoppé and disliking Mr. de Salignac--I could understand that.

But my "theory of criticism," such as it is, is that the critic needs to a) respond honestly to the work at hand, and then b) report honestly about that response.

Realistically, I don't see the value in criticism that insists on its correctness for EVERYONE, or that's argumentative or quarrelsome. What's the point? It's NOT entirely taste, because the critic should have a good grounding in history and other work and the range of possibilities within the medium. And you do have to make your case. But beyond that, I hardly see what benevolent purpose it serves to insist that I'm right. So in that sense, my feeling is that a good critic is clear and coherent and (possibly) persuasive, but also accepting of disagreement.

I know I've learned a lot from critics I disagree with.

Mike J.

A note to BIll Jay...

Please for the love of Popeye and Olive'sk, make it easier for people to browse your images. The internet IS a great way to take that work and get it out there..the big but is this...people would like to view in comfort. It's bad enough that we have sit at a damn desk, push buttons, move a mouse around and click for green eggs and ham. Actually it sucks, pretty hard.

So, in light of this discomfort (i'd rather be on the couch with my wife giving me a hicky on my neck while looking at your work in a book) please get your web person to link your images to a nice little set of arrows so we can enjoy your pictures without having to flog the rodent.

Thank you and sincerely,

Sam with the showing-scalp-flat-top, particular about the point it made

At college a lecturer once made a similar comparison with Bresson and Willy Ronis. I can see this in some ways with Bressons work being technically lacking with missed focus or camera shake. But I guess he made up for that in many other areas where perhaps Hoppe didn't?

David,

If you want to greatly increase the ease and pleasure of viewing pictures on the Internet, you really must install PicLens (http://www.piclens.com/site/ie/). While it doesn't work with all sites (and therefore won't help you with Bill Jay's site) it does wonders for Google images and Flickr. I subscribe to the RSS feeds of several photographers on Flickr. But it used to be a real chore to click on the small pictures in the feed, wait for the Flickr site to load, then click on the "Other Sizes" button and wait for a larger size to load (on an ugly white background, to boot). With PicLens, I just click on the first image in the feed, and it automatically turns my screen black and quickly loads beautiful, full-screen images that I can navigate with the arrow keys (or mouse, if I really want to).

Looking for a specific image on the internet? PicLens eliminates the need to keep clicking "Next" in Google images. I can "fly" though hundreds of images, without clicking "Next" even once. When I see an image that looks relevant, I can zoom in and check with no delay.

PicLens is much more intuitive than I am making it sound. Try it out. It's free!

Best,
Adam

P.S. No, I am not affiliated with PicLens in any way.

"At college a lecturer once made a similar comparison with Bresson and Willy Ronis"

Eureka! - oh what a great education TOP is, thank you Mark for explaining my love of Willy Ronis versus my mere admiration of Cartier-Bresson.

Cheers, Robin

I can see where you are coming from with your comments on Hoppe. However, looking through the images on the E O Hoppe website, I think "patchy" would be a better description of his work. Yes, the PoF is sometimes problematic, and so is the composition. However, in some of his images (in "Deutsche Arbeit" for example, see "Kraftwerk,Klingenberg, 1928") there is some merit IMHO. No, he obviously isn't in the same league as C-B or Atget - or deS for that matter, but neither is he as bad as your comments led me to expect!

Thanks for drawing these two very different photographers to my attention. Wish I could afford to buy both books!

I guess I'm still growing in my understanding and appreciation of all the arts, including photography. I can't quite grasp why a particular style of photography is praised when used by some, and criticized when used by others. Hoppe's "6th Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City, 1921" immediately reminded me of some of Stieglitz' work, in particular, his photo "Snapshot, Paris, 1911". When some break "the rules", it's described as "artistic" and "progressive". Another photographer breaks the same rules, and it's "poor technique". Maybe it's just art criticism that I don't understand.

"But my "theory of criticism," such as it is, is that the critic needs to a) respond honestly to the work at hand, and then b) report honestly about that response."

Mike,
Just to be clear, I was not questioning, and will never question your honesty.
What I was trying to say is that I think a critic of a book is surely a matter of opinion, the reviewer's one, and any judgement passed by the reviewer is more often than not an expression of his own taste. Same goes for readers reacting to the review, as I was reacting to your strongly worded opinion ("Looking at the pictures, this fame is, frankly, mystifying."), and trying to explain that for some of us, maybe mostly photographers not born and raised in the U.S., the technical judgement passed on the work really takes the back seat, because the images relate to impressions we felt at some point or another vis-à-vis same subjects and situations. When put in perspective, Hoppé's reactions, and hence his photography, were more intense in an age where images were not available anywhere anytime, and coming to the States was a real discovery. And this is the aspect of his wotk that speaks to me, and probably makes me willing to ignore what may be perceive as the technical deficiency. What I also do with some of the less than technically perfect images of Cartier-Bresson, my absolute favorite photographer.

John,
One mistake you might be making is to assume facts not in evidence. When I review a book, I'm only reviewing that book. I didn't say anything about Stieglitz's "Snapshot, Paris 1911," so you shouldn't assume you know what I would say about it or how I might relate it to Hoppé. (Anyway, if memory serves, the Stieglitz picture is of a horse--or am I misremembering?)

Same to HughOfBardfield--I'm not passing judgement on Hoppé in general. I'm only talking about the pictures in the specific book under review. I would never want to presume that what's true about SOME of an artist's work necessarily extends to ALL of his or her work--especially if I haven't seen it! In fact, the opposite--it's important to remain open to the idea that other bodies of work might be different. You have to look at the work at hand, first, and second, take it as it's presented.

Artists do generally have "arcs" to their careers--periods in which they do their best work and other periods in which their work might not be so strong. If all you knew of the singer Neil Young was the albums he did in the 1970s, you'd think he's a major singer-songwriter, and a genius. If all you knew of him was the albums he did for Geffen in the 1980s, you'd think he's a rudderless hack bouncing from one miserable genre to another. A critic writing about one period or one body or work can't reasonably draw conclusions about another.

And back to John R.--have you looked at the book yet yourself? If you haven't, then it's natural that you wouldn't "understand" the criticism. You have to look for yourself; that's an absolute baseline.

Mike J.

I know this is OT (criticism is not my strong suit), but I can hardly wait for the Sigma DP1 piece. ;~)

Christopher,
Working on it as we speak.

Mike J.

John Camp,
If you read this, would you contact me please? My email is on the main page in the right-hand column. I tried to email you but it bounced.

Mike J.

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