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Friday, 17 December 2010


What Lee is doing in my opinion is making use of the estrangement factor. We are used to seeing trees al our lives, they are an integral part of every landscape and of our day to day lives. By isolating the tree from its surroundings he places the tree, its shape gouverned by simple fractal principles and thus inheretly beautiful on a pedistal, a podium and transforms it into a work of art. This kind of art is much akin with the art of Christo. But, and here is a big but, the question popping up in my mind is, is this photography. It's art, thats for sure, but what kind of art. I agree that "sheet + tree = great art", but does the subesequent picture taken, in itself ad to the art. In my opinion that question can only be answered by answering the following question "Does the final picture make an improvement over the tree and sheet setup experiences live?". Now that is a question only Myoung Ho Lee can answer. Personally I'm am only allowed to have my doubts.

Avedon missed the shot, at least in comparison to the context shot by Laura Wilson. Not surprising considering the use of a view camera. The decisive moment lost?

At last, Mike at his best!!

"Photography is a mansion with many rooms,..."

Well-stated, Mike. It's also a mansion with a room for nearly everyone's tastes and fancies.

Small anecdote: Several years ago I was with a group attending a conservator's talk in the museum's photography department work spaces. A large print of that Avedon bee image, which is mounted on aluminum, was propped against a wall seemingly peering directly out at the group from the sidelines. It was remarkable to observe the swelling distraction it caused. For those who've not seen it, it's nearly life-size, sharp as a tack, and is undeniably creepy in-person. If we had stayed in that location for another 15 minutes I'm certain it would have had to be turned toward the wall for public comfort.

From what Ken says, it sounds like Avedon nailed the shot. Wilson got more bees in the picture, but Avedon made something primal and visceral.

The Avedon shot *is* the shot. It's one of the most famous and widely reproduced pictures from "In the American West," a project which was made into a sumptuous and celebrated book and exhibited (in enormous, larger-than-lifesize prints) all over the world. (And the subject of my first published article about photography, too.) The Wilson shot is just a set documentation, shot by Avedon's assistant on the project.

It does show more context, though.


Photography is a mansion with a darkroom. Couldn't resist. Sorry.


Trust me, I'm familiar with Avedon's work, as well as the relationship between the two images. I was just responding to fred's comment about the "decisive moment lost." It doesn't make much sense to critique Avedon with the language of Bresson and street photography.

Personally, I love your idea of the DMD, but am highly skeptical about Bresson's concept of a "decisive moment." It implies the primacy of one niche of photography—basically, candids ("great capture, HCB!"). In the end, capturing a visual coincidence or the zenith of an action is just as artificial as other gimmicks such as heart-shaped bokeh or the studio lighting you find so distracting. :)


I think what Mike is writing about regarding the Avedon is there is a photograph between the two, that is "partly decontextualized," that was never made.

wonderful writing about an interesting topic, thanks!

There are indeed many room, many of them locked from the inside.

I would love to find some commonality in such photographs to learn and copy (?) the art. But therein lies the rub. Simply being different is not necessarily unique and copying a concept is an obvious failure or weakness. Van Gogh's wicker chair comes to mind... who would spend days or months painting a wobbly, broken chair, but I guess there may be a lesson there... No-one else has thought of it! Now do it well enough to capture the imagination.

As an aside... Mike's artistry is demonstrated above, but this time beyond photography... poetic prose is clearly another manifestation.

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