« Do You Have to Push the Button? | Main | Categorization »

Tuesday, 02 October 2012

Comments

I'm happy the MacArthur Foundation is acknowledging Photography, but I am far too cynical to comment on Ms Barth's work.

Ms Lê, on the other hand, has produced some uniquely thoughtful images of war. She appears to have followed the opposite of Capa's famous quip, if your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough, to great effect.

"I made $500,000 working out of my home."

I think I'm going to have to do something about my unlisted phone number.

Dear Mike,

If you're willing to allow the "movin' pitchurs" as well as "still" as part of the photographic community then there were four awards to our greater community. Two documentary filmmakers also got grants.

I love perusing the list each year.

I love the concept, too. Like the MacArthurs, I was fascinated by the TV show, "The Millionaire" when I was a kid.

pax / Ctein

I am bemused at the idea of young men re-enacting the Vietnam War. My brother served as in infantryman in 1968, and I cannot imagine him wanting to go back and relive "those thrilling days of yesteryear." I cannot imagine *anyone* who served in combat in 'Nam wanting to go back and endure it all over again, but that's just me. I can understand target shooting, which I do myself, but the other? Nah.

(This after reading about the re-enactors in the original piece.)

Just my $.02.

With best regards.

Stephen

Dennis- Thanks for the laugh! That's the concept I'll take home in response to the one shared with Miserere.

I find it very disheartening when photographers out there are trying their hardest to create beautiful images that bring joy, happiness and pleasure to people. Then someone who shoots this:

http://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/upload/port_images/ground%2038.jpg

bags half a million.

"an artist whose evocative, abstract photographs explore the nature of vision and the difference between how a human sees reality and how a camera records it..."

"I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs." - Gary Wingorand

Pretty similar sentiments, pretty different visions. I guess the key word is "abstract." Funny how something so "conceptual" can instigate such a strong, visceral reaction- it certainly pushes my buttons.

Dennis, I felt like a half-wit laughing at your clever comment...while in a room alone. It's perfect.

The AIC featured an exhibit of Uta Barth's work in 2011. Perhaps like Miserere I'll forgo offering comments on her work, beyond observing that like so much "art photography" today it's presented in a tableau form and really fills a wall.

I have not personally met An-My Lê but I did attend a lecture given by her at the AIC in 2010(?). Her stories surrounding her images were delightful.

Congratulations to both artists.

I just googled Uta Barth.

I have to stop commenting in places on the web as it's making me sound too negative. I think it stems from my firm attachment to the scientific method. Not a cynic, but a sceptic. You tend to start from the assumpton that the emperor has no clothes until you can see some genuine evidence to the contrary.

"Then someone who shoots this bags half a million."

Now, now, no sour grapes. [g]

Mustn't begrudge others their good fortune.

Mike

Dear Stephen,

Well, Vietnam was the better part of half a century ago. The majority of folks alive don't even remember it (the median birth date in the US is about 1975). It's not life experience, it's history. I'd imagine Vietnam reenactments make exactly as much sense as Civil War reenactments.

Which to my mind is exactly zero, but there's no denying the latter's a hobby with lots of followers. So, there ya go.

pax / Ctein

http://duckrabbit.info/blog/2012/10/what-is-conceptual-photography/

Apologies all around, the above a small act of contrition towards greater understanding. The grown up me knows it's all subjective, but the "other" part of me says that conceptual artists should not be rewarded for making the obvious even more redundant.

I once saw this guy selling snowballs on a street corner in NY, nice neat snowballs all lined up according to size. I walked by like everyone else- you're gonna have to try harder than that, I thought to myself. I mentioned it in passing next day to a friend, "Oh, yeah- that guy. He's a MacArthur Recipient," he said, matter of factly. He was.

"...beautiful images that bring joy, happiness and pleasure to people."

Yep, I like those pictures too, Alistair. But actually, I see those pictures everywhere. I am actually quite drawn to images that grab me with their challenge rather than with joy, happiness, and pleasure. It's why I've always found friends among the plain, the disaffected, the searching, even the slightly unpleasant. They challenge me, they make me think at deeper emotional and intellectual level. It's OK for things to be a bit difficult to comprehend. Go with it. Or walk away. But don't denigrate their value. They may be the ones that hold the key to secrets we don't yet know exist.

"an artist whose evocative, abstract photographs explore the nature of vision and the difference between how a human sees reality and how a camera records it. In contrast to documentary and confessional modes of photography, Barth intentionally depicts mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception."
Without comment on Ms. Barth's work, when I read a quote like this, I wonder how many people, spent how much time, pondering the exact words to say absolutely nothing meaningful.

@ Ctein: And you would "imagine" correctly!

Since others have pondered An-My Lê's Vietnam reenactment photography I feel compelled to add that she is most definitely NOT glorifying either the war or the reenactment. She remembers the war as a teen in Saigon. According to what I recall of her lecture, her photography in this subject is a mixture of re-creating / enriching her memory and attempting to understand the rather strange psyche of reenacting war. As you might imagine, most of the reenactors were not even born until long after the war ended.

Take a look at some of her work. I think you'll get it quickly. It's good stuff.

Dear Folks,

Three thoughts--

First, the MacArthur grant is not a photography contest nor a popularity one.

Second, it is disheartening how many people decide a grant is unworthy because they personally don't care for the recipient's work. That attitude is only justifiable when they are the ones issuing the grants.

Third, it is just faintly possible that the MacArthur Foundation spends a bit more time and effort investigating and learning about their candidates than a handful of seconds and a quick Google search.

pax / Ctein

Ctein: "the median birth date in the US is about 1975"

Ouch. And I thought I was middle-aged.

Just a note that not only is An-My Lê an associate professor at Bard College but Stephen Shore set up the program and is a full professor there. Another very interesting photographer, Tim Davis is there as well. Bard is a very small liberal arts college in the Hudson Valley and seems to have a powerhouse of a photography program.

"when I read a quote like this, I wonder how many people, spent how much time, pondering the exact words to say absolutely nothing meaningful."

JTW,
Did you watch the video? That might make it more clear to you.

Mike

Dear JTW,

I understand exactly what that's saying, and it makes total sense to me.

I often simply look at the play of light in my office and think about what I'm *seeing*, not what I'm looking at. The objects are uninteresting, the dance of reflected photons fascinating. It's a meta thing. If I could figure out how to convey that experience in a photograph, it'd make for great work that I'd be thrilled to be able to do.

I can't, so I haven't tried.

I don't know if Uta succeeds. Don't really care, not my problem and doesn't speak to your point-- but the description is anything but meaningless.

pax / Ctein

"I often simply look at the play of light in my office and think about what I'm *seeing*, not what I'm looking at. The objects are uninteresting, the dance of reflected photons fascinating. It's a meta thing."

One thing Uta's description of her concerns brought to mind for me...there's a little scene in the movie "American Beauty" where one of the characters is watching a plastic bag being whipped this way and that on little whirls and gusts of wind. There, too, the joy is just in seeing, not that there's anything significant about an old piece of litter being blown around.

Mike

Dear Mike,

I think that's an area where moving pictures have it all over still. Good cinematographers can get you to just look at the light much more easily than still photographers.

pax / Ctein

"it is disheartening how many people decide a grant is unworthy because they personally don't care for the recipient's work......handful of seconds and a quick Google search"

Clearly after careful consideration you have decided the emperor has clothes.

I actually find some of Uta Barth's work intriguing. I watched the "What is conceptual photography" videos that Stan linked to (thanks !) I found them enlightening, but found that most of the examples were either obvious & unsophisticated (the early Hilliard stuff) or useless and irrelevant (the Broomberg & Chanarin "stunt" as the critic called it ... their message sounded well articulated, but better expressed in words than in some big pieces of paper that are symbolic at best and uninterested in their own right). My belief is that a photograph exists to be interesting to look at, and in many cases, once you "get the point" of a conceptual piece, it's no longer interesting.

On the other hand, I think I could enjoy looking at some of Uta Barth's work. However, I don't see it being particularly ... special ? The statements of intent make sense to me, but sound very "Photography 101". Sort of like she picked up on this notion that every photographer learns early on and made a career out of beating a dead horse. Whereas most photographers learn the lesson in order to move on, she's living the lesson. Which is fine; the end result does look interesting to me. But then I think of some of the brilliant abstracts in Ernst Haas' "Color Correction" - photos that demonstrate an amazing visual awareness. And that was done without all the puffery.

And I thought that photography was all about IMAGES. Why do these 'fine artists' have to use such pretentious langauge (words)to explain their images.The modern art scene seems to be very much like 'The Emperor's New Clothes' There is a very apposite verse in the Bible -
'The more the words, the less the meaning and how does that profit anyone?
ECCLESIASTES 6:11 NIV

"Clearly after careful consideration you have decided the emperor has clothes."

Well, most emperors do, after all.

Mike

Swear this will be my last comment here...

For the record, anyone who attempts selling snowballs in NY has got my vote- whether he gets a MacArthur... or not.

And David Hammons did both.

I like the Uta Barth photographs. I haven't seen that many of them and I haven't yet watched the videos and I haven't read the 'artist statement' if there is one. I'd rather not read something first, to tell me how to look at, or interpret a photograph or a group of photographs. I did read the MacArthur description, but I don't think good photographs can, by definition, be properly described with words in most cases.

I was intrigued by her compositions and by her use of light and color. Regardless of whether they're considered to be 'abstract' or 'conceptual' or whatever...I still believe a good photograph speaks for itself and I believe Uta's do just that. All half-million dollar grants aside.

I wish I could make a picture like that.

The comments to this entry are closed.