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Wednesday, 09 July 2008


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Interestingly, my reaction to the book (the show catalog from the MoMA show) was exactly the same as your reaction to the show. It's not the way to see Friedlander: the pictures are too small, too cluttered, literally hard to see and hard to read. I haven't seen the show.

Mike J.

Smaller pictures can be refreshing.

In a show at Tate Modern last year, there were some 10x8" or 11x14" colour interiors by Thomas Struth's (it's hard to tell sizes in a huge room) that were really refreshing after a roomful of gargantuan prints.

And a show of Alec Soth's 5 and 6 foot prints in the smaller Host Gallery in London didn't work as well as his 24" Mississippi prints I'd seen earlier. The prints looked awkward and cramped in the more domestic sized space.

I think 16" - 24" is a nice arm-sized size, neither pulling you too far in, or pushing you back into the room. And it should be technically possible to get a good enough print at that size from most photographic media.

I like shows of small prints, usually because they're prints I've seen larger versions of in books, and I'm not terribly disciplined about making note of the size of the original that is usually included in the caption. Then there is a shock of recognition to acknowledge, "yes, of course the photographer only knew these images as small contact prints" or "these were never intended to be big enlargements."

For that to work, though, I agree, the prints can't be overwhelmed by the space and might do better in a small gallery or in a museum configured with partitions to give the feeling of a small gallery, rather than than in a large hall.

I suspect that many of the famous photographers considered "size" as part of their previsualization process. "Do I see it as a 4x5, 8x10 or a 24x24. Many may have been automatically forced to think "small" knowing that the photos primary destination was a book or magazine. As many worked in smaller format (35mm) surely grain, or lack of it, was part of the envisioned final product. Perhaps respecting this previsualized intent is more important than creating a show thats convenient for the casual viewer. I'm sure Ansel Adams wanted his photos displayed big, perhaps Friedlander wanted his small.

And touché to Mr. Abell for so eloquently calling a thief a thief.

"The current aesthetic would say that you must go big, or risk being ignored."

Exactly. It is the current fashion. I don't think art should be appreciated according to a fashion.

The print size role is to adapt the print to its environment. Difficult to imagine a book several feet wide. And a 4x6" print on a wall makes little sense. But that has nothing to do with the image artistic value.

"I can testify that presenting very large, very high-quality prints of images that previously were seen in small format magazine sizes, or in newsprint, does make a significant difference in the way you feel them."

All this testifies is your own inability to appreciate content for what it is. It is akin saying you only like an music if played at wall shattering volume.

"Raw size, it seems to me, has become a critical aspect of art photography."

If that was the case, 8x10" cameras and enlargers would be all the rage. Print size has to be adequate for comfortable viewing, no question, but to state that printing big is a *critical* aspect of photography is questionnable at best.

A nice piece of writing by John Camp. Reading on a monitor can get tiresome, but John writes so well that it was a pleasure.

I think Mr. Prince needs to start offering up usage fees for the work he snags.

I also feel that Mr. Prince has something to offer in his work...i just think he needs to get real about what he's doing...and if he doesn't? Den dere's a case to be made for plopping him into the "d-bag artist with talent" category.

It took me a long time to get Friedlander. I caught the massive show here in NYC at MOMA and I found it a real head-scratcher. But I kept at him, going out to see prints whenever I could, and then one day a couple years ago, all of a sudden, it all snapped into place. I don't know precisely why, but I suddenly was able to see what he was doing, to really appreciate his accomplishments. His Cherry Blossom Time in Japan is among my favorite photo books -- completely anti-intuitive in that it's printed in black and white and filled with classic Friedlander unexpected framing. But it's a book I return to over and over.

I've come to believe that the photographers I don't get at first, that I come to understand slowly, turn out to be the most important to me. That process is a sign that the photographer has altered my eye in some important way, rather than simply confirming things I already know and appreciate.

I saw the show at MOMA in New York. My reaction also was that it was way over-hung, if there is such a word. I think Friedlander is a genius in his mastery of photography as a medium, almost independent of subject matter, but this show almost looks like it was hung by a photographer who couldn't edit his work. The genius is there, but accompanied by way too many similar pieces that are almost, or just as good, but redundant. There might have been a point to it from a teaching perspective if one of a kind had been picked, printed larger, and an explanation offered about why that one was selected. But instead it looks like the curator (or photographer) couldn't make up her or his mind.

Regarding Prince and, more importantly, his collectors:

"There's a sucker born every minute."
David Hannum

1) Thanks for a terrific review of the Friedlander show. Your analysis is right on target; hundreds of photographs are way too many to accomplish anything beyond impressing you with the size of the collection. Ten photographs can be stunning; twenty can leave you wanting to see more; but after...what, maybe 50 or 70 images at most, they all start to blend together. Any impact is lost in the oatmeal. Isn't it the job of the curator to fashion a coherent theme or conceit for an exhibition? Smart curators have built reputations on the selective, interpretive exhibition of a slice of a photographer's work.

2) The size of displayed photographs is a fascinating issue because so many different perceptual factors are at work. A meticulously crafted 8x10" contact print has a gem-like quality, with tonal smoothness and sharpness hard to match any other way. Conversely, a really well-made digital print can have mind-blowing resolution and presence up to huge size if the digital file is up to it. But it has to be saying something! There should be an aesthetic goal. Fuzzy, artifact-ridden prints that have been blown up too far just look bad. (To me that just says, "lousy printer".) Yet prints that are too small to see what's really going on in the image are very frustrating. Roger Hicks wrote something years ago to the effect that a particular photograph has an optimal print size it "wants", based on the image content together with capture and printing methods. He was mostly talking about film format relating to final print size, but it surely holds true for digital too.

Looking at the photo of the exhibit, I'd have to agree that some prints might have been made larger, but I just hate the idea that some have that larger prints are "better" than smaller ones.
Smaller prints, say 8x12s, have an intimacy that larger prints lack. A small print draws one in close to visually feel the work in a more personal, rather than public, way.
Perhaps these prints were not too small. Perhaps the room was just too large. Should we be changing the size of original art merely to fit the size of an available room?

I don't know about Mike, who I'm sure is a far better printer than I ever was, but most people were never able to get a really satisfying print larger than 12" x 16" from an "ordinary" 35mm negative, and personally I have always preferred the "tightness" and tonality you get with 9.5" x 12" or smaller. No Photoshop to help out in those days -- the grain will s-t-r-e-t-c-h and the greyness and softness become an offense to the eye... Of course, those big contemporary prints are virtually always produced from view camera negatives.

This is more in regard to the richard prince bit... I saw the prince show in the Guggenheim, more because I wanted to show some people who had never seen it before the building itself. So I'm walking through this show, and wondering about these incredible photographs of cowboys, from marlboro ads (or so it was made to seem), and thinking about how awesome they are. I mean, really, they looked great! It's funny because Prince's work is really weak otherwise–his abstractions, nurse paintings, car sculptures... all really boring, in fact. Mediocre appropriation art with enough bits of different concepts to make it easy to talk about, but aesthetically, socially and culturally quite weak in the end. So I'm looking at these pictures and wondering-who made these pictures? They're really awesome!!! Did Marlboro commission a whole bunch of photo shoots–that must've cost a fortune! All of this is going through my head, and to watch that video is just depressing. It makes me sad that, for example, it is so difficult to create something new from a sample in music, or in video, just a few seconds of something to really create something new, yet it's fine for prince to essentially reproduce a photograph to have much of the same impact that it was intended to–as a still image of light, form, character, and narrative, and only to wrap it in a weak conceptual wrapper. If it was a weak image then no one would care about prince's wrapper. Now I like conceptual art when it is done well, don't get me wrong, and in fact I think that concept is important, but now it is another layer in the whole big mess of associations that art is.

BTW: If you want to see friedlander, go see his show at the met on the olmstead parks, while it's still up. If it's still up. Just the right size for b&w prints in that small gallery, and they're really really good.

The show at MOMA in NY seemed much brighter as far as the lighting and wall color. Dim lighting and dark colors seem to be all the rage these days.

I was at the HCB show of his personal prints at ICP last year and was astounded at how dark the room was. It was almost impossible to make out any detail as the prints were dark (and not so good) to begin with, add to the fact that they were tiny, and I was wishing I'd brought a magnifying glass and a flashlight.

The Arbus show at the Metropolitan was also very dim. I had eye strain by the time I left.

A couple of years ago I saw "Ectopia" at the ICP in NYC. I was struck by the gargantuan size of the prints. And, while I found some of the work interesting, a giant bad photograph is still a bad photograph. One of my favorite artists is Bill Schwab. Many of his silver prints are 8x8 inches. And they are jewels.

I saw the same Friedlander exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art earlier this year. When I first encountered Friedlander a few years ago, I was left a little indifferent to his work. However, once I had a chance to review the exhibit catalog about six months before the show, I was interested to see his work up close, and whether it could hold up to an in-person, direct examination.

With the number of pieces in the exhibit, I was struck by the consistency in his vision and approach. Being able to see the range of work was very useful in identifying his achievement, in both ebb and flow. I came away with a better understanding of one important direction in contemporary 20th Century photography, and this artist’s decisions about format and presentation.

Your comments about format size seemed un-informed, like:

“Most of the photos, both good and not-so-good, are printed fairly small, so you’re forced to look at all of them…”, and,

“too many photographs, including Friedlander’s, are printed in sizes that are too small for contemporary tastes, walls, and museums.”

What would you have the artist/photographer do, reprint all of them to follow current opinion, regardless of the artists’ original intention? What about a deceased artist? Should the museum make their own decisions and reprint the work? And then at what size, or maybe just big enough to fit over the sofa?

"...too many photographs, including Friedlander’s, are printed in sizes that are too small for contemporary tastes..."

Right. They should have been updated to a more fashionable size. Maybe colorized, too.

Oh well.

The Friedlander exhibit at SFMOMA was also much too comprehensive to take in, and way too cluttered to appreciate. Mounting "smaller" sized photos in grouped presentations automatically send a signal that those prints are somehow inadequate or incomplete to stand on their own.

I remember just before seeing the Henry Wessel exhibit at the same venue, I was confronted with a huge, wall sized behemoth of a photo from Mitch Epstein's American Power series. It was as beautiful as it was humongous, and the colors really knocked your socks off! How was Henry's little B&W prints ever going to compete with that?

Well, my question was answered upon seeing Mr. Wessel's immaculately printed, full toned prints (unlike his recent monograph) that were thankfully given the proper space to breathe and be appreciated. Presentation counts!

I have never been to a major show that impressed me at all in terms of presentation. Not one and I've been to a couple dozen. It is almost as if the curators believe the viewer needs to be challenged in some way to access the real value of the work. The best photography displays I've ever seen have been by unknown artists showing at private galleries.

I saw this Friedlander show at the San Francisco MOMA. Yes, there were a lot of pictures, but this didn't seem a distraction to me. In fact, I appreciated being able to follow the development of an extraordinary career. By surveying all the pictures, you could see Friedlander exploring his varied interests over more than four decades. This opportunity to get inside the mind of a photographer as he followed his muse seemed to me to be what the show was all about.

On the size of the images--all of which, I recall, Friedlander printed himself--they seemed to me to be appropriate degrees of enlargement from the originals.


The first thing I thought when I opened this page and saw the photo of the museum display was "Wow look at those sad little prints there".

I'd much rather see 4 huge prints in that space, one on each wall. Big walls deserve big prints (and vice versa I suppose).

But I'm biased... I love big prints.

I'm REALLY sorry I missed this show, warts and all. I just spent 2.6 weeks in Mppl, but I didn't find out about the show until nearly the end of my vacation, when there was no room in my schedule. Maybe it'll come Out West.

Ted Hartwell was a friend of mine, and I'd like to think that if he were still alive the exhibit would have been laid out better.

(I also missed the Prince show, sigh-- I gotta start reading the museum listings!)

Having watched that video, I hope I get to meet Sam Abell some day. Articulate, intelligent, thoughtful and fundamentally nice.

pax / Ctein

I saw the show during members weekend and totally agree with John's on the comment on the sheer size of the show. This many images is way to large to fully appreciate, whether Friedlander or anyone else. I got so tired I didn't even go to the Harrison Gallery, MIAs permanent photography gallery, which I "always" visit.

The size of the images we fine with me. They were grouped together effectively. There were just so many.

I will return again but will consume the exhibit in smaller chunks.


"All this testifies is your own inability to appreciate content for what it is. It is akin saying you only like an music if played at wall shattering volume."

Are you saying that size *doesn't* matter? Because I think that's very wrong. Size changes the impact and sometimes even the very meaning of an image. (Volume certainly matters to music, too.)

"'Raw size, it seems to me, has become a critical aspect of art photography.' If that was the case, 8x10" cameras and enlargers would be all the rage. Print size has to be adequate for comfortable viewing, no question, but to state that printing big is a *critical* aspect of photography is questionnable at best."

...And yet it's true. Size is definitely a critical aspect of contemporary photography, at least as it is understood in art galleries and art museums.

Mike J.

Sam Abell is unbelievably dignified about the Richard Prince rip-offs. I saw them at the Guggenheim in December or January, and frankly thought the whole Richard Prince exhibition was pretty average trash. I may not have looked close enough, but I did not see any credit to Sam Abell for the Marlborough shots. These photos were solid and competent for the purpose for which they were made. In no way they become high art just because Richard Prince has had them blown up larger or because the Guggenheim has seem fit to use them to paper its walls.
On the original topic, I also find Friedlander an enigmatic photographer, but fascinating at times.

Two comments here: FWIW, I saw a big Friedlander show in the '80s where the prints were mostly normal sizes but with the occasional big one thrown in as an accent. The "normal sized" ones were 11x14, if I remember, and the "big ones" were probably 30" or so. That wouldn't qualify as very big any more. So he's been pursuing that particular exhibition strategy for a long time at least.

Secondly, my memory is failing here, but Ansel Adams had a quote about the great difficulty of making very big prints of high quality, to which John Szarkowski made an arch comment that Adams was such a great craftsman that his very big prints worked almost as well as his more normal sized ones. (Arch because he implied they weren't quite as good and didn't work quite as well.) It would take me half a day to find the quotes, so please forgive me for not doing so.

Mike J.

"Perhaps these prints were not too small. Perhaps the room was just too large. Should we be changing the size of original art merely to fit the size of an available room?"

Stieglitz chose his gallery spaces in NYC based on their suitability to show photographs. And doesn't the Getty have photo galleries deliberately designed to match the scale of small photographs? I don't know, I've never been there.

Mike J.

"I don't know about Mike, who I'm sure is a far better printer than I ever was, but most people were never able to get a really satisfying print larger than 12" x 16" from an "ordinary" 35mm negative, and personally I have always preferred the "tightness" and tonality you get with 9.5" x 12" or smaller."

Mike C.,
My standard printing size from 35mm was 7x11.5. If the picture needed it, I'd go up to 12" wide and rarely to 15", or smaller to 9" or 10" wide.

The great irony of my longtime insistence on "printing small" is that a 7x11.5" image on an 11x14 sheet doesn't fit comfortably on a flatbed film scanner. It's too big.

Mike J.

Postscript: OK, so it WAS out west already! And I didn't notice.

I am clearly fated to never see this show.

Size doesn't matter??? Oh, wrongwrongwrong. That's not an assertion that bigger (or smaller) is inherently better. It's a recognition that both content and venue *do* affect presentation.

I hereby declare that all music should played at a peak level of 89 db as measured 3 meters back from the midpoint between the speakers. Doesn't matter if it's Brubeck, Bach, the Bangles or the B-52s. Doesn't matter if it's in my living room, a MacMansion or a a concert hall. Size doesn't matter, right?

pax / Ctein


1. There are "Too many" photographs. It is a major retrospective! You want to have all the work there. It's a rare opportunity to see the less well known images as opposed to just the "Greatest hits".

2. The prints are "too small for comtemporary tatses". I already responded on this point. The prints are the size the artist made them which is as it should be. Yes, prints should be appropriate to the viewing distance, but they are right there on the wall. You can walk right up to them as needed. If you want to talk about filling the gallery space or walls, ok fine, but now you are talking about interior design, not the work (IMHO).


After all is said, Sam Abell will still be a beautiful, wonderful photographer, & Richard Prince will be someone who may or may not have made some sort of social critique through the re-use of commercial photographs. I know which one I'd rather pay to see.

It took a while for me to "get" Friedlander too. His subject is always photography no matter what genre he works in. I agree that 500-700 photos are just plain excessive. But, in regard to the size of the prints, I have to applaud Friedlander for avoiding the excessiveness of huge prints.

When I started reading your post the first thing that came to my mind (What's left of it.) was the question: Did they tell you no photography?

For years I went to Los Angeles County Museum of Art with my camera and never once was told to stop taking photos. Now it's a whole new ball game. No photos are ever allowed if it is a traveling show. And now the Broad collection is off limits. What crap. I take photos anyway. Screw them. You can see what I mean at my blog, photoessayist.net.

I am so sick of the current opinion that every picture has to be giant and in color. The vast majority of photography shown in NY's Chelsea galleries is giant and color and most of it is crap. Each picture requires its own print size. personally, I far prefer a tiny perfect print to a giant digital C-Print ANY DAY, that is my personal taste. I acknowledge that some images require size to be perceived accurately, but to suggest that everything needs to be big to matter is the most ridiculous, idiotic, and feeble minded idea I've heard in a very long time.

One more thing on size... I saw James Nachtwey's then retro at ICP in the mid 90's, and the very smallest 35mm B&W prints there were printed 16x20 FF (and those were few in number). How they got his prints to the sizes they did while retaining full tonal values and resolution from such a small neg, I will never know. They looked remarkable! But I'm betting it had something to do with that stellar printer of his that you can catch a glimpse of in the documentary War Photographer, as Nachtwey sends him back, and back, and back again until he gets it right.


I guess I do not find any fault with the print size (being a small print - printer myself.

What strikes me is the number of pictures, and how they are hung. Fewer pictures in the show, and fewer per room.
They (to my taste) should be hung in a line

. . . . . . . . .

With enough room between them that each is isolated for the person standing close to view it.

As far as Mr. Prince goes.....well. After watching Mr. Abell's comments, I actually went and watched a 4 part video of Prince at his house/"studio", on you-tube. I was underwhelmed, and at times flabergasted.
Collages can be interesting. In some ways, Warhol appropriated other's work, but he did alot of work of his own on it after the appropriation. Prince appears to pretty much say, here this is interesting, look at it, and since i pointed it our to you, it is my "art". I find it sad actually. He could collect the images and put them in a book along with analysis about the images in the context of consumer and advertising culture. But that would require some work I suppose.
Maybe this postmodernism? Alot of that seems to be an eclectic borrowing and re-arranging?

I heard the joke the other day, what do you get if you cross a car salesman and a postmodernist?
An offer you cannot understand.

Some people seem to have misinterpreted my comments on photo size. I don't think there's any intrinsically perfect size, or even that larger is better -- I'm simply saying that contemporary tastes and environments would encourage larger print sizes, and that Friedlander's work seemed (to me) to be hung in a space that diminished them, rather than enhanced them. I don't think anything should be "done about" vintage prints -- they are what they are. I would note that many famous photographers offered prints in a range of sizes, and still do, so that the buyer's environment could be taken into account.

As Geoff Wittig remarks above, "The size of displayed photographs is a fascinating issue because so many different perceptual factors are at work." His brief discussion pretty much outlines my beliefs, as well.

For people who think size doesn't matter, I present the case of Levina Teerlinc. Never heard of her? She was once one of the most famous painters in the Western World. She was a court painter for Henry VIII, and was paid more than Hans Holbein, who was a contemporary and also a court painter for Henry. Why don't we hear more of her? Because she was a miniaturist, and miniaturists have been out of fashion for three hundred odd years...

Photographers have always been somewhat handicapped by equipment and materials, in a way that painters haven't been. Without those handicaps, painters have presented work in a very wide range of sizes, from tiny to huge. They still do. I don't think we should make photography's handicaps (when they are handicaps -- when people would like to print large, but can't) into virtues. On the other hand, when people prefer small prints, that's fine with me.


Thank you for the link to the Sam Abell video.

Sam Abell is an artist and gentleman. Richard Prince appears to be a thief. The Guggenheim elevates the thief -- that is truly sad.

I assume that by inserting the phrase "life of a photograph" into the interview a couple of times, Sam Abell is off-handedly plugging his new book? (I see Amazon has it listed for October release, and the title is, coincidentally enough, The Life of a Photograph.) Or is this video part of a larger interview specifically about the book?

I think that almost all of Friedlander's photographs work better as groups , than as individual photographs. The self portraits may be the conspicuous exception. I'm totally blown away by his trees , but can't remember any one particular example. It may be that he thinks in terms of books of photos , I know that his Haywire Press books are about as beautiful as photo books get "Cray, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin" is one of my favorite books ever, although I can't remember if it's on Haywire.

On the subject of "Prince's latest victim, National Geographic's Sam Abell".

Here is a Guggenheim response to Sam Abells' question


It is hard to come down on either side of the fence and intolerable to sit on top.

Sam Abell show much dignity in the face of 'High Art's' appropriation of his images. Well done Sam Abell. His reference to the 'life of the photograph' refers, I think, back to what Prince said several times about continuing the art or piece. this is something you pick up on when you look at all four Art Talk episodes devoted to Prince on VBS. It seems to me that Abell is infering that his work doesn't need to be continued by any artist prepared to take his work. Rather the photographs have a life of their own which, continues.

To Jay Thirsty, who implied something underhanded in Abell's use of the term "The life of a photograph":

I think you have it backward. A good title on an artist's monograph often reflects the philosophy of the artist, and the artist is naturally going to verbalize that underlying philosophy when discussing his or her art whether or not there's a book to be sold. Abell's beautiful 1990 book "Stay This Moment" is another example, as is Cartier-Bresson's "Images à la Sauvette" (which somehow became "The Decisive Moment" in English) - i.e., few people interpreted HCB's use of the "sauvette" metaphor in interviews as "an off-handed plug" of his book. The same could be said for many of Elliott Erwitt's book titles ("Museumwatching," "Antiphotographs," "Snaps", etc.): HCB and Erwitt are not "plugging" their books each time they express their philosophy of photography. If you're a photographer, it's easy to dream about what a book of your photographs might be called but hard to picture making off-limits the use of the words in that title in your explanations of your artistic goals.

(Most people grossly overestimate the income that photographers get from monographs, by the way: it's usually a few thousand bucks at most, and rare is the photographer who could make any kind of a living solely from monographs.)

To see a little more on Richard Prince, one could skim the short Q&A in New York magazine in which Prince explained of his rephotographing of Abell's and others' photographs: "I’d see [a photograph in an ad] and be like, 'Oh, that’s mine. Thank you.' It’s sort of like beachcombing."


Finally, speaking of HCB, I see that Richard Prince's biography on Wikipedia (doubtless posted by an uncritical fan - Prince's agent? - with no one bothering to edit out the fawning) is almost as long as Cartier-Bresson's biography there.

"The art world's infatuation with" is clearly not the same as "lasting influence." Seventy-five years from now I doubt a fraction as many people will know Richard Prince's work as know HCB's early-1930s work now.

In response to Jay Thirsty: Sam's comments were made in conjunction with a talk he gave at the Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia on June 14th. I was there. He was interviewed on stage at The Paramount Theater by Leah Bendavid-Val on "The Life of a Photograph," which is the title of his forthcoming book, but the discussion was more broad-ranging than that. With respect to the Richard Prince piece, Sam noted that he never was identified as the original photographer in any of the venues in which Prince's piece was shown. In response to a question from the audience, he was gracious but thought it was "cheeky" to make use of his photograph in this way.

Re: Sam Abell--I meant to mention that as Sam and Leah sat talking at one side of the stage, the photographs they were discussing were beautifully projected on the theater's movie screen. One was of Sam leaning against an outdoor kiosk at one of the Prince show venues, which displayed a huge poster of the cowboy photograph. Sam had a serious expression. He said there was another, smiling, version, but he thought the serious one more appropriate.

What is so fundamentally different between Richard Prince's images of Sam Abell's advertisements and Walker Evans' images of advertising? Did Mr. Evans pay the photographer whose work is shown in "Penny Picture Display, Savannah, Georgia, 1936" or was he a scoundrel and a thief?

Thanks JC

I'd love to se that show. Maybe I should drive to the cities and do so.

I wish Richard Prince would steal my photos.

Very nice article, John!

Regarding Lee Friedlander I among the somewhat puzzled onlookers to his work. Unlike Stephen Shore, who if not completely naked is at least down to his skivvies, Friedlander really does seem to don many fine new clothes. But, as often as not, you can sure catch him in his birthday suit. I've not seen this show but I cannot imagine that displaying 500-700 of anyone's images in a single exhibition would be informative. "Retrospective" is not synonymous with "regurgitation".

Regarding the Prince subject, I'm a bit torn. Re-contextualizing iconic imagery is nothing new and certainly can produce captivating, and new iconic a.k.a. Warhol, results. But there's something about Richard Prince's work that makes me think that he, too, is actually quite threadbare.

All I can definitely say is that Sam Abell comes across as one classy, thoughtful fellow in that extemporaneous interview. I wonder how many of us could take such a high-road in this situation.

"To say nothing of restricting photographs of the photographs taken by a man who spent much of his time making unauthorized photographs…Ah, well."

Had the same reaction at the major HCB retrospective in Paris a few year back.


"I'm photographing the people not the photos....."


"But if you stopped photography in the era when this photographer was taking these they wouldn't exist, and then you wouldn't have them to protect, and then you wuoldn't have a job............ "


I wonder if the same applies to an Elliot Erwitt exhibition where his "people in galleries/museums" images are on show?

Yet another example of 2008 photographer as criminal/terrorist/paedophile thinking.

Where will it all end?


"What is so fundamentally different between Richard Prince's images of Sam Abell's advertisements and Walker Evans' images of advertising? ... "Penny Picture Display, Savannah, Georgia, 1936"

There is a difference. Evan's image is clearly of a window display. Prince appears to often simply reproduce an image or portion thereof, and that files the entire image space.
Also, "Penney Picture Display..." is not represetative of Evan's body of work. His New Orleans Street Corner, and others of that style more representative of social/economic images using advertising.

The more I think about it, the interesting thing would be for some photographer to multi-collage images of Prince's "work". It would be like a hall of mirrors.

Just thought I would post about what is one of my my favorite "appropriation" pictures. It is a powerful, historic image, far beyond Mr. Prince's efforts:

Margaret Bourke-White
Bread Line during the Louisville flood, Kentucky


Right on, Jay - both those posts!

Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but the Guggenheim does not allow photography -- not even of unauthorized photographs of other people's photos. Many other museums, such as MoMA for example, do allow photography, except for special exhibits.

Sam Abell seems like an unusually articulate and intelligent person who spent time thinking about what he is doing. He is also surprisingly mild in his comments about Richard Prince, a nice contrast to the usual hysteria that R. Prince evokes among photographers.

As Sam Abell hints, apart from the moral issue there is not much harm in Richard Prince copying his work. There is little chance the Guggenheim would ever exhibit Sam Abell directly; It seems hard to imagine that Sam Abell's reputation would be damaged by what Prince did; or that Prince would unfairly compete with him for clients or damage his photog business in any way.

Artists have been transgressing moral boundaries for some time. Why not plagiarism, thinking about it?

Almost forgot:

Never trust any photograph so large it can only fit inside a museum.
-Duane Michals

This debate is very, very old. Anyone thinking Richard Prince is doing something strange and despicable has about 90 years of catching-up to do with the art world. Start with Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (1917)...

Jose Grillo writes: "Anyone thinking Richard Prince is doing something strange and despicable has about 90 years of catching up to do with the art world. Start with Duchamp's "Fountain" (urinal) in 1917..."

Sorry, not even close.

The art establishment may be gullible, but it's not naive or ignorant of history. If what Richard Prince was doing was "nothing new," he never would have gotten the attention he has.

Countless artists have photographed things that others have created and then made prints showing those things *in those things' context* (see Bourke-White's "Bread Line" and Evans' "Penny Picture Display" examples cited earlier in this thread, or the work of any street photographer since the beginning of the medium). Many other artists have taken a *mass-produced object* and presented it as an art object (Duchamp's urinal, Warhol's soup cans, Oldenburg's giganticizing of almost everything, Lichtenstein's comics, Weston's peppers, Evans' and Renger-Patzsch's close-up photos of hand implements).

But to rephotograph someone else's *photograph* (or just a part of that photograph) and add nothing but a new caption is indeed something different. It explains both why postmodernists pay Prince millions and why photographers are riled up about him.

I have seen this show a few times. It is amazing, but contains too much and shows how even someone like Friedlander starts to imitate himself!

I saw the Lee Friedlander show at MIA, and it is overwhelming. But better too much than too little. I was stressed due to time constraints, but that's my fault for not realizing the quantity in store. If I go back, I'd do the loop in reverse and be fresh for the end, where I had to start skimming before.

I liked how the images were grouped into rooms/walls by book/era, and I liked the differences in wall color. The variations in arrangement on a wall worked for me too. The lighting seemed fine.

At some shows I've seen, I walk away depressed due to lack of quality, impact, or ideas, but this show was very inspiring to me due to breadth of subject, the photos from years apart brought together to construct a theme, etc.

Initially, I saw repetitive images, or so I thought, but the subtle differences between similar images yielded more information to me than simply seeing only "the best" of any group.

I commend the curators for the job they did. The photos are there for people to see, learn from, and converse about. Hooray!

If all of those "negative" points in your review were to be collected and combined, they would perhaps form a beginning to the reason why you don't understand Friedlander's work. I mean that in earnest without animosity.

He has no prescribed duty to appease current tastes and I don't think he has any interest in pursuing popular appeal or fame; this is part of what lends his work its charm.

PS, Friedlander is not a painter.

Given that Friedlander lived to see the compilation of a major retrospective of his work, it hardly seems necessary for us to imagine that he might seek the attention of the modern audience, which is subject, after all, to the whims of trends. In any case, with the exception of the color photographs digitally printed from negative scans, those on display were original prints that he made without knowledge of the future.

Yes! He showed the flexibility to work with many genres of photography! Above all, this is what makes Friedlander an interesting photographer. He shows us that it isn't WHAT you photograph but HOW you use the space within the frame that distinguishes you from other photographers. To the untrained eye, his images may seem almost haphazard. Nothing but nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Since my spouse and I know the exhibition designer for the show, we asked her about the notion that she might have designed the space to disguise the smallness of the prints. This puzzled her. She explained that there is a designated space for special exhibitions and that you work with the space you have to accommodate the pieces. I actually thought the display at the Institute of Arts was nicer than at MoMA. I saw them both.

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