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Tuesday, 07 October 2014


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Your Vermeer story reminds me of a recent series of photos recreating Edward Hopper paintings. Quite dreadful IMO. This is in contrast to photos inspired by Hopper -- there's an exhibit at the Whitney currently on this. Hopper is a likely source of photographic inspiration because of his use of light (like Vermeer is) and also by the fact that Hopper's paintings were, in part, inspired and informed by cinema.

Careful, Mike. You're getting awful close to the question "What is art?". There's been much verbal (and real) blood spilt on that one. Its an endless morass where I don't think you want to go. I prefer to leave it as "Art is in the eye of the beholder".

We all get something different from photography. Personally, I'm much more interested in commercial photography and photojournalism than photography as "fine art". Both of these disciplines are specifically "for making money"; it doesn't invalidate or necessarily make it less resonant for viewers of the work, or imply a lack of respect for the truth behind appearances, and IMO, every bit as valid artistically and creatively as "fine art" photography (I'm still trying to figure out what some of the work Lee Friedlander did means)

Did all the incredible work Avedon or Nachtwey created, for example, have no cognizance, or respect for the truth behind appearances?

"Work made to make money almost never does,..."

The diffuse nature of the statement leaves an ample escape hatch, but I'm not at all confident in the statement's conceptual accuracy, Mike. Top-of-their-game fashion photographers, for example, can gross very big money. Mario Testino, the Peruvian glam snapper, just bought a little home-away-from-home in NY for over $7 million, for just one example (ref: NYT 10/3/14). I don't know if Testino's work is solely motivated by money but fashion photographers are legendary for making piles of money for such piffle work and then abruptly leaving it for a life of peace and self-directed artful solitude.

"Work made to make money ..." can and does make money. Many of the most financially and artistically successful artists in history plied their talents one direction for sustenance and another for expression and recognition.

"...it's not that hard to detect the impulse behind any kind of work..."
You must be better at this than I. But I will say that, at least in photography, it's sometimes self-evident that no impulse deeper than "that's pretty" propelled a finger to press the button.


Only tangentially related, but when you get a chance do see the documentary "Tim's Vermeer" Fascinating film directed by Penn Jillette.

On a Logitech iPad keyboard that has been across the Atlantic, to four countries, and back and STILL does not need to be recharged. Love this thing....

Seems a trend, imitating the Masters. One of the rags, Pop Photo? Sbug? did an entire article on it. Made me nauseous. No art at all, copy a Master and make MONEY MONEY MONEY, and seemed to justify the "art" in it.

I'd look for it but it didn't last a day before hitting the recycling bin.



Almost spam, but I have a photo that I always call "My Rembrandt":



If you haven't thought of it already (and if no one else has suggested it already), you should try some of the bluetooth keyboards that sync to the iPad. One of two of them have a decent feel, and change entirely the experience of typing with an iPad. Many are case-like and don't add too much weight or thickness.

I was wondering if you had read this article by Alain Briot on critiquing photographs, and if you had, what you thought about it in the light of art vs money.

In a reply to a recent proposal my potential client asked me, "When you say client - are you looking for a new creative project, or paid works?"

An increasingly common attitude, but an infuriating one to this pro photographer of 30+ years experience.

It seems that photographers are expected to separate their creative work from their paid work. Indeed many photographers do just that, but for the life of me I cannot seem to create in that conflicted space.

The thing I know is to be the photographer I am. It is then up to my business alter ego to find an audience for my work.

Changing what I do to accommodate current tastes is the fast track to my mediocrity and irrelevancy even though it could well be more lucrative in the short term.

In 20 years as a working photographer I don't think I've ever made a photograph that is art. You know, the photographs that just make you stop and stare for no good reason. The images that are wonderful in their own right. The images that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Certainly in my personal work I either make record shots (can family shots be art?) or I see a print full of things I could have done better. In my paid work, I've made people cry (brides mothers can do that, you know) but they're not art. They don't stand proud without the emotional input of the viewer.

And I'm OK with that. It's a pretty good gig, this photography lark. It's fed my family for two decades. I'm cool that I'm more of a craftsperson than an artist. I'm a problem solver. That's all.

Photography can be an art. Or a craft. Or both. It's flexible that way.


I agree about the iPad for writing. Bleh. And I think we are on the same wavelength about money making. Perhaps it comes down to what Dorthea Lange said to Ralph Gibson when he was young, that the problem with his photographs what that they lacked a "point of departure." Some years later he figured out what she meant, and then spent three years working on his first book. He was just interviewed on The Candid Frame.

“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
want to know how to make big money online then visit the website http://www.deconero.net/home.html

Why can't photographer's get along? Granted the presentation title is a stupid one, but perhaps it was just an attempt to say economics is part of being a photographer. Leaving aside those photographers that have another source of income so they don't actually have to earn their living from the craft, photography is a profession.

To imply that commerce and art are mutually exclusive does not really line up with facts. Or are we to say the work from Arnold Newman, Avadon, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, Nadar, and every other photographers that has earned a living from this medium is somehow producing something less than "art"? Certainly many of those are commissioned to produced a work for a client, not just what they want. And lets face it, so-called fine-art photographers are selling too, presumably because they need to eat. And many of them understand their customer and craft a product to sell. William Henry Jackson commercialized his work with great success--he even rented a train to have a rolling gallery to take it across America.

As far as artistic intent and the viewer can perceive that, I doubt there is any supporting evidence. I have had exhibitions and asked visitors which of my photographs they liked. Invariably, they take me to one that is not my favorite and wax poetic over it, giving it far more meaning than I ever had in mind. The truth is an artwork is a conversation between it and the viewer. The artist is rather irrelevant at that point. Good art effects more people, but how do we know each person interprets the work the same way? And some of my favorite work was produced when I was just feeling tired and hungry, but it would not describe the image. And I cannot tell you how many artist statements I have read that seemed to have been written for exhibitions other than the one being shown. I think the connection to an artwork is a deeply personal one.

Each photographer is on a path and is learning. As they develop, they will learn that certain things are not effective. But experimentation, imitation, and play is part of learning and gaining skill. Lot of bad work will be made in any career and sometimes there needs to be distance to see what was once a "masterpiece" as something that was not really very good.

But I can point out counter examples where imitation has been fruitful. Pictorialists like Stieglitz copied painters just as painters like Degas copied photographers. Cubists and surrealists were very much imitated by photographers and great work came from that. Not everyone is successful imitating style, but that does not mean no one is. But kudos to those that try.

You might be interested in a book called "On Moral Fiction" by the novelist John Gardner. He was staking out somewhat similar territory in the realm of the novel. He wasn't calling for novels to be moralistic, but rather for there to be serious intent on the part of the author. Needless to say, it was not well received but I found it persuasive.

Mike..... you need one of theses....http://www.usbtypewriter.com/

Not long ago I talked to a fledgling artist whose only sense of "artistic purpose" was to find a technique that could propel them to...?
Puzzles the will.

"I don't know if Testino's work is solely motivated by money but fashion photographers are legendary for making piles of money for such piffle work and then abruptly leaving it for a life of peace and self-directed artful solitude."

Really? Who?

I think Will hit a home run with his comments. He summarized it well with his comment that "an artwork is a conversation between it and the viewer". Can't improve on that!

Is the work from within or from without? If I am trying to please a client the motivation is exactly different then if I am moved to make my own photographs.


I agree with Will, the idea that art and commerce are exclusive is a fairly recent phenomenon. Almost all the great art we celebrate in museums was commissioned by someone. Renaissance masters were the commercial photographers of their day, and the 'great' families who commissioned them were advertising agencies spending money to promote themselves. The sistine chapel was a commission.

I have had a few friends ask me what is art, and the answer I fall back to is that art is in conversation with other art, or politics, or society. It has to be taking part in a conversation of some kind. Otherwise I say it is Craft not Art. Needlepoint is usually just craft, but I have seen needlepoint used to make art as well.

So yes a huge proportion of photography is just craftwork. I am selling my craftwork like I was a hat maker, or house painter. But I can also sell art, and it might look like the exact same thing but it is in response to something, or shouting out for a response.

And as a counterpoint I think a lot of people make craft and label it art because it is complicated craft. Making a portrait by hand with thousands of tiny pen dots might be a technical achievement, but that is not enough for me. And a sublime landscape with light and depth that could make me feel weak at the knees is still not necessarily art; being moved is not the exclusive effect of art OR craft.

Art without commerce is a hobby.

I sincerely hope that is a very small portion of the Brighton Biennial, as such a message seems extraneous at best. And I say that despite the fact that I have work showing there this year, yet I can't afford to actually go myself (I am going to have to save up and go into credit card debt just to attend our exhibit in Paris next month).

"Work made to make money almost never does, and that's just not all that difficult to see."

Well, that dismisses just about all the work of masters from the past few hundred years hanging in galleries around the world. Pretty much all produced on commission for rich clients.

Photography, art, money. Sometimes the three things are together, sometimes two of them are combines, sometimes or it is one or the other...

On the topic of taking Vermeer as inspiration, I just came across this article about the wonderful pictures of Jessica Todd Harper: http://lenscratch.com/2014/10/jessica-todd-harper-2/
(I don't know where I saw them before. Was that even here?)

or try this....https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hanx-writer/id868326899?mt=8

Posted by: Andrew Lamb "Really? Who?

When it comes to many of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century it might be more concise to ask, Who not? When photography exploded into print media it became a bit of a gold rush. I've not done a count but most names that immediately come to my mind -- Avedon, Erwitt, Maisel, Klein, Haas, ..... -- cut their teeth in commercial and/or fashion photography in the mid-20th. Many became wealthy enough to sing their own tunes for the remainder of their careers, even some who did meh work and hated every minute! Some became superstars within that world and then branched into art.

The money today is much bigger for hot snappers. But the golden age of commercial and fashion photography was probably from the 1950's and into the 1970's.

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