"Our attitudes to authorship, shifted massively by our common use of the Internet, confuse our understanding of where photography will fit in the cultural landscape of the future. Anyone invested in high-art photography (where authorship is king, where influences are conventionally hidden, and where reusing existing imagery is consciously acknowledged as appropriation) sees this intellectual-property amnesia of the age of the “digital native” as a problem, at least on the level of terminology. All photographic imagery circulating on the Internet is the raw material for millions of “unique” stories of (educators, hold your breath) “self-expression”: found illustrations that quasi-communicate millions of people’s homogenized experiences and emotions. The Internet does not adhere to the inherent, necessary asymmetry of high- versus low-art categorizations that we use in the cultural sector: in a banal sense, all photographs on the Web are orphans ready to be claimed."

@2 weeks ago with 40 notes
#Photography #Culture #Criticism #Charlotte Cotton #Social Media #Theory #Art #Inspiration #SEESAW magazine #Aaron Schuman 

Pinched from the tumblr of Ahorn editor Daniel Augschoell, this is the trailer for photographer Katy Grannan’s debut feature film The Nine, which is an extension of her work in The 99a new monograph that charts the arid daily existence of people in the Central Valley of California, where Dorothea Lange worked some eighty years before.

The Nine, Katy Grannan’s first feature length film (release date, Spring 2015) is an intimate portrait of a peripheral and charismatic community in the Central Valley that struggles to find meaning and moments of grace in a hostile environment. Katy Grannan and Hannah Hughes spent three years on South Ninth Street (locally known as The Nine). The filmmakers’ lives intertwine with those of the original subjects of the film, resulting in a tender but conflicted look at the nature of the street and of the artist’s evolving and complex relationship to their subject.

Featuring Bill Callahan’s song “Drover

@3 weeks ago with 33 notes
#Art #Film #Photography #Katy Grannan #Hannah Hughes #Dorothea Lange #The Great Depression #The 99% 

An excellent lecture by photographer Irina Rozovsky about her work, and the interrelationships between pictures, memory, identity and place. Delivered at the School of Visual Arts, February 25th 2014.

@1 month ago with 43 notes
#Photography #Irina Rozovsky #Lecture #Art #Memory #Place #Identity #History #SVA 

"

If you were to walk through the aisles of any one of the dozens of art fairs that now take place globally on an almost weekly basis, you would get the sense that the art world is a happier place than Disney World. Big art, big artists, big dealers and big money play their roles in a hypnotic and well-rehearsed production, and toothy smiles abound. Yet this intoxicating spectacle is just the most public manifestation of a problem in the art world that has become increasingly obvious over the past decade: more and more, the cart is pulling the horse.

The horse in question is, of course, aesthetic production and the individuals and institutions that assiduously guard its sanctity. The cart is, at least on the surface, money - and lots of it. Or is it? After all, money does not have motivation or intent, people do. I would argue that the cart is actually the insidious forces that have, over several decades, narrowed the gap between art and financial instruments, and in doing so have forced art to submit to criteria once reserved for commodities. Money is simply the scapegoat for a problem that is pervasive and systemic.

There was a time when art critics, art historians and curators held substantial sway as to what constituted significant contemporary art. They rode the horse, and collectors and art dealers happily went along for the ride. These days, curators are too often hamstrung by the demands of museum directors who are focused on attendance figures, and board members, who can have very real (non-aesthetic) interests in seeing that certain exhibitions take place. Critics have suffered an even worse fate. Those that are left have been neutered, and can seem more like public relations specialists than critical thinkers. (…)

The art world and the art market are not the same thing, even though the general-interest press now, tellingly, uses the terms interchangeably. The latter should be subject to the former, but somewhere along the way there was a coup. When the public now thinks about the art world - if they think about the art world at all - the first thing that will likely come to mind is the unfathomable sums of money spent for a painting at the latest auction. I don’t think there is any way to overstate the exclusion that this narrative creates. It moves art closer to commodity status in the collective consciousness, and in doing so, effectively tells the 99% that there is no point in thinking about the art world, or art itself for that matter. The message is clear: If art equals money, and you are not wealthy, then art is not for you.

"

@1 month ago with 34 notes
#Art #Commerce #Capitalism #Criticism #Institutional power #Steven Zevitas #The Huffington Post 

I admire beauty, but as an aesthetic position I will leave that for others who are better equipped than I am to work in that way. (…) For me, a work of art is something that’s interesting to think about, more than something that’s interesting to look at." — Lewis Baltz.

Lewis Baltz, part of the TateShots video interview series of interviews with leading artists (stolen from the blog of Try Hard magazine).

@3 weeks ago with 38 notes
#Art #Photography #Lewis Baltz #Interviews #Try Hard magazine 

"I am concerned, I say, with facts which may belong to the order of pure observation, but which on each occasion present all the appearances of a signal, without our being able to say precisely which signal, and of what … accompanied by the distinct sensation that something momentous, something essential depends upon them."

André BretonNadja.
@4 weeks ago with 25 notes
#Art #Surrealism #Theory #André Breton #Images 

"

I often think artists and people who write about art place way too
much importance on the appearance of novelty and obtuse sound bites, but if they really did their homework they’d see relationships and historical precedents all over the place. Arbus and Lisette Model, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, etc. are obvious examples. No one works in a vacuum; there is precedent and dialogue in every medium and expression and those relationships can be really interesting. (“Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot should be required reading). The uniqueness or particularity of serious work is often in more thoughtful, quieter differences – all of which have to do with our own biography, experiences, and the world that we’re faced with at any given time.


I could give you a very long list of artists whose work I admire, and an even longer list of writers and film makers that have influenced my work. But I really like what Robert Gober said: “Whenever I give a talk about my work I am invariably asked who my influences are. Not what my influences are, but who.. As if the gutter, misunderstandings, memories, sex, dreams, and books matter less than forebears do. After all, in terms of influences, it is as much the guy who mugged me on Tenth Street, or my beloved dog who passed away much too early, as it was Giotto or Diane Arbus.”

"

from Boulevard: an interview with Katy Grannan. See more of the work from Boulevard and an essay on it here
@1 month ago with 306 notes
#Photography #Art #Influence #Katy Grannan #Portraiture #Diane Arbus #Lisette Model #Richard Avedon #Robert Bergman #Inspiration #The Great Leap Sideways #The Daily Serving 

"

For the serious photographer with a confirmed belief in the artistic worth of ‘straight’ photography – the so-called ‘poetic documentary’ mode – these are trying times. More than ever, most of the world seems to think that the simple photograph is not enough. The photographic artist who still stubbornly works within the broad tradition of Atget or Weston, even Frank or Friedlander, is deemed wilfully anachronistic, a member of a mutated, almost extinct species.

The straight photographer certainly is an endangered species. Reviled either openly or covertly, and frequently passed over in favour of those utilising the medium for conspicuously more grandiose ends. These days, the straight photographer’s nominally modest, ‘unambitious’ [works] tend to be swamped by the serried ranks of vainglorious photofabrications and moronic pieces of minimalist conceptualism masquerading as the ‘real thing.’ (…)

Of course, I am deliberately oversimplifying the issue. I also wish that it were unnecessary to take such a reactionary tack, but I feel that a little revisionism is in order. An artist’s medium should not be the ground for value judgements and ideological conflict. The art, yes – the medium itself, no. Yet that is precisely what has happened, and what is happening with photography. Certain ideological applications of photographic processes, namely, where the primacy of the photograph is denigrated and challenged, are held to be superior to the documentary utilisation of the medium. The photo-hybrid – photopainting, photosculpture, the ubiquitous conceptual photo ‘piece’ – is seen as the only valid notional approach. There are signs of active discrimination against the straight photograph and the plainly veristic practice from both within and without the photographic enclave.

Yet, so many of those seeking to ‘extend the boundaries of the medium’, and refute the ‘hegemony of the documentary’, are fooling themselves. Whether deliberately or unknowingly (often the latter I suspect), they would seek to deny photography’s salient strengths and replace them with a diluted academicism. Much of what they trot forth as shining examples of the medium’s cutting edge are simply tired old ideas (intellectually kosher ideas, to be sure) wrapped in glossy new packages and bound with accompanying rhetoric. Invariably – lots of rhetoric.

"

Excerpted from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger, (1987, Creative Camera magazine).

The foregoing argument from Gerry Badger, which dates back to a profoundly turbulent moment of political and economic strife in 1987, struck me recently as being both relevant and accurate in terms of many aspects of the contemporary state of fine art photography. In many ways history, on a political and economic level, has repeated itself in the intervening thirty years. So too it seems —  perhaps predictably — has the history of contemporary art.

To be clear, the issue is plainly not a zero sum game, which is to say as the literary critic Lorna Sage did: “[t]here is room to live intellectually, in other words, without having to compete over who’s more marginal than whom." That said, it seems a certain persistent mistrust, or a certain disdain of the virtues of ‘straight’ photography remains characteristic of the uneven terrain of critical discussion about the medium more generally. There are greater comforts to be found in the armature of conceptualised abstraction than in the complex ambiguities of the documentary image.

Badger’s avowedly extreme characterisation of experimental approaches to the photographic image also brought to mind an argument from Hal Foster’s 1984 essay Against Pluralism (quoted before here):

Modern art engaged historical forms, often in order to deconstruct them. Our new art tends to assume historical forms — out of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a “return to history”; but it is in fact a profoundly ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often “aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa.

If the prevailing sense is that ours is a society rife with images, none of which accord with a credible notion of reality (much less a stable convention of realism), then the ‘straight’ photograph is eminently suspect and of debatable value. Certainly our sense of the stability and authority of modernist conventions of photographic realism has been comprehensively undermined. The critic, historian and photographer David Campany discussed this notion recently when he said:

In modernity realism is a moving target. Maybe photography, or those with vested interests in it, thought they could freeze realism the way the shutter freezes action. The hegemony of the mass media magazines did that for a while. But their stranglehold on the conventions for realism is over. This makes form much more of a live issue than it once was.  Realism does not have a form that can be taken for granted. We must fight for it in the midst of things.

But the notion that the spectacular nature of reality is all pervasive nevertheless presumes an inevitable authority of spectacle over substance, and moreover presumes that no image is capable of contravening or subverting these prevailing conventions. If ‘reality’ is taken to be equivalent to spectacle, then the sort of ahistorical conventions of its appropriation that Foster points toward are likely to be the most persuasive strategies with which to address it. There can be greater comfort in reformulating the status quo than in resisting its logic of distraction and dissimulation.

And yet people in their millions continue to find a means by way of images to resist the tyranny of distraction and spectacle - to resist the model of time that underpins it. If the conventional aspirations of our image-saturated culture are for a sense of accelerated time, constant stimulation, perpetual distraction and a socially-networked solipsism, then the capacity of an image to engender some sense of the timeless is surely to be all the more highly prized. The form that such an image might take is not the ultimate issue. However, in view of the cyclical nature of our recent history there are grave wounds to be tended on many levels (and in many registers).

In 1984 John Berger wrote of how “hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy. (…) The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time." A little earlier in that same essay, he described the genesis of this peculiarly modern complaint:

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

What is so remarkably powerful about Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, and what for me remains so unalterably important about the book is the profoundly atypical sense of time that it engenders — the steady cumulative intensity with which it invokes a vast span of history, and renders it in an embodied, individuated and visceral sense. The work is avowedly documentary, and offers a progressive adaptation of a documentary tradition Badger eloquently describes in his essay. But it is also, as Badger goes on to say, fundamentally subjective - which for me means that it bridges the apparent oppositions of subject and object, abstract and concrete, aesthetic and political.

the pain and sense of loss running through the whole book like a subliminal subtext would seem to be as much personal as historical, as eschatological as phenomenal, as much diary as report. Waffenruhe is a subjective, deeply felt work, elegiac and bitter by turns.

from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger.

@1 month ago with 376 notes
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Michael Schmidt #Hal Foster #Theory #John Berger #Culture #Lorna Sage #Art #Politics #Documentary photography 
"Our attitudes to authorship, shifted massively by our common use of the Internet, confuse our understanding of where photography will fit in the cultural landscape of the future. Anyone invested in high-art photography (where authorship is king, where influences are conventionally hidden, and where reusing existing imagery is consciously acknowledged as appropriation) sees this intellectual-property amnesia of the age of the “digital native” as a problem, at least on the level of terminology. All photographic imagery circulating on the Internet is the raw material for millions of “unique” stories of (educators, hold your breath) “self-expression”: found illustrations that quasi-communicate millions of people’s homogenized experiences and emotions. The Internet does not adhere to the inherent, necessary asymmetry of high- versus low-art categorizations that we use in the cultural sector: in a banal sense, all photographs on the Web are orphans ready to be claimed."
2 weeks ago
#Photography #Culture #Criticism #Charlotte Cotton #Social Media #Theory #Art #Inspiration #SEESAW magazine #Aaron Schuman 
3 weeks ago
#Art #Photography #Lewis Baltz #Interviews #Try Hard magazine 
3 weeks ago
#Art #Film #Photography #Katy Grannan #Hannah Hughes #Dorothea Lange #The Great Depression #The 99% 
"I am concerned, I say, with facts which may belong to the order of pure observation, but which on each occasion present all the appearances of a signal, without our being able to say precisely which signal, and of what … accompanied by the distinct sensation that something momentous, something essential depends upon them."
André BretonNadja.
4 weeks ago
#Art #Surrealism #Theory #André Breton #Images 
1 month ago
#Photography #Irina Rozovsky #Lecture #Art #Memory #Place #Identity #History #SVA 
"

I often think artists and people who write about art place way too
much importance on the appearance of novelty and obtuse sound bites, but if they really did their homework they’d see relationships and historical precedents all over the place. Arbus and Lisette Model, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, etc. are obvious examples. No one works in a vacuum; there is precedent and dialogue in every medium and expression and those relationships can be really interesting. (“Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot should be required reading). The uniqueness or particularity of serious work is often in more thoughtful, quieter differences – all of which have to do with our own biography, experiences, and the world that we’re faced with at any given time.


I could give you a very long list of artists whose work I admire, and an even longer list of writers and film makers that have influenced my work. But I really like what Robert Gober said: “Whenever I give a talk about my work I am invariably asked who my influences are. Not what my influences are, but who.. As if the gutter, misunderstandings, memories, sex, dreams, and books matter less than forebears do. After all, in terms of influences, it is as much the guy who mugged me on Tenth Street, or my beloved dog who passed away much too early, as it was Giotto or Diane Arbus.”

"
from Boulevard: an interview with Katy Grannan. See more of the work from Boulevard and an essay on it here
1 month ago
#Photography #Art #Influence #Katy Grannan #Portraiture #Diane Arbus #Lisette Model #Richard Avedon #Robert Bergman #Inspiration #The Great Leap Sideways #The Daily Serving 
"

If you were to walk through the aisles of any one of the dozens of art fairs that now take place globally on an almost weekly basis, you would get the sense that the art world is a happier place than Disney World. Big art, big artists, big dealers and big money play their roles in a hypnotic and well-rehearsed production, and toothy smiles abound. Yet this intoxicating spectacle is just the most public manifestation of a problem in the art world that has become increasingly obvious over the past decade: more and more, the cart is pulling the horse.

The horse in question is, of course, aesthetic production and the individuals and institutions that assiduously guard its sanctity. The cart is, at least on the surface, money - and lots of it. Or is it? After all, money does not have motivation or intent, people do. I would argue that the cart is actually the insidious forces that have, over several decades, narrowed the gap between art and financial instruments, and in doing so have forced art to submit to criteria once reserved for commodities. Money is simply the scapegoat for a problem that is pervasive and systemic.

There was a time when art critics, art historians and curators held substantial sway as to what constituted significant contemporary art. They rode the horse, and collectors and art dealers happily went along for the ride. These days, curators are too often hamstrung by the demands of museum directors who are focused on attendance figures, and board members, who can have very real (non-aesthetic) interests in seeing that certain exhibitions take place. Critics have suffered an even worse fate. Those that are left have been neutered, and can seem more like public relations specialists than critical thinkers. (…)

The art world and the art market are not the same thing, even though the general-interest press now, tellingly, uses the terms interchangeably. The latter should be subject to the former, but somewhere along the way there was a coup. When the public now thinks about the art world - if they think about the art world at all - the first thing that will likely come to mind is the unfathomable sums of money spent for a painting at the latest auction. I don’t think there is any way to overstate the exclusion that this narrative creates. It moves art closer to commodity status in the collective consciousness, and in doing so, effectively tells the 99% that there is no point in thinking about the art world, or art itself for that matter. The message is clear: If art equals money, and you are not wealthy, then art is not for you.

"
1 month ago
#Art #Commerce #Capitalism #Criticism #Institutional power #Steven Zevitas #The Huffington Post 
"

For the serious photographer with a confirmed belief in the artistic worth of ‘straight’ photography – the so-called ‘poetic documentary’ mode – these are trying times. More than ever, most of the world seems to think that the simple photograph is not enough. The photographic artist who still stubbornly works within the broad tradition of Atget or Weston, even Frank or Friedlander, is deemed wilfully anachronistic, a member of a mutated, almost extinct species.

The straight photographer certainly is an endangered species. Reviled either openly or covertly, and frequently passed over in favour of those utilising the medium for conspicuously more grandiose ends. These days, the straight photographer’s nominally modest, ‘unambitious’ [works] tend to be swamped by the serried ranks of vainglorious photofabrications and moronic pieces of minimalist conceptualism masquerading as the ‘real thing.’ (…)

Of course, I am deliberately oversimplifying the issue. I also wish that it were unnecessary to take such a reactionary tack, but I feel that a little revisionism is in order. An artist’s medium should not be the ground for value judgements and ideological conflict. The art, yes – the medium itself, no. Yet that is precisely what has happened, and what is happening with photography. Certain ideological applications of photographic processes, namely, where the primacy of the photograph is denigrated and challenged, are held to be superior to the documentary utilisation of the medium. The photo-hybrid – photopainting, photosculpture, the ubiquitous conceptual photo ‘piece’ – is seen as the only valid notional approach. There are signs of active discrimination against the straight photograph and the plainly veristic practice from both within and without the photographic enclave.

Yet, so many of those seeking to ‘extend the boundaries of the medium’, and refute the ‘hegemony of the documentary’, are fooling themselves. Whether deliberately or unknowingly (often the latter I suspect), they would seek to deny photography’s salient strengths and replace them with a diluted academicism. Much of what they trot forth as shining examples of the medium’s cutting edge are simply tired old ideas (intellectually kosher ideas, to be sure) wrapped in glossy new packages and bound with accompanying rhetoric. Invariably – lots of rhetoric.

"

Excerpted from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger, (1987, Creative Camera magazine).

The foregoing argument from Gerry Badger, which dates back to a profoundly turbulent moment of political and economic strife in 1987, struck me recently as being both relevant and accurate in terms of many aspects of the contemporary state of fine art photography. In many ways history, on a political and economic level, has repeated itself in the intervening thirty years. So too it seems —  perhaps predictably — has the history of contemporary art.

To be clear, the issue is plainly not a zero sum game, which is to say as the literary critic Lorna Sage did: “[t]here is room to live intellectually, in other words, without having to compete over who’s more marginal than whom." That said, it seems a certain persistent mistrust, or a certain disdain of the virtues of ‘straight’ photography remains characteristic of the uneven terrain of critical discussion about the medium more generally. There are greater comforts to be found in the armature of conceptualised abstraction than in the complex ambiguities of the documentary image.

Badger’s avowedly extreme characterisation of experimental approaches to the photographic image also brought to mind an argument from Hal Foster’s 1984 essay Against Pluralism (quoted before here):

Modern art engaged historical forms, often in order to deconstruct them. Our new art tends to assume historical forms — out of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a “return to history”; but it is in fact a profoundly ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often “aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa.

If the prevailing sense is that ours is a society rife with images, none of which accord with a credible notion of reality (much less a stable convention of realism), then the ‘straight’ photograph is eminently suspect and of debatable value. Certainly our sense of the stability and authority of modernist conventions of photographic realism has been comprehensively undermined. The critic, historian and photographer David Campany discussed this notion recently when he said:

In modernity realism is a moving target. Maybe photography, or those with vested interests in it, thought they could freeze realism the way the shutter freezes action. The hegemony of the mass media magazines did that for a while. But their stranglehold on the conventions for realism is over. This makes form much more of a live issue than it once was.  Realism does not have a form that can be taken for granted. We must fight for it in the midst of things.

But the notion that the spectacular nature of reality is all pervasive nevertheless presumes an inevitable authority of spectacle over substance, and moreover presumes that no image is capable of contravening or subverting these prevailing conventions. If ‘reality’ is taken to be equivalent to spectacle, then the sort of ahistorical conventions of its appropriation that Foster points toward are likely to be the most persuasive strategies with which to address it. There can be greater comfort in reformulating the status quo than in resisting its logic of distraction and dissimulation.

And yet people in their millions continue to find a means by way of images to resist the tyranny of distraction and spectacle - to resist the model of time that underpins it. If the conventional aspirations of our image-saturated culture are for a sense of accelerated time, constant stimulation, perpetual distraction and a socially-networked solipsism, then the capacity of an image to engender some sense of the timeless is surely to be all the more highly prized. The form that such an image might take is not the ultimate issue. However, in view of the cyclical nature of our recent history there are grave wounds to be tended on many levels (and in many registers).

In 1984 John Berger wrote of how “hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy. (…) The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time." A little earlier in that same essay, he described the genesis of this peculiarly modern complaint:

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

What is so remarkably powerful about Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, and what for me remains so unalterably important about the book is the profoundly atypical sense of time that it engenders — the steady cumulative intensity with which it invokes a vast span of history, and renders it in an embodied, individuated and visceral sense. The work is avowedly documentary, and offers a progressive adaptation of a documentary tradition Badger eloquently describes in his essay. But it is also, as Badger goes on to say, fundamentally subjective - which for me means that it bridges the apparent oppositions of subject and object, abstract and concrete, aesthetic and political.

the pain and sense of loss running through the whole book like a subliminal subtext would seem to be as much personal as historical, as eschatological as phenomenal, as much diary as report. Waffenruhe is a subjective, deeply felt work, elegiac and bitter by turns.

from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger.

1 month ago
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Michael Schmidt #Hal Foster #Theory #John Berger #Culture #Lorna Sage #Art #Politics #Documentary photography