"The work of Ansel Adams is a romantic fiction, an extreme idealisation, a magnificent lie – so magnificent that many have persuaded that it is indeed the truth. Its ironies, which might be appreciated by the image sophisticate and were certainly not lost on its creator, are not intended for general consumption. The tens of thousands who visit Yosemite each year, lured in part by Adams’ images, can miraculously ignore what lies before their very eyes and see the Valley through the master photographer’s optimistic vision, a spectacle of God given magnificence, untrammelled nature as pure as the water cascading down Bridal Veil Falls. For Richard Misrach, however, God is less of an immediate issue than the purity of the water cascading down Bridal Veil Falls. Just how pure is it? Is it the tainted residue perhaps of acid rainfall? Is it perhaps contaminated by industrial waste which has leached into the aquafis? For Misrach’s recent investigations have taken him far beyond the transcendent legacy of Adams, far beyond the untidy domesticising of the landscape with tract developments and industrial sheds, theme parks and golf courses. The kinds of interventions which caused Ansel Adams to beat his breast in horror, while hardly insignificant and not exactly celebrated by Misrach, may pale in comparison to those legacies of the Fission Age, which may be invisible but might be visited upon future generations like the Mark of Cain."

— “In Photographica Deserta – The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach" by Gerry Badger, from Creative Camera (1988). Photographs by Ansel Adams and Richard Misrach respectively.

@1 week ago with 84 notes
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Ansel Adams #Richard Misrach #Landscape #Landscape photography #Culture #Inspiration 

"Realisms turn on the construction of an imaginary continuity and coherence between a subject of address and a signified real. The mobilization of such rhetorics of continuity and coherence has thus been most urgent and insistent at times of deep social crisis or transformation, in which conceptions of social identity and notions of reality have been rendered acutely unstable. In the face of instability, realist strategies of representation, as diverse and contentious as they may have been, have worked to retrieve certitudes of identity and reality from the turmoil of uncertainty by guaranteeing a given externality to a given internality— a given reality to a given subject. What drives this strategy is, in each case, the critical conjuncture in which it is articulated as a response to particular historical demands—crisis-driven demands for common recognitions, for bedrock certainties, for uncontestable even if unpalatable truths. As a result, wherever realist strategies may have been positioned on the political spectrum and however critical of prevailing explanations and prejudices they may have been, however intent on putting authority in question, they have always sought in one way or another—even in the midst of an open conflict of realisms, as in the 1930s—to put an end to disputability and partisan sense."

— John Tagg “The Plane of Decent Seeing” in The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning

@3 weeks ago with 18 notes
#Realism #Advertising #Culture #John Tagg #Criticism #Theory 

It’s interesting to consider these portraits in relation to Richard Avedon’s famous statement in the foreword to In The American West (1985),and then in relation to an argument Julian Stallabrass set out in an essay on portraiture published twenty-two years later. Avedon wrote:

A portrait photographer depends upon another person to complete his picture. The subject imagined, which in a sense is me, must be discovered in someone else willing to take part in a fiction he cannot possibly know about. My concerns are not his. We have separate ambitions for the image. His need to plead his case probably goes as deep as my need to plead mine, but the control is with me.

Latterly, Katy Grannan has most overtly developed the formal model of Avedon’s portraiture, first in Boulevard (2010) and most recently in The 99 (2014). It seems very necessary to note that this latest work began when Grannan set out to retrace a region of California photographed by Dorothea Lange during The Great Depression (see More American Photographs). Questions of hardship and the political complexities of photographic representation are thus intricately interwoven in the fabric of these new images.

Stallabrass makes a persuasive argument about the profound influence of consumerism, political disenfranchisement and the spectacular nature of contemporary culture on the changing conventions of the portrait. In an essay centred around Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach Portraits, and the advent of a conventionally neutral expression in portraiture printed at a large scale, he writes:

This constitutes the terrible plausibility of these images, and part of the basis for their success: they do describe and also enact a world in which people are socially atomized, politically weak, and are governed by their place in the image world. In demanding that the maximum visual detail be wrung from their subjects, they silence and still them. In their seamless, high-resolution depictions, they present the victory of the image world over its human subjects as total and eternal.

            While the results may hold apparently radical elements – that the passivity and image victimhood of the subjects may rebound on their viewers – the ambiguity of such images finally salvages artist and viewer. Such images oscillate between identification and distancing, honoring and belittling, critical recognition and the enjoyment of spectacle, and access to the real and the critique of realist representation. (…)

Why are subjects of contemporary art so often taken as mere spectacular fragments rather than as active persons, while the opposite is assumed of its makers and viewers? Even in the apparently opposing participant-observer mode, there is little stress on agency (other than entertaining misbehavior) bur rather on passive conditions that are meant to constitute assured identities. In both, the excluded middle is agency and its depiction in documentary, along with the construction of a realist structure through the combination of differentiated images, and particularly the idea that identity might be transformed through agency.

The plausibility of the ethnographic strand of photographic imagery surely derives from the accuracy of its implicit view of neoliberalist societies. The push and pull of identification and distancing, and honoring and belittling, are staged only at the level of the image, not in seeing its subjects as agents. In this sense, such images exhibit a transparent complicity with commercialized spectacle. There is a link, in other words, between the presentation of these subjects as mere image and the familiar powerlessness of people in day-to-day democracy, of image and news management, of the hollowing out of citizenship in favor of consumerism, of broadcast and celebrity culture. This [ethnographic] strand’s relentless focus on the fixed image is a reflection of the marked decline in political agency, in democratic participation, which is a steadily growing and universal feature of neoliberal societies.”

— Julian Stallabrass, in the essay What’s In A Face? Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography, October Journal, Fall 2007

All photographs © Richard Avedon, from In The American West 

@1 month ago with 375 notes
#Photography #Portraiture #Richard Avedon #Criticism #Culture #Theory #Julian Stallabrass #Rineke Dijkstra #Katy Grannan 
In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling
Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…

In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.

— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling

Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…

@1 month ago with 20 notes
#Photography #Martin Kollar #Criticism #John Berger #Realism #Theory #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."

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

"Vision is, rather, the site of a trauma induced by an unwelcome encounter with the real, from which the subject emerges, compelled to repetition by a failure of memory. The effect is to leave the subject hanging, in an ambivalent relation of distance and desire, pleasure and anxiety, expulsion and loss that fills the space the trauma has opened between an inner self and an outer world that this inner self can henceforth only possess in separation."

— John Tagg  “The Plane of Decent Seeing” in The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning (2008)

Photographs © Katy Grannan, from The Westerns (Fraenkel Gallery, Greenberg van Doren Gallery, Salon 94 Freemans Gallery, 2007). In sequential order: Dale, Ocean Beach, 2006Gale & Dale, Pacifica I, 2007Edward with Prayer Beads, Baker Beach, 2006.

@3 weeks ago with 71 notes
#Photography #Vision #Culture #Power #Criticism #Katy Grannan #John Tagg #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Inspiration 

"Documentary form is not a given: it must be hard-won, fought for, often against received wisdom and expectation. It is of necessity experimental and thus artistic. This is what has led to a flourishing of documentary forms on the wall, on the page, and sometimes in the illustrated press that survives. From this perspective it is possible to see all of Graham’s remarkable innovations for what they really are, and to see that the tension in photography between art and report is vital.”

- from “Noticing” by David Campany, in 1981 & 2011 by Paul Graham (MACK, 2012)

Photographs © Paul Graham, from a shimmer of possibility, American Night, Television Portraits and Troubled Land respectively.

@1 month ago with 115 notes
#Photography #Paul Graham #Criticism #David Campany #Documentary photography #Street photography 

"

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 
1 week ago
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Ansel Adams #Richard Misrach #Landscape #Landscape photography #Culture #Inspiration 
"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."
3 weeks ago
#Photography #Culture #Criticism #Charlotte Cotton #Social Media #Theory #Art #Inspiration #SEESAW magazine #Aaron Schuman 
3 weeks ago
#Realism #Advertising #Culture #John Tagg #Criticism #Theory 
3 weeks ago
#Photography #Vision #Culture #Power #Criticism #Katy Grannan #John Tagg #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Inspiration 
1 month ago
#Photography #Portraiture #Richard Avedon #Criticism #Culture #Theory #Julian Stallabrass #Rineke Dijkstra #Katy Grannan 
1 month ago
#Photography #Paul Graham #Criticism #David Campany #Documentary photography #Street photography 
In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling
Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…
1 month ago
#Photography #Martin Kollar #Criticism #John Berger #Realism #Theory #Politics #Documentary photography 
"

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