"

Modern street photographers are fluttering, intrusive, yet vaguely stealthy creatures who live on edge in quizzical search of imagery they cannot foresee. They have reason to be nervous, for they work in a chaotic zone of ephemeral “targets” that may be reluctant to appear in an unannounced view, or else are endowed with a speedy, unsettling talent for vanishing from it. But this visual quarry teases not simply because it is disobedient and elusive. The conditions of the field are more bothersome than that, for the motifs presented by the photographer cannot be said to have existed before, and they do not endure after they have been wrought from light in the precise configurations we later come to know. (…)


Underlying street photography is a naturalist argument that goes something like this: The value of the picture resides in its truthful observation. This value is jeopardized to the extent the photographer intervenes in the social circumstances, causing a rupture from what would naturally have happened. The natural is defined as a mélange of urban events contingent upon each other, and therefore inherently effervescent and unpredictable. There can be no record of such action unless the photographer is committed to techniques of furtive and opportune surveillance whose goals cannot easily be rationalized. No wonder street photographers are often solitary, and always professional strangers with little to say about their indefinite motives. Still, their overall approach is conceptually articulate, because in practice it integrates the moral goal of credibility, the philosophical notion of contingency and the professional requirement of freedom and spontaneity, each impossible to realize without engaging with the others.

"

 Max Kozloff “A Way of Seeing and the Act of Touching: Helen Levitt’s Photographs of The Forties” in Observations: Essays on Documentary Photography (1984)
@1 week ago with 99 notes
#Art #Photography #Street Photography #Max Kozloff #Criticism #Helen Levitt 

"Yet despite its so-called transparency, Evans’s classic style of the ’30s is only as passive as the manner of the interrogator who lets silence do his work. It is, again, inquisitional. By declining to beautify or dramatize, each of Evans’s best photographs forces its subject to speak for itself, even to talk too much, until its vulgarity, pathos, tawdriness, hysteria–whatever its essential qualities are begin to yell from the page."

— Leo Rubinfien “The Poetry of Plain Seeing” in Art in America, Dec 2000.

Photographs (in order): Interior Detail of a Portuguese House (1930), by Walker Evans; Rough Study for a Double Portrait (2009) by Lucas BlalockNo Vacancy (2012) by Lucas Blalock; Gothic Gate Cottage near Poughkeepsie (1931) by Walker Evans.

@3 weeks ago with 74 notes
#Art #Photography #Walker Evans #Lucas Blalock #Criticism #Leo Rubinfien 

"It can happen that the personal drama of an artist reflects within half a century the crisis of an entire civilization. (…) Today’s pitilessness is perhaps more unremitting, pervasive and continuous. It spares neither the planet itself, nor anyone living on it anywhere. Abstract because deriving from the sole logic of the pursuit of profit (as cold as the freezer), it threatens to make obsolete all other sets of belief, along with their traditions of facing the cruelty of life with dignity and some flashes of hope."

— John Berger “A Master of Pitlessness?” in Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance (2007)

Photographs by Michael SchmellingJay Turner Frey SeawellLise SarfatiTim DavisKaty GrannanEva VermandelMartina Hoogland IvanowDoug DuboisVanessa WinshipGregory Halpern.

@1 month ago with 102 notes
#Art #Photography #Prophecy #Culture #History #John Berger #Criticism #Francis Bacon #Michael Schmelling #Jay Turner Frey Seawell #Lise Sarfati #Tim Davis #Katy Grannan #Eva Vermandel #Martina Hoogland Ivanow 

"In a Dutch interior, the backview of a personage who draws a curtain aside to look at a painting on the far wall acts as my alter ego, doing what I am doing and reminding me (in case I missed the point of the picture’s immense ebony frame) that I too am looking at a flat object. Better still, such seventeenth-century interiors as Velázquez’ Ladies in Waiting often juxtapose a doorway or window view with a framed painting, and, next to that, a mirror filled with a reflection. These three kinds of image serve as an inventory of the three possible roles assignable to a picture plane. The window pane or proscenium effect refers to what lies behind it, the looking glass refers to what lies before, while the pigmented surface asserts itself; and all three are paraded in sequence. Such pictures soliloquize about the capacities of the surface and the nature of illusion itself.

Again and again, in so-called illusionist art, it is illusionism that is under discussion, the art “calling attention to art” in perfect self-critical consciousness. And this is why the Old Masters are forever inventing interferences with spatial recession. They do not merely “take account” of the tension between surface and depth, as if for the sake of decorative coherence, while reserving their thrust for the depiction of depth. Rather, they maintain an explicit, controlled, ever-visible dualism. Fifteenth-century perspective was not a surface-denying illusion of space, but the symbolic form of space as an intelligible coordinate surface pattern. Good illusionist painting not only anchors depth to the plane; it is almost never without built-in devices designed to suspend the illusion, and the potency of these devices depends—like the appreciation of counterpoint or of puns—on the spectator’s ability to register two things in concert, to receive both the illusion and the means of illusion at once.”

— Leo Steinberg, delivering a thorough-going critique of Clement Greenberg’s model of modernism in painting, in Other Criteria (1972). Photographs by Jeff WallEva Vermandel and Philip-Lorca diCorcia respectively.

It’s interesting to consider the extent to which photography has incorporated and energised the ‘ever-visible dualism’ to which Steinberg refers in relation to paintings by the Old Masters. Moreover, the problematic question of realism in photography can be understood, in the light of Steinberg’s critique, to stem in large part not from the visual language of fine art photography’s illusionism, but from the indexical relationship of the camera to the world — a relationship that complicates otherwise long-standing conventions of figurative depiction. 

@1 month ago with 152 notes
#Art #Representation #Painting #Photography #Leo Steinberg #Jeff Wall #Eva Vermandel #Philip-Lorca diCorcia #Realism #Tableaux #Inspiration #Criticism #Art criticism 

"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.

Consequently the uncommon experience of those moments which defy time is now denied by everything which surrounds them. Such moments have ceased to be like windows looking across history towards the timeless. Experiences which prompt the term for ever have now to be assumed alone and privately. Their role has been changed: instead of transcending, they isolate. The period in which photography has developed corresponds to the period in which this uniquely modern anguish has become commonplace.

Yet fortunately people are never only the passive objects of history. And apart from popular heroism, there is also popular ingenuity. In this case such ingenuity uses whatever little there is at hand, to preserve experience, to re-create an area of “timelessness”, to insist upon the permanent. And so, 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.”

John Berger “Appearances” in Another Way of Telling (1984)

@2 weeks ago with 34 notes
#Art #History #Imagination #Time #John Berger #Photography #Criticism #Theory #Jan Mohr 

"Loving Eggleston—as easy for some of us as falling off a bar stool—seems to be about embracing his affections, which are shamelessly many and remarkably appreciative of how things are rather than how they could or should be. A man who has photographed most anything anywhere, he offers a stunning clarity that, though redolent of the romantic, is incapable of sentimentality. His work speaks to a humanist faith (though with the heart of a true atheist), and levels an abiding sense of understanding toward his subjects—and a refusal ever to know better than they do. Steeped in bourbon and nicotine, his photographs careen through the commonplace with the heat of a no-holds-barred bender and the cold sweat of an unholy hangover. You don’t just end up enthralled by what this man has seen, but are mesmerized by the way he sees things, how unspoken quotients of insanity, desperation, mortality, and abandonment suffuse the mundane and are then in turn diffused by a glorious sense of wonder.

— Carlo McCormick on “William Eggleston: Democractic Camera” in Aperture, Summer 2009.

@1 month ago with 294 notes
#Art #Photography #William Eggleston #Criticism #Carlo McCormick #Aperture magazine #Inspiration 

"An acclaimed artist of the same generation as Polke recently remarked to me that Polke was ‘too creative’: there wasn’t enough concentration in his ideas or constraint in his materials to produce a logic that sustained the work over time – in short, he had too many ‘alibis’. But it might also be that his prime devices, parody and pastiche (devices that are often associated with postmodernist art of which he is an important progenitor), refuse precisely these expectations of stylistic consistency and subjective stability, and that the very point of his practice was to resist art-historical inscription and social recuperation: to show, as Benjamin Buchloh puts it in the catalogue, that any secure selfhood ‘rested on some type of oblivion or disavowal’. Yet there is a touch of the adolescent avant-garde-of-one in this position, and isn’t advanced capitalist life an effective enough auto-da-fé of the subject in its own right?"

@1 month ago with 19 notes
#Art #Criticism #Sigmar Polke #Hal Foster #London Review of Books 

The Art Book Review: Why Art Photography? by Lucy Soutter 

A worthwhile read on a recent survey book about the perennially problematic nature of art photography, by Sarah Bay Williams:

image

Why Art Photography? does not ask if the photograph is worthy of the museum or academy—that battle has been fought elsewhere—nor does Lucy Soutter, the book’s author, rewrite the treatise on how the medium has fared in an art-after-representation, post-Conceptual world.* Soutter thinks…

@1 month ago with 28 notes
#Art #Photography #Lucy Soutter #Sarah Bay Willliams #Criticism 
"

Modern street photographers are fluttering, intrusive, yet vaguely stealthy creatures who live on edge in quizzical search of imagery they cannot foresee. They have reason to be nervous, for they work in a chaotic zone of ephemeral “targets” that may be reluctant to appear in an unannounced view, or else are endowed with a speedy, unsettling talent for vanishing from it. But this visual quarry teases not simply because it is disobedient and elusive. The conditions of the field are more bothersome than that, for the motifs presented by the photographer cannot be said to have existed before, and they do not endure after they have been wrought from light in the precise configurations we later come to know. (…)


Underlying street photography is a naturalist argument that goes something like this: The value of the picture resides in its truthful observation. This value is jeopardized to the extent the photographer intervenes in the social circumstances, causing a rupture from what would naturally have happened. The natural is defined as a mélange of urban events contingent upon each other, and therefore inherently effervescent and unpredictable. There can be no record of such action unless the photographer is committed to techniques of furtive and opportune surveillance whose goals cannot easily be rationalized. No wonder street photographers are often solitary, and always professional strangers with little to say about their indefinite motives. Still, their overall approach is conceptually articulate, because in practice it integrates the moral goal of credibility, the philosophical notion of contingency and the professional requirement of freedom and spontaneity, each impossible to realize without engaging with the others.

"
 Max Kozloff “A Way of Seeing and the Act of Touching: Helen Levitt’s Photographs of The Forties” in Observations: Essays on Documentary Photography (1984)
1 week ago
#Art #Photography #Street Photography #Max Kozloff #Criticism #Helen Levitt 

"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.

Consequently the uncommon experience of those moments which defy time is now denied by everything which surrounds them. Such moments have ceased to be like windows looking across history towards the timeless. Experiences which prompt the term for ever have now to be assumed alone and privately. Their role has been changed: instead of transcending, they isolate. The period in which photography has developed corresponds to the period in which this uniquely modern anguish has become commonplace.

Yet fortunately people are never only the passive objects of history. And apart from popular heroism, there is also popular ingenuity. In this case such ingenuity uses whatever little there is at hand, to preserve experience, to re-create an area of “timelessness”, to insist upon the permanent. And so, 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.”

John Berger “Appearances” in Another Way of Telling (1984)

2 weeks ago
#Art #History #Imagination #Time #John Berger #Photography #Criticism #Theory #Jan Mohr 
3 weeks ago
#Art #Photography #Walker Evans #Lucas Blalock #Criticism #Leo Rubinfien 
1 month ago
#Art #Photography #William Eggleston #Criticism #Carlo McCormick #Aperture magazine #Inspiration 
1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Prophecy #Culture #History #John Berger #Criticism #Francis Bacon #Michael Schmelling #Jay Turner Frey Seawell #Lise Sarfati #Tim Davis #Katy Grannan #Eva Vermandel #Martina Hoogland Ivanow 
"An acclaimed artist of the same generation as Polke recently remarked to me that Polke was ‘too creative’: there wasn’t enough concentration in his ideas or constraint in his materials to produce a logic that sustained the work over time – in short, he had too many ‘alibis’. But it might also be that his prime devices, parody and pastiche (devices that are often associated with postmodernist art of which he is an important progenitor), refuse precisely these expectations of stylistic consistency and subjective stability, and that the very point of his practice was to resist art-historical inscription and social recuperation: to show, as Benjamin Buchloh puts it in the catalogue, that any secure selfhood ‘rested on some type of oblivion or disavowal’. Yet there is a touch of the adolescent avant-garde-of-one in this position, and isn’t advanced capitalist life an effective enough auto-da-fé of the subject in its own right?"
1 month ago
#Art #Criticism #Sigmar Polke #Hal Foster #London Review of Books 
1 month ago
#Art #Representation #Painting #Photography #Leo Steinberg #Jeff Wall #Eva Vermandel #Philip-Lorca diCorcia #Realism #Tableaux #Inspiration #Criticism #Art criticism 
The Art Book Review: Why Art Photography? by Lucy Soutter→

A worthwhile read on a recent survey book about the perennially problematic nature of art photography, by Sarah Bay Williams:

image

Why Art Photography? does not ask if the photograph is worthy of the museum or academy—that battle has been fought elsewhere—nor does Lucy Soutter, the book’s author, rewrite the treatise on how the medium has fared in an art-after-representation, post-Conceptual world.* Soutter thinks…

1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Lucy Soutter #Sarah Bay Willliams #Criticism