Back in the early 80s, when I was a technical consultant to Sally Eauclaire, author of The New Color Photography, I had my first comprehensive introduction to ... well .... the new color photography. The book was a very complete overview of emerging Fine Art photographers and their pictures - Michael Bishop, Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, Langdon Clay, Mark Cohen, John Divola, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Emmet Gowin, Jan Groover, David Hockney, Les Krim, Helen Levitt, Kenneth McGowan, Joel Meyerowitz, John Pfahl, Stephen Shore, Sandy Skoglund, Eve Sonneman, Joel Sternfeld, Boyd Webb and lots more. A NY Times review of the book (from 1981) can be read here.
My 'job' was to help Sally with matters technical. At the time she was a well-respected Art critic in the field of painting but not photography - she knew absolutely nothing about the mechanics and techniques of the medium. Enter me, to fill that role.
The result of it all was that I had the privilege and pleasure to view the portfolios of just about anyone who was an emerging anybody (see list above). Now, I was not a 'new color' virgin - I had seen some stuff in NYC galleries but for the most part, I was of the what-the-hell-is-going-on-here mindset regarding the stuff. It seemed to be more of an 'experiment' than a movement. A blip on the photographic radar screen.
Working with Sally on her book changed all that - I began to learn how to 'read' pictures. I began to understand that what was visible was not all there was to 'see'. Very much in the fashion of there's more than meets the eye. Pictures started to become deep and rich.
What I realized the most out of this experience was that, how 'deep and rich' a picture was, was up to me - in most cases, more so than it was up to the photographer. What a revelation.
Consider this from Graham Clarks's book, The Photograph - 'The intelligibilty of the photograph is no simple thing; photographs are texts inscribed in terms of what we may call 'photographic discourse', but this discourse, like any other, engages discourses beyond itself (emph. Ed.), the 'photographic text', like any other, is the site of a complex intertextuality, an overlapping series of previous texts 'taken for granted' at a particulat cultural and historical conjuncture.'
In other words, the viewer uses his/her experience ('texts' taken for granted) to construct the language of meaning that they get from a photograph. IMO, the greater your 'experience' in all things, not just photography, the greater your appreciation and understanding of Art, photography division.
Featured Comments: Bill Gotz asked: "What is it about decay? Why do many of us find it interesting? ... Is it that decay implies a history and so brings forth a rich set of thoughts and question?"
James Robinson suggested: "...Henry Miller wrote the following, and I think it applies to our interest in dacay, as there is nothing quite so "humble":
'In the humblest object we can find what we seek--beauty, truth, reality, divinity.'"
My comment: good question, interesting answer.