PICTURE ONLY GALLERY LINKS
The life without the APA pictures are here
The The Forks ~ there's no place like home gallery is here
The ART ~ conveys / transports / reflects gallery is here
The Decay & Disgust work/book is here
The single women selects/book gallery is here
The picture windows selects/book gallery is here
The kitchen life selects gallery is here
A 10 picture look at Tangles, Thickets, and Twigs ~ fields of visual energy is here
I am spending most of this week as the hockey bus driver and hockey camp observer / evaluator (of Hugo's performance). Consequently, wordified blog entries will be scare - the wife has volunteered to be tomorrow's bus driver which may give me enough time to bloviate, re: art, Photography Division.
In the meantime, consider this:
I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100. ~ Woody Allen
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time that I am not enamored of/by the Academic Lunatic Fringe (ALF), Photography Division. IMO, they are an ipso facto testament to Susan Sontag's notion regarding the revenge of the intellect upon art inasmuch as the ALF has turned the notion of meaning into a fetish. So much so that meaning reigns supreme over both the depicted referent and visual qualities to be had in a picture.
And, as the ALF would have it, the more self-absorbed the picture maker the better. Or, as one critic wrote: many photographers are like .... characters whose adventures, much like that of Oz in this telling, track like therapeutic journeys (follow your dream of self-actualization) instead of transcendent excursions (just dream!). The "I" is exalted and all important.
I am not alone in my feelings and thoughts regarding the ALF. Consider this from John Rosenthal:
Unfortunately, art in America has become an elitist preserve. This is partly the fault of a critical establishment which abandoned the enduring search for a common language - the language of love and loss and sorrow and remembrance - and began to speak, almost exclusively, in a specialized and opaque language that few can understand... speak primarily to a small New York audience. Outside of this extroverted realm ... the quiet, free-standing work of art is given little respect ...
Around the age of thirty it struck me that a continuous self-focus was an act of gossip - about oneself, to oneself. Turning one's gaze within might be an effective antidote to the national faith in material redemption, but by itself this habit of inwardness would only encourage a chattering of selves.
And then consider this - combination of commentary on and artist statement about a body of work:
....(he) investigates the family photo album employed as the visual infrastructure for the flawed ideology of the American Dream. Frustrated by the lack of images that document the true and sometimes troubling nature of his own familial history, he set out to create a new archive ... [U]sing photographs made over the last decade, and altered amateur photographs ... [I]n my story, these characters exist at the intersection of domestic duress and spirituality ... [T]hese images are a tangible manifestation of fantasy, memories and experiences acquired during my journey to adulthood, and function as a supplement to the family album assembled by my parents.
My very first reaction to reading - even before viewing the pictures - the above commentary / statement was that I hoped the picture maker is seeing a therapist. If he is, it's possible that the therapist might have suggested the picture making project as part of the therapy. Or, perhaps there is no therapist and the picture maker is just following his dream of self-actualization or whatever.
In any event, the B&W pictures made for this project are nice enough but ... for the most part, they employ a hodgepodge of tried-and-true image-altering techniques and imaging making styles. Throughout the sampling of work I viewed, there were hints and nods to the work of Jerry Ulesmann, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Duane Michals, and Alec Soth to name a few. None of which is to write that the work in question is either trite or valueless, but ....
... to be honest, for me, the artspeak is so annoying as to be off putting when it comes to viewing the actual pictures. But, of course, as is the wont of the ALF and so many of the MFA 'educated' picture makers, they just have to artspeak it up to make (annoying) manifest, direct and control, and embellish their precious idea of meaning. And, it seems to me, the commentary / statement artspeak is also serves to distract viewers from the fact that the pictures in question are most often very derivative in technique and style. Which is to write that, visually, there is very little that is new or unique on offer.
All of that written, I must admit to not knowing why I am, at this particular moment, seemingly so obsessed with the ALF and their MFA offspring. Most likely it has something to do with John Rosenthal's conclusion that:
...quiet, free-standing work of art is given little respect, apostate visual artists find themselves longing for an absent American discourse.
Yesterday afternoon the wife and I attended a boating party of sorts at a private camp on Lake Placid. The party was 'of sorts' because while it was a boating partying - everyone arrived by boat because the location was on an island - it was actually a political fundraiser.
In any event, around the time I made the my boating party picture I was struck by the memory of Renoir's painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party - the original of which I had viewed quite recently at the Phillips Collection gallery in Washington, DC. At that same time, as I was making the picture, I was also reminded of two quotes:
It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary. ~ David Bailey
People who wouldn't think of taking a sieve to the well to draw water fail to see the folly in taking a camera to make a painting. ~ Edward Weston
My apologies to Renoir.
FYI, the gentleman with the camera in on the boat picture is Nathan Farb, the once reigning dean* of Adirondack picture making. Some would still consider Nathan to be the holder of that throne inasmuch as no one picture maker has risen up and actually unseated him. However, that written, there are a number of serious Adirondack picture makers who are venturing into untested waters, Adirondack referents wise, and it remains to be determined if any one of them will be able to lay claim to that throne.
*I use the word once because, to my knowledge, Nathan is not as active, picture making wise, as he once was. He seems to be resting on his well deserved laurels.
If photography is about anything it is the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world. By virtue of walking through the fields and streets of this planet, focusing on the small and the unexpected, conferring attention on the helter-skelter juxtapositions of time and space, the photographer reminds us that the actual world is full of surprise, which is precisely that most people, imprisoned in habit and devoted to the familiar, tend to forget. ~ John Rosenthal
IMO, 'most people' in our modern culture - especially so in the good ole USofA - have not forgotten about 'the deep surprise of living in the ordinary world'. In fact, most people are hard at work avoiding the ordinary world. The pursuit of consumerist diversions, in which they invest their meaning of life, is what they believe the world should be. For them, the next big thing is where it's at - next up, wearable computers.
This predilection also manifests itself in the picture making world. For most serious amateur picture makers the pursuit of the grand and glorious takes precedence over the 'merely' ordinary. And, even when encountering the grand and glorious, they tend to trick it up beyond all recognition, aka: the world as it actually is. In their heart of hearts they want everybody to feel good (not a bad thing, per se) - don't worry, be happy. Ain't life grand.
While, I would not try to deny those picture makers their picture making happiness, I do, nevertheless, believe they are sending the wrong signals. Sure enough, life can be grand for some, but, for me, the grand life - and good pictures - is found in other quarters.
A picture should draw you on to admire it, not show you everything at a glance. After a satisfactory general effect, beauty after beauty should unfold itself, and they should not all shout at once . . . This quality [mystery] has never been so much appreciated in photography as it deserved. The object seems to have been always to tell all you know.. This is a great mistake. Tell everything to your lawyer, your doctor, and your photographer (especially your defects when you have your portrait taken, that the sympathetic photographer may have a chance of dealing with them), but never to your critic. He much prefers to judge whether that is a boathouse in the shadow of the trees, or only a shepherd's hut. We all like to have a bit left for our imagination to play with. Photography would have been settled a fine art long ago if we had not, in more ways than one, gone so much into detail. We have always been too proud of the detail of our work and the ordinary detail of our processes. - Henry Peach Robinson
I agree with the above, but .... even if a picture gives the viewer great detail, that detail, in a good picture, can still leave the observer with a mystery - the mystery of why this?
That mystery alone can leave the viewer with a reason to engage with a picture beyond the 'mere' detail. In a good picture there is more than a bit left for our imagination to play with because a good picture maker always leaves a viewer with something beyond the visual to explore*.
Of course, it is always up to the viewer to be curious. Without curiosity, a picture is always just a picture - surface detail and no more.
*You might think of the desire to explore / curiosity in artspeak terms - developing and stretching your observational parameters for the perception of images.
Sometimes - and it is of course a rarity, something to be treasured and remembered - a landscape becomes in front of your eyes everything you ever hoped a landscape could be. This is difficult to describe as an experience, let alone say how one might arrive at it. It is, of course, not something that can be engineered. Partly perhaps it is valuable because it is rare and can only be given, not sought or deliberately looked for. It is highly personal. All one can think is "Yes, for me, what I see in front of me, what I am attempting to record, is what seems to me like a sort of revelation. ~ Charlie Waite
Encountered, observed, and pictured while driving home from a get together on Sunday evening past.
Recently, I encountered a series of pictures which were all made out of focus. A few of the pictures were nice enough to be visually interesting, others were little more than diffused (soft focus) variations on Mark Rothko paintings, albethey made with the tools and techniques of the medium of photography. After viewing the pictures, the primary impression imprinted upon my eye and sensibilities was one of a ho-hum variety.
The fact that the pictures are exhibited in a large-scale architectural installation which creates what one writer describes as "a seamless transition between both 'spheres' — the pictorial space and the exhibition space, between the installation in the center of the room and the classical presentation of the works on the outside. Visitors can enter the work to become part of an 'unpredictable' universe" strikes me as a kind of carnival fun house cheap trick - providing a venue in which the Academic Lunatic Fringe, Photography Division, can have their art sauce cake and eat it too.
And, writing of art sauce, dip your utensil of choice into this heaping serving of the stuff:
Through his use of extreme soft focus as an artistic device, he searches the observational parameters for the perception of images .... he questions the basic principles of photography: sharpness and recognizability. By leaving these parameters out of the image content, he breaks with conventional ways of seeing .... The photographic medium is distilled into light and darkness, confronting the viewer with infinity. A paradigm shift is occurring in fine art photography, from the documentary and representational to a new abstraction that radically questions the medium. With his resolutely blurred photographs, he is positioned at the crux of this contextual and aesthetic renunciation of apparatus-led seeing in favor of a nonrepresentational perceiving of the world. He has succeeded in creating a photography that goes beyond pictorial representation.
After reading the above, I was immediately reminded of Susan Sontag's quote which states that interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Placed in a fuller context, that quote is an excerpt from:
Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art ... Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.'
Now, to be perfectly clear, the out-of-focus pictures made by the artist are are exactly what they appear to be - out-of-focus pictures - and that's OK with me. If making and/or viewing such pictures suits your eye and sensibilities, I say/write, "Have at it." And I mean just exactly that. As Julian's grandmother often uttered, "For every pot there's lid." Follow your own picture making path and be happy. But ...
... enough already - leave the lid on the pot - with the he searches the observational parameters for the perception of images .... he questions the basic principles of photography: sharpness and recognizability. Really? It seems to me the picture maker is simply making out-of-focus pictures and - note to ALF - there is absolutely nothing new in that. And, guess what ALF, every picture maker searches the observational parameters for the perception of (their) images to one degree or another.
RE: searching for the observational parameters for the perception of images - Seriously? Who doesn't recognize the simple fact that some observers of pictures have severely attenuated observational parameters for the perception of images while others have expansive observational parameters for the perception of images. All of which leads to a very simple conclusion - some observers will 'get it', some will not. Duh.
And the idea that this picture maker may be testing and trying to expand the limits of 'getting it' or not, is neither ground breaking nor paradigm busting. It is, in fact, SOP for many picture makers, especially so, but by no means limited to, in the fine art world of photography.
In any event, those who have employed out-of-focus picture making were rarely, if ever, (paraphrasing) radically questioning the medium. They were, to repeat, simply making out-of-focus pictures as a means of expressing their particular manner of seeing. Nor were they questioning the basic principles of photography. They were, in fact, employing one of the basic principles of the medium - the ability to bring the object of their attention into focus or not.
That particular "artistic device" has been around since the dawn of the medium. The idea that he has succeeded in creating a photography that goes beyond pictorial representation is utter shit on a shingle. That notion belies the history of the medium and all of those who have strived and succeeded in going beyond pictorial representation. And the idea that he is positioned at the crux of this .... renunciation of apparatus-led seeing merely adds to the pile on the shingle - as far as I can tell, he made his out-of-focus pictures with an apparatus (as indicated, a large-format apparatus) which, in fact, allowed him to make out-of-focus pictures (either in camera or with after-the-fact processing).
If he or a critic need to turn all of the aforementioned use of the simple basic principles of photography into a steaming heap of flapdoodle and green paint, so be it but it annoys the living hell out of me. Nevertheless, there it is in all its glory - the revenge of the intellect upon art .
Again, to be perfectly clear, the pictures are what they are. Period. Use all of your observational-parameters-for-the-perception-of-images powers to determine whether you should like 'em or leave 'em. The choice is yours.
As for the ALF-led commentary surrounding the images, I leave you with this from Sontag:
The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art - and, by analogy, our own experience - more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.
The Landscapist / Cinemascapist families went on an island camping trip this weekend. The island location was on Lower Saranac Lake, home to 50 islands and 80 campsites. Weather was great and the bugs almost non-existent.
The wife, as pictured above, was able to indulge her ongoing fascination - unnatural? - with locks. Both the lock master's dog and I were/are very curious about her behavior when encountering a lock.
It is both amazing and, at times, very surprising what you learn after living with a woman for 20 years.