Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quote of the week - Paul Graham

Nice to see this coming from the man who just won photography's most prestigious award. From an interview over at PDN:

My point is simply that the art world is traditionally attuned to perceiving what the artist “created,” which in photography usually means that they pick up more on work with a synthetic quality—constructed scenes, Tableaux Vivants, staged pieces—these fit neater into this expectation and fit into the broader art world model of “what artists do” much easier. However, the great photography which operates at the core of the medium—from Frank to Eggleston to Shore to Winogrand—doesn't fit that model, as it is taken from life directly, unscripted and unforced.

I've always had an issue with some of Wall's images, particularly Outside a Nightclub. I think it may be a product of belonging to a new generation in which technology has made capturing a similar scene almost possible; at least, it's just around the corner or perhaps even attainable not with a 40k Hassleblad. I also never understood why he didn't just hire the actors and shoot them over a few hours outside the actual nightclub that inspired him for the shot, leaving at least the identity of the place, if not the scene intact.

The whole hiring assistants to painstakingly recreate the nightclub to shoot it in a studio thing always seemed like a gimick to me - a way of getting away with demanding higher prices for the work, producing less work in a given year, and pandering to what Graham speaks of - people's understanding of the whole set-up thing and harder time grasping what finding great photos entails. It's hard for someone to really grasp that without having shot thousands of photos and gaining the intuition that the great documentary photographers possess.


ryan schude said...

surely there is magic in finding the perfect photo but to discount staging scenes as a gimick is just as destructive to the overall photographic art community as what Graham suggests is his ultimate concern. it's simply a matter of eggs or cereal for breakfast.

J. Wesley Brown said...

I'm not saying staging is always a gimick but that I do get that feel when reading about some pieces that frankly, could have been done with much less process, effort, and time. Process for process' sake is my target.

Andrew said...

I liked his comment, but it just proves that there are a thousand ways of evaluating "good" photography and they are changing everyday.

J. Wesley Brown said...

Yep, there's no accounting for taste. I'll still argue mine's the best, though :)