Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1] 2 »   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: Michael's Landscapes  (Read 32328 times)
Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« on: November 01, 2006, 07:49:55 AM »
ReplyReply

Okay, first of all let me say that I have no personal axe to grind here: I'm more of a people shooter and oddments person.

But back to the landscapes. It has been put that our host's landscapes might or might not be as good as, better than or even in the same league as some other people's shots.

Mention has been made of the established masters - for want of a better word - such as Adams. That, in itself, is quite interesting. Why is he a master landscape photographer? Because he was able to expose well and process to suit? Because he could print and also employ others to print as he wished? I wonder about all of that, and those thoughts are not confined to him but apply as much to any of the other so-called masters of yore.

The majesty of the Sierras themselves might account for more of the glory than is perhaps accredited them; the Grand Canyon has been the making of many contemporary print sellers; Florida's swamps play as much a part in the mystique surrounding that school of photography as does the technique of those who choose them as location.  In other words, the locations are perhaps as important as the photographers; as a friend said, ask any of those guys to come over to the Balearic Islands to produce the excitement they manage at home and see how they fare...

The trouble is, landscape has become a parody of its own self. It has blown its power by the over-shooting of the genre. There is really nothing left to amaze anyone who has been looking for more than a couple of years, and the internet has reduced that time-scale even further.

This is shared by nude photography, by celebrity photography, travel photography and almost any other cliché or niche imaginable.

And what does it leave us with which to surprise? Street.

Isn't that why Michael's street shots have the power to interest us so much? Every one is bound to be different and, as he obviously has a well developed eye, he can use it for what is there. His landscapes, from my personal point of view, are also just as good but cannot make ripples in an already disturbed ocean.

At least, that's how it appears to me.

Ciao - Rob C
Logged

boku
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1493



WWW
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2006, 09:57:11 AM »
ReplyReply

But there is a subset of landscape photographs that have not, to my mind reached "cliche" status: those with sublime light.

When the light is right, the scene transforms. You can't just plant your tripod and expect it to happen.

"f8 and be there" has 2 sides to it: be prepared and be in the right place at the right time.

Even if you have the skills and the eye, the supernatural effect of glorious lighting is what transforms the photograph to stand above the rest. That has not become cliche or overdone.
Logged

Bob Kulon

Oh, one more thing...
Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
DarkPenguin
Guest
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2006, 10:11:55 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
The trouble is, landscape has become a parody of its own self. It has blown its power by the over-shooting of the genre. There is really nothing left to amaze anyone who has been looking for more than a couple of years, and the internet has reduced that time-scale even further.

This is shared by nude photography, by celebrity photography, travel photography and almost any other cliché or niche imaginable.

And what does it leave us with which to surprise? Street.

Street is the same as the rest.
Logged
Rob C
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 12215


« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2006, 10:33:17 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
Street is the same as the rest.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83232\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

No, Mr Penguin, it is not the same with street. It is infinitely varied and as fresh as the photographer's eye. No matter how fresh that eye, the landscape photography VIEWER is crushed into total boredom by the sheer weight of supply, much of it poor, much of it mediocre and a tiny bit of it good. You will always know you are looking at another eroded rock, at another hanging pine or at yet a further dune. There is no escape. The human face, person or simple charisma in the street image is what makes the difference. And also, importantly, the fact that we humans are curious about our fellows.

You can extend the quality argument to 'street' as much as to anything else, but the subject is what grips.

As for magic light? Do me a favour. I have worked in model photography most of my career and it too has its magic hour just before sundown and just after sunrise; but that colour does not the image make. Trust me. All of us work those quick hours but it is still not enough to surprise except, perhaps, now and then. In fact, the girl can make the difference where another tree another rock can not.

Ciao - Rob C
Logged

DarkPenguin
Guest
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2006, 10:46:59 AM »
ReplyReply

Don't agree.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 10:56:20 AM by DarkPenguin » Logged
John Camp
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1252


« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2006, 10:52:11 AM »
ReplyReply

Michael's shots make me think, which, aside from making my head hurt, has helped me work through some aesthetic issues of my own.

Ansel Adams famously said something to the effect that he'd been lucky enough to have been certain places when God wanted a picture taken. I know what he means.

Here's the thing about Michael's photogaphy, from my point of view: He moves a lot. He goes to Asia and then to Iceland and then to the North Woods then out West. His photogaphy is exceptionally good -- he might be the best travel photographer around, because he combines landscape-photographer rigor with the travel -- but I haven't seen from him a masterpiece, like "Clearing Winter Storm" or "Running White Deer."

There are a couple of reasons for that. Most masterpieces come from establishing what the French call a 'motif,' a picture in your head, a potential masterpiece: but then, with photogaphy, you have to be there when God wants you to be. If Adams had been traveling through the Sierra two days before the winter storm cleared, then there wouldn't have been a masterpiece. So I think masterpieces come from people who tend to cover a restricted amount of ground: they are there day after day afer day, and year after year, and when they know the ground better than anyone, and have developed an idea of what the masterpiece will look like -- what the weather will be like, what the light will be like, the foliage, etc. -- they then manage to be there when it happens. And that doesn't happen often. Adams made maybe -- maybe -- a dozen real masterpieces in his life, and he lived a long time, and did only photogaphy.

There's an additional problem here, that I and a lot of other people share with Michael: Can you make a real landscape masterpiece in Toronto (or in the U.S. west of the Appalachians and east of the Front Range?) Do you need magnificence in the landscape itself to make a masterpiece? The mid-continent landscape is subtle, to use one word...I think you can, though.

But the bigger question is, can Michael, travelling as he does, make a masterpiece when he doesn't know the ground, and really can't know it? I'd argue that one of the most revered American photograhers, Walker Evans, never really made the kind of iconic photogaph that is recognized as a masterpiece, and that college students would buy as posters to hang on their walls (as with Adams or Caponegro or others,) because he worked like Michael -- he moved all the time, and covered all kinds of different subjects.

In other words, I'm suggesting the Michael hasn't produced a masterpiece because, though he has the technique and vision, the way he works limits him. His body of work will eventually come to resemble that of, say, Peter Beard or Gordon Parks or the late stuff of John Szarkowski, rather than that of iconic landscape photographers.

If he wanted to make a masterpiece, and not move from Toronto, I would suggest that he could take a very long look at the paintings of Winslow Homer, and then find a landscape that he would like to know intimately, and start exploring it in microscopic detail. The problem with that, which is a problem that I share, is that travel becomes addictive. It's also destructive: If I go to Europe or the Middle East for a month, I have a hard time doing any serious work for a month after I get back, because I'm too cranked on the travel. And if you travel four times a year...

JC
Logged
alainbriot
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 669



WWW
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2006, 11:05:46 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
I haven't seen from him a masterpiece, like "Clearing Winter Storm" or "Running White Deer."

Can you make a real landscape masterpiece in Toronto (or in the U.S. west of the Appalachians and east of the Front Range?) Do you need magnificence in the landscape itself to make a masterpiece?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83242\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hi John,

I don't know where Running White Deer was created but it could be just about any place where there are deer and trees....  Obviously, if we agree with you that running white Deer is a masterpiece, then masterpieces can be made anywhere...

And then there is the issue of what is a materpiece... How can one say that a specific photographer body of work is devoid of masterpieces unless one first defines what is a masterpiece?  Doing so would be like deciding that someone is a referee without first making sure that person knows the rules of the game!

Defining a masterpiece isn't easy.  Most "definitions" are little more than best-seller lists...  As I pointed in my essay "Being an Artist in Business" what sells well is not necessarily the finest work of a specific artist.  The two images you point to as masterpieces, "Clearing Winter Storm" and "Running White Deer" do happen to be best sellers for Ansel Adams and Paul Caponigro...

Maybe we should first define "Masterpiece" and then apply this definition to specific photographer's work.  Otherwise I think we are putting the plow before the ox.

Nothing personal, just pointing to what I think needs to be said in order to shed light on an issue which is commonly misunderstood.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 11:16:13 AM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
http://www.beautiful-landscape.com
jashley
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 53


« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2006, 11:30:38 AM »
ReplyReply

I agree with the "travel" photography comment, but I think there's something else at play here too.

For me his people AND wildlife photography really stand out.  He seems to have a gift for photographing living subjects (apparently honed through years of doing that kind of work for a living).   But many of his landscapes seem too studied, as if there's too much of an obvious attempt to "force" them into being something artistic.  This all makes sense to me--living subjects don't typically allow for a lot of time to analyze a shot, and so you avoid overthinking it.
Logged
John Camp
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1252


« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2006, 11:38:14 AM »
ReplyReply

Alain,

You can't define a masterpiece, imho. Your best bet might be using the universal measure, money, but in that, with contemporary work, fashion tends to be stronger than taste. Perhaps you could say money, but only a hundred years after the artist is dead.

Some things just *are* masterpieces, and are usually widely recognized at the time of creation, in some way. They get a reaction.

(Though sometimes, widely recognized masterpieces become non-masterpieces a few generations on (The works of Messonnier, the late 19th century French painter, who, in his own time, was widely believed to be the best painter who ever lived;) and sometimes, pieces initially derided as junk, become masterpieces later on (Monet, Manet.) And sometimes, works regarded as masterpieces in their own time, go into obscurity, and then re-emerge (Vermeer.))
 
But whenever a masterpiece becomes a masterpiece, it is usually recogized right from the beginning as startling in some way, or exceptional in some way; it is seen that way by the artist and by people who are interested in that particular kind of art. It is not considered, "Excellent, but not quite the best." So Adams made a great many photographs that are "excellent, but not quite his best," and those will never be considered masterpieces (imho.)

To go to a widely-known aesthetic idea, look at BMW cars, specially the new model of the 745. When it first came out, it was widely criticized as ugly, especially the "hump" on the back. Since then, it has gotten better and better looking, and more and more cars are starting to look a little like the BMW. Look at the same time at any Oldsmobile of the period. Can you even remember one? Same wind tunnel tests, etc., reliability more or less the same. They were "excellent, but not quite the best," and so, forgettable. They will *never* be masterpieces.

I should add that I somewhat inadvertantly started this thread in another thread, talking about the M8. There's something in Michael's street photography that immediately catches my eye, in a way that his landscape photography doesn't. I can't put my finger on it, but it's not that I'm a huge fan of street photography. He just has an ability; he might not even particularly be interested in the ability, but it's there and visible, possibillty developed when he was very young and working as a PJ.

Also, it's odd but enjoyable to discuss Michael as an object, don't you think? 8-)
 
JC
« Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 11:43:35 AM by John Camp » Logged
alainbriot
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 669



WWW
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2006, 12:20:10 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
Some things just *are* masterpieces, and are usually widely recognized at the time of creation, in some way. They get a reaction.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83248\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

John,

Examples abound of artists whose work was not recognized during their lifetime and yet has become extremely popular after their death... Granted, they got a reaction, but a negative one.

ALain
Logged

Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
http://www.beautiful-landscape.com
image66
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 117


« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2006, 03:27:52 PM »
ReplyReply

Michael's street photography is definitely excellent.  His images from Bangledesh are, in my opinion, his best set of work I've seen. He was "on" during that trip.

Much of his landscapes are really a function of "being there".  I see quite a bit of "formula shooting". These are excellent, yet not atypical images which are nice, sell well, and are technically excellent, yet may not necessarily be cutting new ground.  Not to be harsh, but the Namibia images mostly fall into the "been there, done that" style of image.  The major uniqueness is location.

However, Michael does absolutely nail it periodically.  I would consider him to be an expert photographer and imaging technician and a supurb teacher.  Alain is also in this category.

The problem, I think, is saturation.  No, I'm not talking about image gamma, but quantity and availability.  It's getting increasingly difficult to create an image which is not only unique, but causes other photographers to scratch their heads in wonderment.

A "masterpiece", to me, is an artwork which is complete.  It lacks nothing and is done to the very best that the medium allows.

Ask yourself this:  "What photograph have I taken which I want the world to remember me by?"  That, is probably your masterpiece.
Logged
russell a
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 389


WWW
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2006, 03:55:41 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
And what does it leave us with which to surprise? Street.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83201\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
What a curious comment.  Are you aware of how many millions of street photos have been taken? How many are being taken as these words are being read?  The "law" of wheat to chaff applies here as well.  Very, very, very few street shots differentiate themselves sufficiently from the historical record to be considered fresh.  Winogrand took around 1.2 Million shots himself in his career.  He is best represented by a handful of images.
Logged
russell a
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 389


WWW
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2006, 04:02:37 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
A "masterpiece", to me, is an artwork which is complete.  It lacks nothing and is done to the very best that the medium allows.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83281\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I think that "masterpiece" is best thought of as a cultural phenomenon - the result of decree by some authority and ratification by some constituency.  So, each one of us can select whom we accept as the authority and join that constituency that meets our needs.  In the extreme, the authority can be oneself, of course at the risk that the constituency will not exceed that number either.
Logged
russell a
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 389


WWW
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2006, 04:17:04 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
But there is a subset of landscape photographs that have not, to my mind reached "cliche" status: those with sublime light.

When the light is right, the scene transforms. You can't just plant your tripod and expect it to happen.

"f8 and be there" has 2 sides to it: be prepared and be in the right place at the right time.

Even if you have the skills and the eye, the supernatural effect of glorious lighting is what transforms the photograph to stand above the rest. That has not become cliche or overdone.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=83228\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
This is an interesting assertion.  I think that a lot of the time photographers are inspired by the light to take photographs - I know I am.  On the other hand, capturing that light, in the "way it was" is frequently very difficult, if not impossible.  And, I suspect that the captured light is always different from the actual light that inspired the photo.  Careful capture, processing, and then printing can create an image that is worthy of the inspiration but not the same - except perhaps in the memory of the photographer.   How often do our photos bring back a Proustian flood of memory from a scene that may include sounds, smells, temperature, the physical glow of a meal or beverage that we had experienced at the time?  Now those would be some Photoshop enhancements.
Logged
Scott_H
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 331


« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2006, 10:11:32 PM »
ReplyReply

I could comment on MR's photography, but I think it would probably say more about me than it would about his pictures.  I might like his pictures or not, but that would be my preferences.

I don't think all landscape photographs are cliches, and it has not 'all been done' by any means.  It might take looking a little harder to find, and considering a little more thoughtfully to appreciate, but there is some really interesting stuff out there.
Logged

thompsonkirk
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 205


WWW
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2006, 01:25:17 AM »
ReplyReply

I don't want to address the "masterpiece" issue, which is kind of like asking who's a "genius."  Let's maybe drop that one?  But I do think people can do original work in any genre (landscape, street, etc.) by working for a point-of-view, or a consistency of style & sensibility, such as Peter Galassi describes:  

“The notion of a body of work - a group of pictures greater than the sum of its parts, unified often by theme and always by style and sensibility  - is fundamental to the modern art of photography.”   (Friedlander, p. 14.)

IMO Michael or you or I will be a 'better photographer' when we get it together like this.  

In the art world(s), there's always a contemporary context or 'state of the art.'  While venerating old masters like AA & WE & HC-B, I'm at least equally interested in photographers who develop new & timely styles & sensibilities.  This is how I'd approach Michael's work, or yours or mine.  There's always a place where things stand, in terms of work seen before and not seen before.  In relation to the state of the art, more work bounded by old visual & thematic conventions is just 'nice.'  They're all 'good pictures.'  But in the long run, most likely a stack of cliches.  

An example of a contribution to the state of the art would be the New Topographics of 25-30 years ago:  When the Ansel Adams style had been imitated to the outer limits of clichedom, Robert Adams & the other New Topographers removed sentimentality from landscape photography & changed the state of the art by offering, collectively, a timely new style & sensibility.  In the 70s & 80s, their work advanced the state of the art; but by now, more work in that vein has itself become a cliche.  

Another example of advancing the state of the art would be contemporary artists (not generals) like Sherman & Lee who, following up on Arbus' penetrating view of the masks we wear, experimented with costumed self-portraiture.  They really did something new, turning Arbus' camera on themselves & asking image-questions about their/our own identities.  

I think this is where Michael - and I - and maybe you too? - are challenged.  I'm not waiting for us to produce a 'masterpiece,' but I do hope to see a new theme, style, & sensibility emerge, one that I can recognize as a Reichmann, or a You or a Me.  

I'll take a risk - knowing the reviews have been varied -  & say that Edward Burtynsky strikes me as making the most interesting current contribution to landscape photography.  His themes, style, & sensibility center on the paradox of classically beautiful light, color, & composition, merged/juxtaposed with haunting environmental concerns.  The New Topographers had to make images that were a bit ungainly, to make us aware that the real-world environment doesn't look like an Ansel Adams calendar.  But EB goes a step farther & sysrtematically juxtaposes classical stylistic beauty with the subject-matter of a defaced or regimented world - thus asking us to face our own mixed responses to photography & what it sees.  

Two more examples in a similar vein would be Joel Myerowitz's urban-landscape Ground Zero photographs - gorgeous compositions of horror - and Salgado's classic compositions of oppression.  Together these artists force on us a deliberate confusion & questioning, about art-world standards of beauty/creativity & real-world signs of destructiveness. The paradox of handling the medium sumptuously while revealing the world's distress seems to be one aspect at least, & a timely one, of the state or states of the art.  (I hope it's not already a cliche?)

In some sense like this, I think Michael or you or I would be getting somewhere by generating "a body of work - a group of pictures greater than the sum of its parts, unified often by theme and always by style and sensibility."  OK, maybe he hasn't done that yet, but neither have we?  

Kirk
Logged
Stephen Best
Guest
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2006, 03:43:55 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
I'll take a risk - knowing the reviews have been varied -  & say that Edward Burtynsky strikes me as making the most interesting current contribution to landscape photography.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Thanks for the heads up. In browsing his work, I realized that I've seen some of his stuff before, though it currently eludes me where. Some very fine work I agree.

[a href=\"http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/]http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/[/url]

I agree that the boundaries of landscape need to be continually pushed, though I still find much to enjoy in some of Paul Caponigro's classic but achingly beautiful images. Finding a unique vision is something that I believe every photographer should strive for ... though few will measure up to these masters.
Logged
russell a
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 389


WWW
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2006, 07:35:20 AM »
ReplyReply

Quote
“The notion of a body of work - a group of pictures greater than the sum of its parts, unified often by theme and always by style and sensibility  - is fundamental to the modern art of photography.”   (Friedlander, p. 14.)
 

An example of a contribution to the state of the art would be the New Topographics of 25-30 years ago:  When the Ansel Adams style had been imitated to the outer limits of clichedom, Robert Adams & the other New Topographers removed sentimentality from landscape photography & changed the state of the art by offering, collectively, a timely new style & sensibility.  In the 70s & 80s, their work advanced the state of the art; but by now, more work in that vein has itself become a cliche. 

Two more examples in a similar vein would be Joel Myerowitz's urban-landscape Ground Zero photographs - gorgeous compositions of horror - and Salgado's classic compositions of oppression.  Together these artists force on us a deliberate confusion & questioning, about art-world standards of beauty/creativity & real-world signs of destructiveness. The paradox of handling the medium sumptuously while revealing the world's distress seems to be one aspect at least, & a timely one, of the state or states of the art.  (I hope it's not already a cliche?)

In some sense like this, I think Michael or you or I would be getting somewhere by generating "a body of work - a group of pictures greater than the sum of its parts, unified often by theme and always by style and sensibility."  OK, maybe he hasn't done that yet, but neither have we? 

[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Kirk:  I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your post.  Let me present a slightly different interpretation of some of your examples.  I agree that for the artist/photographer the body of work approach is a way to learn what is meaningful to him/her about  a given subject/treatment.  Most informative are those images that one can identify as "near misses" in that they most sharply illuminate the critical features of the narrative.  Ansel Adams worked on his best known narrative (whatever one thinks of the results) by "staying around", "going back", "planning and waiting".  Gary Winogrand obtained his results by "being there" day after day, "shooting everything that moved" and "sorting it out later".  W. Eugene Smith combined these approaches and drove his projects by a personal (and often obscure) narrative that attempted to see in terms of a series rather than individual photographs.  Now, in spite of this as a way of working, the result is that there are a handful (glove size = small) of individual works that we regard as the prime fruits of the labors of these photographers.  (Ernst Haas, who himself is quoted as saying "I want to be remembered much more for a total vision than for a few perfect single pictures", asked Smith - in an interview regarding 200 of the 2000 Smith regarded as keepers out of the 17,000 he took for his Pittsburgh project - "what would anyone do with 200 pictures?").  So, while a "body of work" approach may be a useful method, we are really after the few nuggets that end up in the pan.  How many one-person shows have you seen where the repetition becomes boring or annoying?  Sometimes having the "rest" helps us understand the "best", but sometimes not.  In fact, beating a subject to death (in an exhibition, mind you, apart from how one got there), can diminish rather than enhance the few.  A marvelous photo, be it from a series or a singularity, is a marvelous photo.  It's just hard for most of us to mount an exhibition of a large number of singularities, and marketing forces work against it since it makes the sales narrative much too complex.

As regards "The New Topographics" photographers, Robert Adams, Henry Wessel, and Lewis Baltz, their work was frequently "ungainly" as you point out.  I think that this was the failure of much of it - that the photographs were not sufficiently visually engaging for us to return to them for a presumably repeat innoculation of "the message".  Robert Adams as much as admits this in his essay "On Photographing Evil".  The photos are too often dependent on the captions.  

As much as his book Aftermath contains an important narrative text, I think Meyerowitz failed in it as a photographer.  His aim was not to "aesthetisize" the work, so he would not be accused of using the tragedy of 911 for his own purposes.  But, I'm sorry, this is what artists do - it is their calling.  (Thomas Mann in "Tonio Kroger", "artists turn Mother's milk into printer's ink").  Great images have a staying power that has the potential of keeping the social message on the screen longer than its normal half life.  Example:  Lewis Hine's iconic [a href=\"http://www.masters-of-photography.com/H/hine/hine_icarus.html]Icarus[/url] which may lead some to learn about Hine's crusades on the issues of the exploitation of workers and child labor.

Overall, I applaud your goal of meaningful work.  It's a tricky one, but worthwhile.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2006, 12:41:15 PM by russell a » Logged
thompsonkirk
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 205


WWW
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2006, 11:18:05 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi, Russell -

We're certainly close enough to accept one another's point of view!  I emphasized the 'body of work' notion because I thought 'masterpieces' were a bit of a red herring.  But I'm aware that forced or hothouse quests for a coherent body of work - unfortunately encouraged by art schools - can produce the sort of boring shows you mention.  One can't simply decide to have a 'signature style,' one has to learn & earn it.  And always a few images will be the iconic ones that stand for the quest & the style as a whole.  

An afterthought:  After singling out Burtynsky, I realized one example is always worse that two.  I wish I'd also mentioned British landscape photographer Jem Southam, who has introduced a thoughtful/feelingful sense of time into landscape photography.


K
Logged
John Camp
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1252


« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2006, 02:42:57 PM »
ReplyReply

The problem with the "body of work" (BOW) theory is that a BOW needs some kind of theme, and "I care about people" or "I care about the environment" isn't enough. That's the weakness of Mary Ellen Mark's stuff, or Sylvia Plachy's, which is fine documentary photography, but going through it, page after page, you don't find the masterpiece that really stops you in your tracks. Instead, you (or at least I) tend to grow a bit weary of it. They need a *written story* to hold the good photos together.

On the other hand, when you look at Inferno by James Nachtwey, and you *are* stopped by an occasional masterpiece that can stand all by itself, without a text, or without any BOW behind it. It's like Goya's Disasters of War -- if there are people around 500 years from now, they might well be looking at Nachtwey's work as one of the definitive statements of what the 20th century warfare was like.

To be recognized as a great photographer, I think you have to produce masterworks that stand by themselves. I doubt that a hundred years from now that anyone but a historian will really know who Che Guevara was, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Che photo was around, as a kind of generalized symbol of resistance, even when its current meaning has been lost -- because it's a masterpiece of portraiture.

JC
« Last Edit: November 02, 2006, 02:43:22 PM by John Camp » Logged
Pages: [1] 2 »   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad