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Thread: Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

  1. #11

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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    Ahhh that explains my confusion. Liberation (liberty)=Equality.

    Confucious would dispute that. How can one thing be truly equal to another? Even two dimes and a nickel aren't equal to one quarter in the number of coins they are (3 to 1), only in what they represent (25 cents)

    No more than a tuba is equal to a flute or a percheron is to a thorobred, which isn't to say one is superior or better than the other, only that within a given context one is preferrable to the other and in the scheme of things both are harmonious when they work together without one trying to overpower the other.

    Or at least thats the way I think Confucious would put it.

    In terms of art, I think this holds true as well. A really great photo of the Matterhorn to you might be "only" a great photo of a mountain, while to me it may represent where my bride and I went for our honeymoon(Zermatt) A katchina doll might be a very, very interesting doll to a collector of dolls, but it may well be a religious object to a Zuni.

    What I'm getting at (or what I think I'm getting at) is that equality dosen't always elevate something to the status quo, but nearly always diminishes something down to a rather pedestrian level, like expecting a flute to take the place of a tuba or vice-versa and proclaiming the concert to be of some great benefit to the music world.

    Art in itself (and I don't claim to be an artist so take this for what you're paying for it) has IMHO two distinct functions that lend legitimacy to it's value. The first being the piece's 'statement' or what its value is in regards to how it is interpreted or enjoyed by the viewer or artist and the second being what happened for it to become a piece of art in the first place. A plaster copy of a statue can be satisfying, even inspirational---more so for the beholder on whose mantel it sits than the original statue which is in a museum on another continent that the beholder has never been to. The original in the museum however, carved out of a rare marble by expert hands and the proportions determined by a pair of artistic eyes several hundred years ago, would be/should be priceless in monetary terms.

    Applying this to photography, consider a moving image like Adams' El Capitan shrouded in clouds (I know there are Anti-Adams-istas out there, so remember I'm only using this as an example!) What this photo says, it says quite well in the original print, but it also says it as a calender image, a poster image, as a so called 'reproduction print' ...etc. The question is, is a calender that was printed last month in Thailand on a high speed press worth the same as a print burned and dodged and souped by a master of photography, by hand, in 1957? Or as a really really good digital reproduction blown up to whatever size you wish so it will "fit" in with your design scheme? In what sense are any of these images truly "equal?" They aren't, even though they may appear identical to the eye and the mind. If "libertation"="equality" then the point of the NY Times article eludes me----it strikes me as more of a blunt weapon of oppression than a pointed one of liberty. Or nonsense;-)

    Cheers!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.

  2. #12
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    "The intereesting question is "what can digital technology can liberate us from?""

    that's the incomprehensible question. i meant to write "what can digital technology liberate us from?"

    And John, I think you're really going way out on a tangent with the liberty=equality/confucious thing. I think the original post used "liberate" in the sense of "remove constraints" or "remove limitations."

  3. #13

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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    I wonder what photography (ergo photographers) really need to be liberated from. If it is only digital technology liberating us from the darkroom, that holds no more significance that acrylics liberating a painter from oils. A change in process, perhaps a shift in the final products appearance, but no new work is really born of a simple shift in the work process.

    Photography, along with every other media, has been accepted as Art since DuChamp put a urinal and a toilet in a gallery as "works of art", confirmed as Art since Weston got the Guggenheim fellowship, and been an inherent part of the Art Establishment since MOMA began its dedicated photography department and collection.

    I'd suggest that if a current photographer feels a need to be "liberated" in the "contemporary art" context, he needs most to be liberated from those who decide or interpret the trends in contemporary art. There are a thousand simultaneous movements going on today, and movement in all directions is movement in no single direction. While the clique that selected work for the Paris show seems to have concentrated on the manipulated digital, they could have as easily picked up on toy camera photography or any other trend.

    It's that need to be accepted/approved as a "successful ontemporary artist" that drives much current work in the gallery scene, where work is validated by its inclusion by the elite, and valued for its selling price as much as for its aesthetic.

    God, I'm in a cynical mood today...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #14

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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    I wonder what photography (ergo photographers) really need to be liberated from.

    My mortgage would be a good start! Viva Revolution, Comrades! One for all. All for one! Kill the bankers and critics! But wait! NO, you can't use my camera! Hey, that's my film! And my copyright!

    Gosh, I guess it ain't gonna work that way. Anywho...

    Ease of creation has a lot to do with 'liberation'. Just as the camera made it easier to do without realistic illustration, or movable type made it easier to publish the written word, now persons can make the final image without having to pass a kidney stone. Or something. Ease of use and creation can also help the gestault in focusing upon new ideas rather than laborious technique. Movable type created literature, liberated written expression from the lords of the pen, the copy houses, the Monks of the written word, and eventually from the printing house.

    Now almost anyone can print a story. Now almost anyone can make a picture. It doesn't end the craft of either. In fact, the 'liberation' is from former constraints. Having a less daunting way of making photographic images gives credence to intent - still only those who have mastered technique can be credited with intent, even if they transcend it.

  5. #15
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    to put this in some perspective ...

    i don't think painters perceived that they needed to be liberated from anything before photography came along. and when photography did finally liberate them from expectations of representation, many of them didn't think this was a good thing at all ... in fact, it felt more like being disenfranchised than being liberated. a lot of painters and illustrators who had no talent beyond depicting things were out of a job overnight.

    but the medium itself, moving forward, was liberated, in that it was given an opportunity to evolve in ways that no one had imagined before.

    I guess it's a good idea not to over-romanticize this idea of liberation. in the sense we're talking about, the only real constraints are in people's heads, and the new processes mainly serve to open up new perceived possibilities. And to make some old ones more practical.

    Is traditional photography in shackles? No. Are there possibilities that we haven't considered yet? I assume so, based on a quick glance at the past. Anything that illuminates a once-hidden possibility is a kind of liberation.

  6. #16
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    On another list I came across three articles today that seem to tie into this in different ways (not endorsing either)

    http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/07/go_visual.html

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/10/rosen.htm

    http://www.orangecone.com/archives/000074.html

    and three quotes as well:

    rather than creating ever newer technologies for remembering, we should think about creating technologies that help us forget. (from three above)

    and

    Mechanical memory, to its unexpected advantage, degrades. But digital memory, ubiquitous, fathomless, and literally gratuitous, serves neither idea.
    The past is always here and always perfect; everything can be represented, no moment need be lost.
    Moreover, all of it is as good as new, and every copy identical to the original.
    What's missing is a cadence, a play of values, or a respect for the way loss informs our experience of time.
    Like the map that's as big as the world itself, it's useless precisely because it's too good.


    and

    All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this - as in other ways - they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  7. #17

    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    i think that it may be interesting to look at the situation from the perspective of painting itself, i was discussing this the other day with an established and very scholarly "contemporary" painter and he expressed envy of people working with photography, his problem being: what is left to discover and explore in the medium of paint?. i think too that you could make a similar parallel with contemporary music, it seems to me that there is very little left to discover or re-invent, which could be bourne out by listening to (or looking at) most "new" stuff.

    photography on the other hand was likened by my painter friend to "africa at the time of the first european explorers" everything is still to be discovered... i certainly feel an excitement about the medium, and in the above context feel that art is democrotising itself, simple "documents" attaining artistic value, and of course the endless continent of digital...

  8. #18

    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    I'm glad I chose photography a passion rather than a profession. My living room is my gallery, I am my only customer. I am pleased when others like my stuff. ( I just now decided not to call it work) I don't even have to go out and shoot, except to feed the addiction. The rest of the planet can think and go the way it wants, I could care less. Now THATS liberation.

  9. #19

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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    tim,

    WOW! That last thought is profound!

    Paulr,

    How so that I'm off on a tangent? Wouldn't parity=liberty be more of a 'stand-off' where we'd all be taking pictures of the same ol' thing----kind of like painters who adhere to one convention be it impressionism, modernism, etc..., then the next avant guard wave hits with something that blows the previous convention into the weeds and then becomes a convention its self? If I construe this as "liberty" it seems like it is merely liberty from some previously agreed on contrivance. Kind of like peace treaties whose purpose is merely to define when its okay to resume a conflict, or a contract being an instrument where the parties who sign are agreeing to when it will be okay to sue one another.

    If OTOH by "liberation" it means that we'll all be able to download any image we want, to do with what ever we want (say blow it up to fit the wall, or manipulate it to suit our wishes through the miracle of digital) it still doesn't make sense to me other than it effectively writes the artist out of the script and the image becomes just that----an image or illustration devoid of the artist--sort of like a Mr. Potato Head where anyone with the kit can morph a spud into whatever strikes them. Or "clip art." Potato farmers don't seem to too concerned with what we do with their produce, but most artists I think, are.

    WOW, now I'm really off on a tangent!

    Cheers!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.

  10. #20
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Liberation - Photography as Contemporary Art

    "All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this - as in other ways - they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers"

    This assumes that the intent of all photography is documentation. Your definition for paintings describes more my intent with photography.

    Photography's power as a medium is based on the presumption that it is a document. Yet all expressive printers know how far we stray from that presumption.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

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