Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting closer to my "manifesto"...

There are two interesting discussions on "artists' statements" here and here.

I had to respond to one...

I have now read both this post and Joerg’s. Lots of interesting points on both sides.

I guess I would have to consider myself a “refucynic”. I did not go to art school, nor did I want to. I am a self-taught photographer… I love the history and consider myself a classicist (I prefer the old, dead guys, and the guys who will be gone soon). Sometimes that comes across as “snobby” or “elitist” but I really don’t care. I photograph what I like and do not restrict myself to any one topic/genre/style. I think that work can stand on it’s own without explanation, especially the guys I like. Most of the photographers I admire never went to art school or wrote statements… they didn’t need to. Many wrote about their photography, but not the BS we see today. Maybe because the world was simpler then, and now…

The younger “emerging” “artists”… they are a different story. It seems to me (for the most part) they are project-oriented. Pick a project (even better if no one else has done it before, like photographs of splattered bugs on windshields at Interstate rest stops... if I ever see that one I will sue the photographer 'cause I just thought of it) and then try to make photographs. Therefore they need a statement from the get go. They do box themselves in a lot. Most of the “emerging” stuff I see I don’t like. I am happy that (as stated above) it is OK to say “That sucks!” The thing that really gets me is that a lot of this emerging work looks the same. I couldn’t tell you if MFA-1 or MFA-256 did it. Kind of like what happened to popular music (read Rock n Roll) in the 1980s - it all started sounding the same. And now we have American Idol… thank you very much. That’s why I gave it up for jazz, and not that “smooth jazz” garbage (same story, different genre).

I personally don’t have/sort of have a statement. I only say that I am drawn to “things that have been overlooked, forgotten, or looked at, but not seen. I find compositions where others see the ordinary, or nothing at all.” Does that mean that I won’t do landscapes again? Nope. In fact, for some reason I “had” to do some landscapes last time I went out. I don’t know why, I just felt like doing landscapes. Many of the images I made in Phoenix have disappeared in the last year… gentrified. I am playing with portraits now, and indeed, my most recent one (last week) has faded already (a victim of the economy). So I guess, my “sort of statement” works, but it doesn’t box me in.

I think the one thing that the “art schools” don’t/won’t teach is how to “enjoy” photography. Photography is an exhilarating, contemplative, personal, gratifying… oh crap, I might as well say it… it’s FUN! Most of these MFAs I see look like they have some psychological issues to work out or they are out to change the world. They’re not having FUN!

My two all-time favorite movie quotes:

“I’m pretty good at recognizing crap when I hear it” Dabney Coleman, On Golden Pond

“You like that word, don't you... bullshit? It’s a good word.” Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond

What do you think?

3 comments:

Paul Cocklin said...

I've always had a hard time coming up with a 'statement'. I guess that's because my pictures are so directionless. Everything seems interesting to me, or at least potentially so.

I think as time has marched on, the current generation needs things that weren't needed before. At least, not consciously. There's a lot more need for affirmation today, for encouragement and support. I think it has a lot to do with the 'sheep' mentality, and it hurts the art, in my opinion. It forces the artist, through their own needs, to create for others, instead of creating for themselves.

rcoda said...

Good comments, Paul.

I see this in my daughter's school (a well-respected private school) right now. The "group" is more important than the individual, even if the group hinders the individual. There's no impetus to excel or work alone. They're peddling something called "Smallab" now. What a bunch of hooey! If this is the future, individual creativity is dead.

silverandpitch said...

Couldn't agree more. Still looking for the A##holewho keeps putting Kenny G. in the jazz section at the record store...