Blog Without Pictures

In my previous post last night I reflected on the merit of Edgar Martin's work Topologies. The discussion (for those too lazy to scroll) went like this:

One book I've passed over before which caught my eye again was Topologies by Edgar Martins. I remember when it first came out I snubbed it because I didn't immediately like the whole 'black sky' deal he had going on. I figured it was some cheap photoshop work that was trying too hard to be art. On second viewing I read no photoshop was involved with the whole image making process. Does that make the picture better for me? Yes. I won't touch on that part now... arguing the specifics makes for a very long (but at the same time very interesting) post.

On it's own, the black sky image would not have elicited the same response. It's coupling with similar 'black images' and other bona fide pictures together in a single work is what made me question its merit. Awhile back I read the first post of Concientious's When The Medium Becomes The Message. Colberg stressed the importance of end result, rather than a focus on the process. While I agree completely with this statement, the process of the photograph is irrevocably tied to the end result of the picture. This may seem obvious, but you have to remember the process used is also a mirror of the photographer's intention. Saying "all tilt-shift photography is great" is obviously not accurate at all. In fact, I hate most tilt-shift shots. But that's just me. If the use of tilt-shift to alter perspective made the photo great, then that is surely a use of process for an end result. If the photographer chose a normal lens, it's very possible the photograph could have lost it's impact that made it great in the first place. I know this a drastic use of an example- since tilt-shift itself is drastic- but the same line of thought applies to all uses of photography.

I just got done reading the new Words Without Pictures essay "A Picture You
Already Know." Although the focus was repetition in photography, there was a portion which touched upon the originality of vision:

"Chuck Close observed that “photography is the easiest medium in which to be competent and the hardest medium in which to have a personal vision because there’s no touch, there’s no hand, there’s no physicality, there’s no interface.”[1] Without the unique particularities of drawing or rendering to shape the forms and contours of the image, and without the characteristic marks of a paintbrush, palette knife, or hand to create and shape the actual surface of the picture, the photographer depends on available technical options to convey his or her intentions. Which camera format and lens focal length should receive the intended view? Which photographic surface should receive the resulting image (matte or glossy paper, Kodak Endura or Fuji Crystal Archive, etc.)? These technical parameters focus the range of expression and make repetition in photography even more pronounced than in other visual arts. It makes the photographs of two different photographers look more similar than the paintings of two different painters. It can also seem to imply that photographers are revisiting the same themes, iconographies, and styles when, in fact, the range of subjects in the history of visual representation has gradually expanded over time."

These technical factors often define the limits of the photographer since he needs to limit his method in order to achieve his vision. 35mm or 8x10? Even the choice of camera is a reflection of intention. You might say you love the genuine expression of 35mm photographs. Although this is a giant leap in generalizations, isn't a 35mm SLR more conducive to capturing someone in a moment? This of course depends upon location (street, studio) and the use of the camera. The negative size and deliberate under or over exposure must be thought out ahead of time if the photographer has a deliberate intention and defined vision for the photograph. The end result or 'presentation' is then tied to the photographic process. That's obvious. The real question is whether the use of a certain process will make a picture great. Although the answer is no, again, the use of any process is a reflection of the photographer's intention; it is him using one of the only 'hands' he has in the pursuit of his image.

But what does the intent of process have to do with Martins' photograph? I might get shit for this, but the use of the digital darkroom extends the photographers hands to an unlimited reach- an unnatural reach. Far from being the most limited medium, today photography is often the most used and manipulated. Digital art is not photography, but photography is soon becoming a digital art. Although I have no problem with digital art and manipulations, in order for a picture to be labelled 'photography' the intention and process must be seriously considered. Putting digitally altered work next to, or in the same book as more 'genuine' photography isn't my taste. I wouldn't say it is flat out wrong, but to me it does not belong. But as the digital world and changing market evolve, photographers will be collaborators in more mixed media and photoshop use than ever before. Demanding advertising jobs want perfection. This identity crisis will face photographers with a serious question: at what point does a work become digital art? Personally, the answer is when you realize you are simply putting together a collage rather than orchestrating the necessitiesfor the shot to exist by itself. Although you become an artist with unlimited freedom, it is theese limits which define photography as a medium; this repetition is what makes photography beautiful.

** Funniest part is: the shot in question is simply a beach shot at night. In Portugal, I think. It's one of the 'non-places' thats so pervasive in his work (airport runways, anyone?)

*** august 13th- stumbled across this article and figured I would attach it to this post

About this entry