Saturday, April 15, 2006

A social rite, a defense agianst anxiety, and a tool of power

I am rereading Sontag's On Photography and thought it quite on the mark for something written 27 years before Flickr and in light of the questions posed on the Utata group on Flickr.

It struck me as a way of framing the essence of some of the responses here in this thread. " ... photography has become as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing -- which means that, like every mass art form, photogrpaphy is not practiced by most people as an art. It is a mainly a social rite, a defense agianst anxiety, and a tool of power."

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Multiples of one

From PDN (subscription required) :
Smaller Editions, Large Prints, High Prices

"Today, editioning remains the cornerstone of photo pricing. But never before have the price tags on photographs been so high, and the edition numbers so dramatically low. Instead of issuing editions of 50 or 25, photographers and their galleries today are routinely limiting their editions to ten, five or even three prints for a single image.

Photography dealers themselves point to a couple of causes for this pervasive trend. The most valuable commodity on the art market today is painting. Collectors interested in art as an investment are more comfortable buying one-of-a-kind paintings than photographic prints, which can be endlessly multiplied. Not only do smaller editions mimic the scarcity of a painting, but art photography today is being printed in super-large formats on the scale of paintings.

Then there are the living photographers—maybe a dozen prominent examples—who have successfully resisted the market pressure to edition their work. Some are fashion or commercial photographers who just can't be bothered; others are photojournalists who are philosophically opposed to the notion, as their very mission is to communicate the horrors of war, famine, or social injustice to as many people as possible."

I think I will burn my work prints and in the future only ever make 7 prints from now on. How about you?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Shoot 'em, bleed 'em, then skin 'em

From the NY Times a lesson about how to package or repackage what is no better than the average Flickr photo (from the images shown) into something that resonates.

What is interesting to me is that photograhy is so elastic that even when in this case average and in the service of marketed nostalgia and oral history it absorbs and projetcs the sentimentality and historical as gravitas.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"Real Fantasies" and the realities of the photographic market

"Real Fantasies" New Photography from Switzerland

Today, more than ever before, photography is a hybrid, a composite that mixes documentary and fiction, concrete and abstract, real and imaginary, analog and digital, visual pleasure with iconoclasm. As such, it reflects the fragmentation of personal experience, the dislocation of our world view and the loss of our sense of self. Found photography, banal photography, manipulated photography, photo-romans, staged photography, morphed photography, resilient documentary photography - this visual medium still has - despite the fact that the art market is now turning away from it - a boundless ability to question, analyse and reflect the world around us. Needless to say, the availability of so many different photographic approaches grants enormous freedom, but with it there must also be a structural awareness of the medium itself and of its context in the media in general, for only in the friction generated between application and reflection can true visual greatness, density and complexity be achieved.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

On exhibiting

Recently on Flickr, I answered a few questions about my (limited) expierence exhibiting. I thought I 'd share them here.

What you've felt you've gotten from the experience?

There are over 100 million images on Flickr and now maybe the same amount on Fotolog. There are a good portion of the people who do quite a bit of selective viewing. That's the way that people use the web. These sites are important for me as they present an audience and that has increased the definition about the images I make - that's a good thing. Running with this audience since 2003 prepared me for 2005 as I had the good fortune to be selected to show in 5 exhibits, 4 group shows and 1 solo show. I also did two open studio events in connection with one exhibit. For 4 of the 5, I was able to participate at the gallery, meet the audience and spent time with Flickr and Fotolog friends that dropped by. Many of those I got to meet in person for the first time.

In the middle of the first opening, in midst of the other artists, collectors and varied guests I began to realize that this creative life, this adventure has a dynamic all its own. As creators we control one part of it very tightly while drifting in something akin to the East River in NY with no natural currents of its own and a strong undertow. You are at the mercy of what comes next. These are ealy days for me but to be sure, the clarity of value of the artist and audience to each other could not have come soon enough. That's empowering to me as I look into the audience and see myself and they look back to my work and see themselves. And it is complicated I think because over time the artist and audience changes and that balance could fall apart. Trust the art and not the artist!

Exhibiting is about the audience. These people that come to the gallery invest a lot. It is a personal investment in time and if they buy, in money. There is nothing more personal than the art that people hang on the walls of their home or other personal space. I know how I relate to an image and want to relate to the artist - they leave bits of their DNA on my imagination. It is very intimate and meeting the audience at least for me was a very positive experience. I am certainly not pollyana about this at all - we serve at the will of audience's imagination. It may be my art. But in the gallery it is as much the money business and that is just the way it is. I am fine with that.

Beyond the excitement of the first sale after which it all about keeping score, I found the open studio event humbling. I was able to bring in hundreds of small mostly 5x7 work prints - test prints and people bought them in pairs, sets - explaining how these would be displayed and really getting into much more of the work than six pictures that made up my part of the exhibition. The audience connected. They understood what I did.

Where you found difficulties?

I work digitally - so manufacturing - printing, framing, matting, shipping, return shipping .....

Why you want to show?

I want attention for the work and to build connections and memories in an audience. I think it also combats the indifference, isolation and alienation that comes from working alone on your art day after day.

What you think your work is saying(If there is a general overview you feel your work states)?

I feel that an image that expresses something - an idea, a mood, a feeling, a memory that tries to suggest to viewer not only what concerned or interested me as its creator but the viewer themselves is an image full or meaning and the connection that I think we all hope to make. That is the soul of image making. That is the soul of all art.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cameras don't shoot photographs, people do

Recently an Indian filmaker sued NYC for violating his 1st ammendment rights. See SepiaMutiny "Inian guys with cameras".

I shoot on the streets alot and this is how I feel, however conflicted it may be. Please excuse the length of this.
  • Vigilance is something we should have, and I personally want.
  • Police can be bullying and their actions need to be accounted for.
  • Both sides need to test the limits.
  • With the amount of cameras on the streets of NY and the continued hightened security, the problem will continue to exist.
  • We need clear rules.

Here is a fuller quote from NYCLU on what they are hoping to accomplish.

NYCLU’s executive director, Donna Lieberman, says Sharma’s arrest and detention violated his civil rights and that the city’s permit policy (which is largely unwritten) violates the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment. "In a democracy, people have the right to document activity in public places without being arrested," she declares in a press release on the organization’s website. "When the city tried to stop people from taking pictures in the subway, we objected and the city backed down. In the same way, we are challenging the city's arbitrary film permitting scheme, which exposes legitimate filmmakers to risk of arrest for taking pictures on the streets of New York."

I am no fan of the CLUs but Ms. Lieberman's comments seem rather pragmatic. A sensible group of rules would benefit everyone. So in this case if the NYCLU could correct the "arbitrary film permitting scheme" that woudl be great. Of course that would mean we'd then have to hope that we would be considered "legitimate filmakers". Then question will be - Does having a Flickr account, blog, or website make you a serious filmaker? Here I am not sure th NYCLU is working for a solution which would be applicable to everyone with a camera.

As far as Mr.Sharma. My own prejudice is the in the world of film and filmakers he must have a bit of the grandstander and promoter in him. This kind of controversy increases buzz and the interest in the project. And of course that doesn't mean the police that day didn't violate his rights. The court will decide that. It just seems as scripted an incident as possible for a documentary on how things have changed for ordinary people since 911. I would hope anyone standing for an extended period of time near an underpass at Grand Central Station shooting video would be checked on. Do I need to say Madrid? And of course this was before the London undergound incidents. His work is political and he is politically savvy enough for me to think he understood this - perhaps even wanted to test this. Maybe this was the point he wanted to make.

Also here is a quote from Sharma. "They asked me to apply for a formal permit to shoot the film and specify the name of the street, corners, buildings and pavements. They also asked me to get an insurance package of $1 million before commencing the shoot." If anyone has had expierences with the City's file permit process, it would be good to get their take. It seems a commercial film would carry insurance and a permit would be issued for where you'd want to shoot. There is a quote above from the NYCLU that describes the permit rules as unwritten and arbitrary, which seems to reflect the confused and random police actions that people often describe.

I work in midtown and there is every kind of person out there with a camera white, black, tan, brown no one seems intimidated to me - and that doesn't even count the millions of camera phones snapping away - not sure there is alot of police action (as a % of photograpgers shooting) on this. NY is dependent on tourists, tourists take pictures, NY makes money. What I sense is that we see enough bad policing of the rules and poor handling of individual incidents to make this a problem. I am not sure that all photographers are saints so I throw in some bad attitude there which fans the flames on some incidents.

I don't know anythng about the Indian film industry and their censor board. You can read an interview with the former board head where he discusses Sharma's film and from my reading (please correct me) it seems his film was cleared by the board as part of their appeal process. I raise that because either his film is banned or isn't. Also in the AP story they indicated this was not his first run in with the police - not sure the NYPD and the Indian film censor board should be lumped together - seems at points more advocacy then reporting. The controversy about Sharma's film seems well documented on the web and I was unable to find any articles making a direct connection between his film showing in India and any violence. Again would like to understand this better.

Again, I am all over the place on this one and probably have more questions than answers.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

''Why is this art?

A post written a while back but I guess I never hit the submit button

A lively debate about the purity of photography at edward_ winkleman with 70 high flying posts about truth and trust - makes me want ask - why would any one trust an "artist" about anything?

Fast forward to the NY Sun's review of MOMA's Pixar show:

But in many ways "Pixar" is both too specialized and too pedestrian. On the one hand, it wants to establish that the computer animation that made the company famous is only part of the story - many of their artists use traditional media. The exhibition also wants to make clear that the computer, like the pencil or brush, is merely a tool - that it is only as good as the illustrator who uses it.

All of this is true enough, but animators are the only ones who really care about the distinction. There is more to "drawing, painting, and sculpture" than illustrative rendering or modelmaking; art is composed of metaphors. The show mistakenly attempts to elevate creative, inventive, and technically adept illustrations and maquettes - cartoon characters rendered for the screen - to that of great drawing and sculpture. What it all amounts to is a purposeful leveling of the playing field: Art is dumbed down and illustration is dumbed up.

Increasingly, artists want to have their tools and eat them, too. MoMA and Pixar want us to believe that the studio's computer-generated illustrations should be considered as art. Yet they feel compelled to remind us that their illustrators work with paint and pastel. It seems to me a bit of overly defensive posturing: Enjoying "Toy Story" doesn't make you a philistine; putting it on a par with Picasso is another story.

And then back track to the NY Times' State of the Art which ends with a flourish:

MANY New Yorkers dismissed ''The Gates,'' or did not take pleasure in it. Some even refused to experience it. Their objections were not to the quality of the work, to the color of the sheets, for instance, or to their height or placement. Technique was never the problem, and few complained that Central Park was being desecrated. Most of the objections went much deeper, reaching in fact to the philosophical issue at the heart of modern art. ''Why is this art?'' the skeptics asked. It's easy to imagine art snobs smirking at what they would consider the cultural naïveté behind such doubts. But the question, a fair and very serious one, has always deserved an answer.

I skipped the Gates and remain dismissive of them. How about you?