Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
Photography has a rich and illustrious history and is a relatively new medium compared to other art forms. I mean painting has been around for 0ver 30,000 years compared to photography’s relatively short history. Photography has also borrowed much of the visual language from painting and applied it for both composition and content translation purposes.
I personally believe our true goal as photographers is visually translating external /internal references (landscape, nature, people, architecture) and metaphorically (symbolically and/or blatantly) translating our expressive/emotional response to our subject matter into a conceptual bridge (path) for deeper awareness and understanding of the world around us spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. This can be accomplished realistically or in more abstract / conceptual ways.
Last week I spent 2 days reviewing photographic portfolios in Bratislava for the European Month of Photography and also have attended many photo exhibitions and opening during my travels in Eastern Europe over the past 2 years.
One thing that strikes me in looking at much of the photography being exhibited and shared in Eastern Europe is how devoid of emotion and soul much of it seems to be. I must admit, I did see some great and unique work in Bratislava and Vienna recently, however a lot of it seems void of emotion and expressive content. Its as if there is an emotional disconnect or distance between the photographer and the subject being photographed.
The pictures are technically sound for the most part and have good composition and effective interrelationship of visual elements – however many of the pictures I’ve seen lately are a bit sterile, distant and cold. I have also noticed some underlying political connotations like this one below called resolution that seems to address tensions in the Middle East. Again…just an observation and not a judgement call. I’m not sure this series of printouts below is even photographic or is it art calling itself photography.I’m not judging the quality or content of the images – just how they speak to me. When I look at the work of great photographers from the past such as Stieglitz, Strand, Weston, Henri Cartier–Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Jacques Henri Lartigue or even Man Ray, their work connects with me on multiple levels. This famous FSA photograph Migrant Mother by Lange is a good example of a photograph that has visual and emotional impact.
There may be a sense of hopelessness in the visual content like much of the FSA photographs for example, however these pictures are NOT devoid of emotion in any way.
However…when I view a series of totally black photographs or a yellow blob with no recognizable content whatsoever, I don’t relate or get anything from the work other than a hopeless, empty / detached feeling. Again I’m not judging the black photographs, Xerox printouts or the pictures of stacks of cardboard boxes. I’m just pointing out that there’s something distant and emotionally neutral about a lot of the photography I have been seeing lately.
I am curious as to the WHY behind this disconnect. Is it the nature of the modern culture we live in? Is it the transitioning from a religious to a more secular society? Is it a product of our digital age? Is it generational? After all I am a baby boomer and most of the photography I am talking about is made by much younger photographers and artists.This post is just meant to start a conversation. Any thoughts???
Comments welcomed and encouraged.