The Message

Emese asks: "Is photoblogging good for photography?" Though it's not clear if she means her photography or the general world of all photography (or more likely, some particular slice of it, like advertising photography).

Here on PhotoRant, Dirk asks: Is the chef with three Michelin stars getting upset about people cooking their daily meals?

These two questions are facets of the same stone and at the heart of why photorant exists. Joerg over at Conscientious writes about a similar trend in this short essay on digital photography (and he mentions a trend toward digital toy camera photography — though I'm not sure what to make of it. Does it really make you a more free photographer, or is it, like "lomography," simply a different brand of equipment fetish?)

All of the links above are filled with pertinent, and timely, crosslinks. Perhaps it's their timeliness that bothers me most. Why must the opinions of some random BBC reporter be considered heavier, than, say, those of the Victorian John Ruskin: "If colour does not give you intense pleasure, let it alone; depend upon it, you are only tormenting the eyes and sense of people who feel colour, whenever you touch it; and that is unkind and improper." Just because yor new digicam can stamp out "automatically balanced" color doesn't make its results superior to those from any other process. The recent Beeb report proclaiming digital superiority for all, given its provenance and short life, should surely be considered capricious noise until proven otherwise. Yet I've seen it posted and crossposted everywhere over recent weeks, even on APUG.

The answer to Dirk's question is quite simple. Such a chef would not object to the cooking of others in their homes. Indeed, he depends on consumers being able to tell the difference between what comes popping out of their microwaves and what he will serve in his restaurant. But surely, what he would object to would be an explosion of cheap, greasy, and sythetic fare being sold to the public and billed as equal (or even superior) to his own.

Photoblogs are free to look at. The more of them I saw, the more I came to be convinced that for the most part, they are wasting my time, a commodity far more precious than any usage fee. There are far more bad photoblogs than I have time to pick through. I will learn little from them, and they are insular and uninterested in any "improvement" that doesn't lead to more complements from their blog friends for the most banal, expeced sort of work — work that's usually driven not by any artistic desire but by raw consumer fetish and self-indulgent groupthink.

Yet from this morass I do believe great work has the potential to arise — which is why photorant exists, to shine a light toward sites and trends of merit and also to shine that same baring light on the hazardous swampland.

I love quotes, especially when I can quote myself, from a forum post earlier today:

Self-indulgence is a betrayal of the realities of art, which by definition are an enterprise involving more than just a single person. Artists are involved in transactions between themselves, their subjects, and their audiences, small or large. To present your art is to ask the audience for their trust — that somehow they will be enriched for their investment of time and attention. This is as true for contemporary artists like, say, Sally Mann or Martin Parr, as it was for those of the past, such as Caravaggio, Weston, or Ruskin. Lewis Hine wrote that he wanted to capture not only those things that must be stopped, but those things that ought to be seen. In his photos he recognizes the dual nature of existence, pairing brutal factory conditions with gentle portraits of the children who work there. Likewise in a modern vein we have Salgado & Bravo & Luc Delahaye's sense of splendor at the sight of a dead Taliban, laid out in tableau. In all of these works we see the idealism and values of the artist not in isolation or removed from their social context and the greater world, but in full engagement with the environment that surrounds them.

Some years ago I heard or read the comment "every great photograph is about a relationship." That relationship can occur within the frame or back and forth between the image and the viewer, the photographer and the subject.

The simple photoblog challenge, then — to engage those relationships with as much passion and force as so many newly-minted digicam users put into the flowers in the backyards and the stripes on their neighborhood pavement. To squeeze in a little quality among the quantity.

February 10, 2004

 

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Comments on "The Message"

beerzie boy
March 30, 2004 10:57 AM

Love this shot.

 

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