N o L, August 7, 2010; still more about WWP: Jason Evans and his critics, interlocutors and commenters
The second of several posts talking about and quoting Words Without Pictures. See August 6 N o L post for introduction and explanation of what’s going on here. Before we go any further let me make firmly clear to you that Words Without Pictures is in fact for sale. From Aperture. Um, Aperture also publishes a quarterly journal of photographic concerns. One might say the journal of photographic concerns. Subscibe here. (Sometimes paying attention requires paying $$. This is good. Enjoy.
Jason Evans, from his essay “Online Photographic Thinking.” Pages 43 – 44 and 44 – 45.
…If an audience is what you prefer (as opposed to a physical thing like a book or a show as the testimony to your photographic talent), then the Internet is for you. How the perceived populism and the lack of exclusivity of my online presence places me in relation to, say, a gallery system has yet to be determined.
In the inevitable and frankly tedious digital versus analog debate, my position is one of either/and. Both systems offer distinct possibilities, but I ultimately believe that they are just different sides of the same coin. Photography’s comparatively brief history is littered with mechanichal revelations and methodological revolution. I see the digital as nothing more than the most recent of these. Those who whine about the demise of Kodachrome rarely bemoan the lack of populatrity or common usage of the cyanotype. Those fuzzy thinkers seldom make the connection between a beloved aesthetic and the motivations of the corporation that created it. We are not having our choices taken away from us by the usurping of analog by digital; we just have to expand what photography can be.
Changes in “capture” characteristics, particularly the preview screen, have had an essential impact. In the “good old days,” when we shot in the dark with an intuitive reliance on a sense of skill, a serendipitous selection of “happy accidents” informed the development of the medium. With the preview screen, we are more likely to delete immediately anything that doesn’t look like a picture we formally recognize – that is, photography that looks like photography as we used to know it. I’m an advocate for not pressing the delete button too readily – for leaving the (analog-born) door open for finding a new direction or cause for thought in our photography through retrospective editing.
In the recent scramble to establish the new cultural frontier that is “contemporary art photography,” there has been a shift away from defunct ideas about visual “democracy,” wide circulation of the “image,” and the re-establishment of the photograph as an object. Art market credo limits many of the defining characteristics of the photographic medium, simultaneously rendering “serious” work less likely to reveal itself with any real intent in the populist and, dammit, free realm of the Internet. The prospect of all of those uncalibrated monitors is going to be a turn-off for any photographer who has labored with specific tools and palettes to produce particular effects. Compare the “image” impact of a Gabriel Orozco to the “picture” porduction values of a Gregory Crewdson, and ponder which translates better to the Internet.
[Some of the websites Evans suggested to us in his essay: The Daily Nice, a photo each day, only for a day and then it’s gone. Useful Photography, which Evans notes as featuring odd images culled from Ebay, I didn’t quite find that. In-Public, a site begun in 2000 dedicated to work by street photographers. More suggested sites with images below.]
Discussion Forum on Jason Evans’ essay “Online Photographic Thinking,” Amir Zaki responding online. Pages 50 – 51.
…I understand that the potential that Mr. Evans describes for much more interesting work to exist on the Web is there. I happily welcome these expansions of the medium, both formally and conceptually. However, we have many historical examples of artists who begin by working outside of the fuzzy boundaries of what is then accepted as art.Their ultimate success is not so much in forcing (or much caring about) a dramatic alteration in the existing structure, it’s in the structure’s ability to slowly grow, adapt and absorb that work within its boundaries.
Nicholas Grider responding online, page 52.
What the Internet is very good at is information. A site not mentioned by Evans but one I check at least once a day is iheartphotograph.blogspot.com. Don’t let the title fool you. It’s a serious endeavor to promote photography world-wide, and while there’s a definite post-market lack of care for whether the photographer is an art student in Ohio or a food designer from France, the site (for me, at least) acts as Flickr with a critical intelligence.
(Grider continues) For someone like myself, coming of age without preference for analog or digital and, like many people my age, without access to an increasingly shuttered art world, what the Internet offers is not a utopia but something even better: an overwhelming amount of undifferentiated information. What the impersonality of the Internet offers is that I can at least get the feeling, at times, of having some measure of agency over where to look and how to work.
Online Discussion Forum, artist Lester Pleasant writing about Jason Evans’ essay. Pages 55 – 56.
Photography changes and evolves whether or not we like it or choose to recognize it. We can hold on to rusty models of thinking about images and disregard the fluid present reality if we want, but the photographic is constantly moving and changing regardless of whch theories and ideas we subscribe to. Isn’t it inevitable that the theory will always be several steps out of sync with the current possibilities the practice offers at any given moment anyway?
(Pleasant continues) This reminds me of the previous essay on this website, in which (Christopher) Bedford suggests that photography critics have failed to comprehensively address the medium and how this situation has limited the discourse and therefore the possibilities of the medium itself. [In this statement Pleasant is referring to the original Words Without Pictures website, which ran online all the essays in the book for the duration of the project, from 11/2007 through 2/2009. Back to Lester Pleasant:] It makes me wonder, if they can’t do it, who can? If the alledgedly most educated and “aware” critics, curators, and historians are unable to fully comprehend how photoraphy functioned yesterday, why should we believe they will be able to do it tomorrow? (Luckily, there are plenty of critics, curators, and historians who have done an incredible job of taking on the challenge.) As practitioners, we can either wait around for someone else to write history for us or we can be active participants in its evolution now.
Online Questionnaire not related to Jason Evans’ essay but placed near it in the text. James Welling responding. Page 61.
Q. What would you consider some of the most important changes that photography has undergone in the past few years?
A. Historical amnesia has grown rampant.
Cheers my friends, thanks for indulging me.