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Emperor’s New Photographs

This has been bothering me for some time.

At the moment I read a number of photography blogs.

I unreservedly recommend Exposure Compensation, Kathleen Connolly’s Walk Through Durham County, Sam Javenough’s Daily Dose of Imagery, Lens Culture (sometimes more about photographs than actual images), and Matt O’Sullivan’s The Narrative.  These all exemplify the well composed, often striking, often beautiful image.  I’m kind of biased toward that sort of thing.

And there are two further blogs which are not exactly photo blogs but in the case of the first, English Russia, there are moments of great epic photography, and in the case of the second, Eating Asia, there is photography perfectly suited to its purpose, warm evocation of food, travel and Asian culture.

And then there are File Magazine, Flak Photo and J.M.Colberg’s Conscientious.

Colberg’s was my first from a number of years ago and his column has introduced me to many remarkable photographers.  However I seem to sense a tendency on his part, and in general from the others here towards what I can only call the unremarkable, and sometimes the purposefully unremarkable,  image.

And while I prefer to reproduce great images, for the purposes of this discussion (or rant) I present these taken from those three last sources.

Conscientious 1 and 2
colbergcolberg2

File 1 and 2
filefile2

Flak 1 and 2
flakflak2

I don’t mean to castigate the actual photographers who most likely have technical skills beyond my own. What I question is their self editing parameters and those of the publishers.

A professional photographer friend opened my eyes to the necessity of light, and of being aware of its nuances. I’m still working on that. His work is landscape and strives towards beauty and singularity. I also strive for that.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that even as a complete novice, I would not consider the above photographs worthy of keeping much less of publishing.

I understand the notion of reducing arts to the elements, of considering beauty a bourgeous notion or a veil but the mundane is already well enough represented in the world. Beauty is all around us and it cries to be reproduced, or drawn out of captures that don’t quite match up to their intentions.

To me, this unveiling of the intrinsic nature of images or reality through discarding beauty, light or symmetry is like saying the only way to truly appreciate food is to dispense with taste and colour, to reduce it to semi-nutritional (and maybe nutrition is a distraction as well) mush, and then and only then will we get it.

I think not. Beauty and light and symmetry are the nuts and bolts. They are the deepest reality.

One comment on “Emperor’s New Photographs

  1. […] What I had found was that he seemed to be promoting an anti-pictorial landscape; photographs which seemed to purposefully be drab and though not generic, without the usual points of interest.  Though I understood a certain intellectual attraction to the idea, to me photography has always been more about creating more beauty than about discarding it like some bourgeois affectation. (Here is my original criticism). […]

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