Over at Darwin Wiggett’s blog, the fall photo contest is going strong, and he is posting a picture every couple of days. Some of them are really good, and some not so much, but I’ve noticed something that makes me reconsider slightly a criticism I had of J.M Colberg over at Conscientious.
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).
But after looking at the landscapes in Wiggett’s contest I am rethinking my criticism, or modifying it. I still believe in beauty but there is something all too artificial about many of these photographs. Its kind of an overload of saturated colour and retreads of clean and balanced compositions but just a little too common in that respect. I suppose that landscape just lends itself to certain obvious approaches but still.
Myself I am a bit of a fan of desaturating pictures a little.
However, though much of these pictures are overworked, and photoshop is no stranger to these folks, I think that the problem might be that real colour is sometimes not misleading. In other words, the truth of the original shot will actually undermine the picture.
As an example from another field, a friend and I were once in a screenwriting class together and had the idea of working into a semi-fictional form a story of a mentally unbalanced Polish engineer who due to a malfunctioning social net and despite ample warnings killed his wife. The Village Voice did a great job on this, telling it partially from the perspective of immigrants in the new land, shifting gender expectations and more. They had actual transcripts of the 911 call.
We tried to work in as many facts into the narrative as we could however one of these facts was that the couple’s name was Adam and Eva. Wonderfully symbolic as a true story but hopelessly intrusive in a fiction. What was true became, if retained, hamhanded.
And I think that’s what is going on with many gaudy seeming landscape photographs. In person, it is amazing and soul wrenching but a good capture ends up as a loud cartoon.