Apparently ranting is bad. But I don’t mind it, at least not when done inventively or interestingly. I have a friend who often rants. He’s great at it and I’m always happy when he starts and entertained while he does it. Anyway…
I’ve been stuck at home. Raining a lot and I’ve stayed inside, surfing the inter-naught quite a bit. Mostly, but not solely, looking at photographs and things photograph related (as opposed to camera related).
I seem to have come away from the experience quite grumpy, and feel like telling it like it is (umm – as opposed to being just plain mean, bitter and snarky). I have also, somewhat contradictorily, come away quite impressed.
A couple of things have stuck with me.
At one point, I came across a conversation where one commentator, quite reasonably and even handedly I thought, gave a negative critique of someone else’s work. Another commentator, taking exception to this, challenged the first person ad hominem by saying, essentially, ‘show us your photos then.’ The argument being, presumably, that if one’s own work is less than inspired, then one has no authority to comment on other people’s work. Reductio ad absurdum – if you can’t sculpt to the level of Michelangelo, then you have no right to comment on his work, if you can’t paint a self portrait in dramatic chiaroscuro, then you can’t comment on Rembrandt (or, flipping it – if you’ll excuse the fast food grill pun – if you can’t murder a hamburger, then you have no right commentating on any of those fast food chains that regularly come under fire for all sorts of things). I guess this would also mean that there are a number of art critics, whose articles I’ve enjoyed reading and whose documentary films I’ve enjoyed watching, that I must now disregard altogether. The reality is of course, that commentator number two is the only one here with an opinion not worth listening to. Moronic, to say the least.
I mention all of the above, naturally, by way of preemptive & defensive self justification.
With a bit of googling and a bit of Flickr mining (& and also Hive Mind-ing), it’s possible to find groups and pools devoted to one or other of any of the current favourite flavours of digital cameras. I’ve looked at literally hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of these photos recently, and I have to say, my overwhelming impression is one of complete, total and utter ‘meh.’
About half way through this recent spurt I took time out to watch a few films. One in particular really drove home the above observation – the BBC documentary The Many Lives of William Klein. Klein is absolutely brilliant. No doubt about that. Contrasting his graphic sense & generous observational wit with the photographs I was looking at before and after this film truly highlighted the absolute dearth of talent I was observing.
On the other hand, I guess that’s fine. While ‘photography’ for me entails the finished photographic result, for others it is all about the physical object – the camera & associated bits and bobs. And what’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Just that I never seem to hear people who collect watches bore me with a professed interest in the concept of time.
On t’uther other hand, search for “6 x 6” (and associated variants) and you run the risk of becoming seriously sidetracked by some seriously talented people. My gut feeling is that people who are focused tightly on the end result are, by and large, the only ones interested in luging around medium format film cameras. Too heavy for hipsters after all.
But it’s not all bad news. There are also some quite good photographers and photographs out there. I came across this photo (taken with an X100 no less) and I keep coming back to it. Literally. I’ve revisited it and looked at it at length over quite a number of days. I think it is fantastic. Hard to say why in totality, but I can point to parts of it in part explanation. I really like the colours – not that I mean they are just pleasant in their own right, but rather, they just seem to fit. I love the heavy feel of the curling smoke (like it’s about to twist into something more tangible). I am smitten with the glow on the woman’s face (shades of a certain briefcase in Pulp Fiction*). The transitioning tonality top to bottom is sublime, and the layered depth, both in visual terms and terms of meaning, are astounding. It’s just fecking groovy.
Oh, and having taken the time to write that, it reminds me of a story: two great white hunters are standing around looking at a lion in a cage. First great white hunter says to the second great white hunter, “Great capture!” To which the second great white hunter responds, “How the hell would you know, you weren’t there.” I think it was the inane comments to the inane photographs that tipped me over the edge.
Thus endeth my rant.
Typed while Chan Marshall articulates for me.
* idiot that I am, I only just realised when trotting out this well worn expression, that “shade” in this case may well come from the ancient Roman concept of a ghost. D’oh!