I love Hoda Afshar's portraits and videos from Manus Island (it's Australia's Refugee Devil's Island - you go in but you n...
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
The Greatest Art Photograph Ever
In the Autumn 2007 edition of Source, Richard West runs through the cliches of art photography He notes that, "...for the first time in its history, there is oversupply of 'art photography'. As demand has risen, so has production, and the greater part of that production is concentrated on the most prized of current subjects which, for the time being, seem to be teenagers."
Identifying cliches can be fun, he says and lists his top ten (I'm putting the numbers in here for him - he was too lazy to do it in the mag, or I've got the order wrong):
2. The city at night
3. Models (airfix or architectural rather than fashion)
4. Stuffed animals
5. In-between/liminal places
6. Institutional places
7. My friends/lovers/neighbours/parents and their dependency issues
8. Staging, re-enacting, or simulating events
9. Photographs that copy paintings
10. Anything to do with archives
Any more additions?
Anyway, you get the idea. It's entertaining stuff, but at the same time very much on the mark. The problem is just because a picture shows a theme, that doesn't mean the picture is about that theme. Just because something has been done, doesn't mean it has been done. The surface has barely been scratched on so many subjects which "have been done".
My pictures to look at (see various previous posts) all feature children (older ones in Dijkstra's case) and have commonalities of dress, posture, landscape and pose - but are not of a particular type and are about things that go beyond childhood and costume, but they are all of a certain plot.
In fiction, there are the seven basic plots. Perhaps there is an equivalent in photography. But that sounds a bit difficult to think about right now - so I won't.
Instead, I'll mention Richard West's favourite theme - stuffed animals. He can't get enough of them. "There are few photographs," he says, "that would not benefit from the addition of a stuffed animal or two to give an added philosophical dimension."
An example of the use of stuffed animals by Julia Fullerton Batten can be seen above. Featuring a teenage girl pretending to be dead, with a stuffed animal, and models, in a liminal space, at the edge of the city, at night, it is, according to West, The Ultimate Art Photograph!