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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):

1. Teenagers
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!


Anonymous said...

What about a waif-like hipster laying on a bed with a blank stare?

Or, uninteresting people in front of very interesting wallpaper?

And don't forget the gas station. Additional points for a gas station at night.

Anonymous said...

A great tongue-in-cheek article.

colin pantall said...

Top marks anonymous - damn!

It's a funny piece, Damien.

Anonymous said...

11-My friends/lovers/daughters/neighbours/parents on an old beige sofa?

Anonymous said...

There also seems to be an awful lot of art photography about shrubbery. Everywhere I go I see photos of bushes or shrubs or some kind of vegetation in an urban space.

colin pantall said...

Olivier and anonymous - the shrubbery/forest for sure (it sometimes fits in the liminal spaces/edge of the city category), but beige sofas? Damn again!

Anonymous said...

maybe it should be "the greatest art cliche photograph ever"

Anonymous said...

hey anon -

1) locate tongue
2) maneuver tongue close to mouth lining
3) plant tongue squarely in cheek

Anonymous said...

You already referenced it, but last year my friends and I agreed the trend was "Creepy Kids". Even the family photography show at the Guggenheim featured a lot of them (including Dijkstra).

Anonymous said...

"Stuffed Animals"...WTF? Oh you mean "Taxidermy"!

Here I am thinking "who the hell is taking pictures of beanie babies and other stuffed furry toys?!"

Don't answer that! I know they're out there, I don't want to know...

colin pantall said...

Beanie babies and stuffed furry toys are a fine subject for all kinds of photographs - we'll throw them in with the mannequins for the dolls category. Elena Dorfmann, Hans Bellmer, Cindy Sherman and we're away...

Anonymous said...

Everytime I see a picture of the photographer's feet I can't help think about the cliches of amateur photography.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Just the expressionless pretentious face in general. Or the slightly clad girl "making a statement" about rape, or anorexia, or objectivity, but is really just an exhibitionist. ;-) I like the tongue in cheek take on the tongue in cheek--(and the title.)