Sunday, November 4, 2012


Art, like everything else, proceeds by processes of evolution and revolution. That which is change, but not revolutionary, is pretty much covered by the evolutionary part. We see art made with clear antecedents, synthesized with some modest new ideas to create a new thing. This is essentially evolutionary. We also see art made with radical new ideas, art which is unrecognizable as art, or barely so. We see art without clear antecedents, or with clear antecedents which are not themselves art, or with clear antecedents from other media.

Photography, perhaps more than other media, leaves room for ideas and techniques from its history. The past is not swept away by the new, it continues, albeit with less vigor and practiced by fewer. We see wet plate technology applied to thoroughly modern erotica and social commentary. We will probably never cease to see new Ansel Adams styled mountainscapes, shot with ever newer technology and presumably with ever higher contrast, and eventually skies so black that neither light, nor matter, nor information can escape from them.

The evolutionary paths for photography's future appear to be well-manned. We see, however, little that is truly transgressive, now that the competition to find out who can make the most banal photograph of nothing appears to have died down.

What is trangressive, though? What form would a revolution in photographic art take? We have seen in the last century a great deal of confusion of social transgression with artistic transgression. This, of course, quite on purpose and intended to assert that the social and the artistic are the same. This is balderdash. Making paintings with your own shit is socially transgressive, but artistically not even interesting. Using a new kind of paint with a limited color palette isn't even new. The fact that it smells bad is even less new. Ultimately, paintings made with shit and similar works are evolutionary art liberally smeared with a dose of social taboo to create interest.

Artistic revolution occurs when artistic boundaries are transgressed.

What do we know to be true about the photographic arts? Invert those truths. Ravish those truths and leave them for dead. Dig past the truth to the problem it claims to solve, and then either solve that problem by other means, or render the problem irrelevant in your work.

Destroy the light. Make art of the drunk-chick-facebook-snapshot. Obliterate the full range of tonal values. Focus on the wrong thing - but make it the right choice; throw white balance to the wolves - but make the image true; Cut off the subject's head - and thereby make me understand the subject.

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