Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three Bits of Art

Here's three quite different Photographic Art Projects, which I think illustrate, well, something. Hat tip to Lewis Bush over at disphotic for a couple of them.

The first is a book and exhibition entitled Predator, Lewis has a review of it here but I am unable to get a working link to the actual project's web site at this time. In broad strokes, it's a collection of found photographs edited down to a single theme, and the organized to create a sort of pseudo-narrative. It looks quite strong to me, despite my contention that this sort of thing doesn't work.

The second is a project Daniel Milnor started a long time ago and eventually dropped. The plan was to visit 12 towns named Paradise, photograph and interview and produce, well, something.

The third is a project, well, really a series of projects using LIDAR instead of traditional photography, to do various stuff.

The first two are basically an idea, followed by labor. In one case, the labor was culling, editing, sorting, and ordering. In the other, it was traveling, photographing, talking, and then it would have been culling, editing, sorting, and ordering.

The last one is basically a piece of technology in search of ideas, and so they recycle other people's ideas. "Horizontal Humans" is Sally Mann's Body Farm work, redone with new technology and neither ability nor courage. I dare say you could play a game of "who did they rip off this time" if you went through their projects, but I have to go pluck my eyebrows now.

I have said repeatedly that computational photography is likely to be the future. These three bodies of work illustrate, I think, that the essentials of photography-as-art will remain precisely the same. If you haven't got an idea, no amount of new tech will save you. LIDAR is not magical and special, using it and yammering about 3D-pointclouds is not going to magically imbue your photographs with Artness, although they may buffalo the establishment for a bit (or might even roll up into Performance Art somehow, if you play your cards right).

Good work is still ultimately about the idea. It's not about the camera, nor is it about the details of lighting, nor about your mastery of Composition. It's about having an idea, and expressing it competently.


  1. Oooooh, I like it when you do this kinda thing, gets me thinking.

    But that comment about Daniel Milnor, you didn't go far enough. Take pictures of places called paradise, is that the idea? if so, why? To see if they live up to the name?

    In that case, would that not be more like a motif? A thematic, ironic background against which you can express something about human nature. Or the cruelty of cities, or decadence, etc.

    Milnor here, for example, his idea was to ask people what it meant to live in paradise. A pun, an interesting base to pull of some wonderful juxtapositions.

    Of course, he seems to have fallen prey to the very 'create something' you describe here. That the strength of the motif would somehow spontaneously generate a strong path and a coherent presentation.

    1. Daniel was unable to execute his idea, definitely. I do feel as if one could hang something on the idea. Like everything, it would be work. A great deal of work in this case. The towns of Paradise are not generally near major airports.