I've been struggling to put this together for a while now, how to get from my angry reaction to some sort of words on a page. Let's take a look at the fairly well respected small press "Another Place Press". Click anything.
Here's a bunch of pages from a book by Andrew Jackson:
and another from Roei Greenberg:
but it doesn't matter, the whole product of the press is the same. How does Greenberg manage to make that photo
of a car look so utterly lifeless? I can't even tell you entirely how the effect is produced. The product of a great deal of Serious Art
Photography is the same. I've gone on at length about the
"I Hate Germany" genre, which is the same, but in
black and white.
It's tempting to say it's pictures of nothing, because it often is, but clearly it is more than that. There
are photographs of people here as well, there are photographs of objects and buildings of geopolitical import
or whatever. It's not all just trash bin and curbs in Berlin.
What ties all this together is the relentless, deliberate, lack of affect. This is absolutely mandatory, as far as
I can tell, in contemporary Serious Art Photography. You have to wring out any sense that anything in the picture
has any emotional import. You have to remove any sense of feeling. The result must be both utterly numb, and utterly
Compare with this:
Not only does the kid (that would be the mighty and all-powerful Jessie Mann there) have some affect, there's a whole terrible
story present in the frame if you're willing to look. There is import here, albeit of a small scale.
It's tempting to say that the affectless modern work is trivially easy to produce (and often it is,
Deutscher Gefälschterstiermist was not very difficult) but a lot
of these things, the wrung-out, dead eyed pictures of people, these have to take some sort of effort? I don't even know
how to direct someone to look that flat, that numb. There's a branch of "female gaze" photography that specializes
in this sort of look, posing women (usually some particularly oppressed population of women) with a 1000-yard stare to symbolize
their oppression, but you can tell that it's a batch of women that would rather be and usually are laughing together.
Some of it is simply that "mom's taking a photo now look serious" look that children are forced in to at Disneyland by
particularly relentless mothers with cameras, or at least were in the 1970s. You can do it, by simply being savage with
your subjects, I guess. Make them ill-at ease and lost as to what they're supposed to be doing, and they'll shut down
to a sort of still, nervous and yet affectless, mood, perhaps.
I suspect that producing a complete and coherent body of work with a core that is so thoroughly dead requires its own set of
I hate it. I hate it. Not the pictures one by one, some of which are merely dull. I hate the giant portfolios
full of these corpses of photos, these numb, dead things, that people are making over and over and over, on