First, a bit of opinion. Sure.
And if you get past that you’ll bump into a special After the Fact offer. Thirty-eight copies of the book remain, but there are only be four of these special offer-type things available . . .
ARGUE WITH SUCCESS
Keep it consistent, some will tell you. Don’t confuse the punters by making your photographs and projects too different from those you’ve already made. Especially if the ones you’ve made get lots of likes, if folks love the look of your images.
Mostly, I say, fuck that. I say “mostly” because there are photographers whose work I respect who have spent their lives plumbing one subject one way.
I think of my first teacher, Lynne Cohen, who spent, it must be, 40 years, photographing rooms. And Bernd and Hilla Becher, who perfected a typological approach with their images of coal tipples, water towers and so on. There are other photographers, too, who’s rigorous, single-minded approach to photography adds sophistication to the history of the art.
And of course there is room in a life-long practice of approaching one subject more or less the same way, for evolution, for the addition of nuance.
But mostly (and I know generalizations are odious) photographers get hooked in to some way of looking at the world and develop a formula for turning that into photographs. And formulas pretty much preclude discovery.
I think a lot of repetitive, formulaic work gets done for a few reasons. Amongst those reasons is a lack of imagination, getting stuck within the limits of how you relate to the world, and settling for comfort and the familiar.
Of course, some get into photography as a way to relax. And one way to relax is to not question what you’re doing, to blithely snap away, to know and follow the rules. I’ve got nothing against that, except for the fact that the images they produce usually prop up the status quo. And where has that got us?
Well, for some the status quo has worked quite nicely, thank you very much. It has allowed them to prosper enough to have the spare time and capital to pursue photography. Why would it even occur to them that things need to be looked at, approached and rendered differently?
It would seem that if you want a career in photography it never hurts to plug into, and exploit, the tried and true, the easily consumable. Give ’em what they want. And what they want is almost always familiarity.
And this gets me back to where I started: In the PhotoArtWorld™ repetition and predictability is usually gold. Find something that works (i.e.: sells, wins awards, gets lots of likes) and just keep doing it.
You can’t argue with success.
Or can you?
MY MISTAKE, YOUR GAIN
For some reason I made this print by mistake. Four images from After the Fact. Printed on heavy, archival Canson Baryta paper. Each image here measures 10 by 6.7 inches.
I’m gonna cut ’em out of the big print and include one of them (at random) in the next 4 orders of After the Fact. (They’ll be pretty close to borderless and labeled in pencil on their backs.)
Go here to pick one up. (North America only because shipping this, over 500 grams, anywhere else is way too expensive. But you can still buy a regular version of After the Fact and I’ll send it anywhere on the planet.)
“It shows near/far, involved/distant, literal/poetic images. Wonderful. It is intriguing, what am I looking at, what is the logic behind these photographs and combinations? The short texts, Brecht and Heidegger, well-chosen.”
– Hans Bol, Recto Verso Publications (Holland), on After the Fact.