When it comes to going out into the world and photographing, some will tell you to photograph what you know, that that’s the only way (or maybe the best way) to make sure your photos have veracity.
Me? I don’t subscribe to that. Of course I’m not suggesting you parachute into a foreign culture (whether it be near or far) and apply some colonial mindset to what you see. We’ve had enough of that, thank you very much.
But I do think it’s possible, if you go slowly enough and are open enough, to get to know something other that that you are familiar with. Or at least to be able to render your perspective on, and your relationship to, that (other) aspect of the world. Your photos will (should) show your biases and your ethics, morals and intelligence. If, that is, the viewer cares to look at and think about them from a critical standpoint.
Sad to say, though, critical thinking is something that is sorely missing in the way many view and consume photographs. All too often reactions to images are of the knee-jerk variety. And those knee-jerks are usually informed by current modes of thinking combined with some fundamental stance that was adopted long ago and has never been revisited or revised.
But without consideration of the histories of the world, the medium and, mostly, consideration of ourselves, that only leads to an orthodoxy that often (usually) excludes nuance, alternate perspectives, the long view. It only engenders the entrenchment of what we think we know.
Thanks to the brave souls who made it to the launch of After the Fact. They braved torrential downpours and two tornados to get there. And when they arrived they were met with a completely dark gallery because of the power outages that were happening all over the city.
Weirdly prophetic, seeing as weather, climate change, is partly what After the Fact is about.
Eventually the lights did come back on, snacks were consumed, beverages were taken to the face, photos were looked at and conversations took place.
Amongst the folks that came was Ava. Here we are, Ava and I, standing by the photo of her legs that appears in the book. (Yes, she is alive, the book is a work of fiction.)
Colin Pantall wrote a very interesting blog post about how photographers having (spare) money (or not) affects the photoworld.
Here’s an excerpt . . .
I was talking to somebody (who appears extremely successful and makes genuinely great work. But is actually broke) a couple of months ago and she wondered if there shouldn’t be a consideration of the wealth of the photographer in evaluating work. If you are stinking rich and can afford that army of assistants and those high production values, should there be a little cross against you was what she was saying. Should there be a red mark of wealth against you.
It’s a valid question and one lots of people ask – but not too loudly.
A few years ago I posed this question on Facebook:
Should photographers who have a good disposable income apply for grants?
Well, a shitstorm ensued in the comment section.
First of all, many folks misinterpreted the question, they wondered how granting agencies might apply a means test to applicants.
But my question had nothing to do with granting agencies applying a means test. I was suggesting (in a passive/aggressive way, truth be told) that those who practice art and who have a trust fund, money socked away, a swell pension, a rich partner, etc., might consider stepping away from the grant money table, that they leave money there for those who actually need it.
It also was brought up that receiving a grant, being accepted by a jury of your peers, was always good for your career, good for your resumé and good for the good-old ego. And, sure, it’s difficult to argue with that.
I suppose, too, that that’s why so many photographers enter those pay-to-play contests . . . career advancement, acceptance, a line in your CV and having your photograph appear in some online gallery or (if you’re doubly lucky) as part of a group show somewhere.
Aside from a few that actually have some industry weight and a modicum of morals, most of those contests are just money grabs that prey on the hopes and dreams of photographers. You “win” but the only real outcome is an ego boost and another line on your resumé, another bit of news for your social media feed.
But, as Colin points out, having money is pretty much a prerequisite for moving your career along, and many (most) of the systems in place to “help” photographers do nothing to address that issue.
It’s good to see that, more and more, people in the photoworld are beginning to question certain foundations that world is built upon.
In Martin Scorsese’s documentary about Bob Dylan (No Direction Home), one of the folk singers he interviews says that in the early days of the Greenwich Village folk scene the question one musician would ask another, when talking about some other musician, was, “Did he (sic) have anything to say?”. That struck a chord with me because when I look (and feel) at art that’s what I’m looking for: Do you have anything to say?
Another question I ask myself is: Why are you speaking to me? And that question, why?, is a minefield when it comes to the arts.
Do you do it for status? For money? Is it a career choice, one where you’ll subvert what’s really on your mind in order to hit the trendy sweet spot? Maybe (and here we come full circle) you have nothing much to say but have developed a platform to say it.
I hear the word “art” bandied about with almost total abandon, people often call the most banal, crafty busy-work “my art”.
We all know that these days reality seems to be what you want it to be or what you say it is. We decry the fact that for some (invariably the “others”) truth is not truth and “their” perspective and beliefs seem to be based on some totally foreign (to us) foundation. And once (if) we get past our emotional, knee-jerk reactions we wonder why.
I say it’s time to apply that same scrutiny to ourselves, to our motives and to why we say what we say.
Got the proof of After the Fact this week. Looks bang-on to me.
It’s now on the press and I expect to take delivery by the end of this week.
Here’s some pix of the cover and the inside cover with the dust jacket removed . . .
It’s an edition of 200 and already more than 2/3 sold. (Thanks to all the folks who have supported this project.) Get your copy here.