Friday, December 7, 2007

more, and exceptions to the rant

Miguel and Matt have chimed in with more on the notion of "personal style" and yet again, I agree wholeheartedly. The distinction should be made between "personal style" as it refers to an artist's individual personality and concerns rather than their particular stylistic approach to the medium (But of course, in many ways, the two are tied… but I'll deal with that some other time). My point is simply that far too often the misguided approach to dealing with the larger, nagging question of "who am I?" as an artist is to choose a specific subject (or aesthetic gimmick) and repeat until there are enough images to fill a book or a site or gallery. Complex questions have no simple one-subject answers.

Though I sure do like birds.

I think this where we all start with photography... with an inventory of things we like. A couple years ago I handed my son a camera for the first time and watched as he walked around the house and took stock of the things that mattered to him, those things worthy of saving, cherishing, paying homage to, in a photograph... his younger brother, the cat, his Yu-Gi-Oh cards. There's nothing wrong with this, but in a sense, this is the most basic level to use the language of photography. I guess the trick is honing in and using the language to ask questions rather than inventory favorites. Or at least to find more than one favorite thing.

Of course, there are many exceptions to my ranting about solely subject-driven projects. When done well, with consistency and insight, tight constraints can produce great depth by demanding increased scrutiny of the differences that make each picture distinct. A lesson learned from Bernd and Hilla, among many others:

Nicole Jean Hill, from the series "Critters"

Richard Avedon, from In the American West

Saul Robbins, from the series "Initial Intake"

Brian Ulrich is another whose work excites me because of the depth of the project. In terms of shows & marketing, he's got the work out all over the place and could easily have moved on, but instead, he's mining for something deeper and much more profound. His Copia is about much more than shopping malls, it's Capitalism, Patriotism, and ultimately, about our tendency to search for meaning, and definition, in the things that we can buy, and then discard.

Brian Ulrich, from the series Copia

On another note, I finally figured out how to install a stat counter on my blog and I'm blown away by how many people have come across this thing... and then came back. I tell you, it adds a little pressure to realize that other people actually read this. Again, heed the disclaimer that I'm just another fuck-up who's out in the garage, trying to make it through the winter. Hello Serbia, Michigan, Italy, Nebraska… I feel like I've been wandering around a mediocre party and finally found a great conversation in the kitchen.

1 comment:

Mel Trittin said...

Happily the kitchen, by and large, is also the place where the beer and wine are kept.