Sunday, August 16, 2009

UNITEC School of Photography and Media Arts end of year publication "Forget Me"

I was asked by UNITEC photography students who are preparing their end of year publication "Forget Me" to write a short introductory essay, this is what I wrote.

"An American photographer friend with an impressive track record of major museum shows and great photo books said to me the other day that he’d just seen the billionth (I’m sure he said billionth) photograph on Flickr. And he said it was good, really interesting. He asked me, “What are we going to do? The world doesn’t need any more interesting pictures!” He added that photography had to be reinvented. I told him that if he didn’t know what to do how the hell should I know. And this is the dilemma all photographers face. As John Baldessari says, “why make a picture If somebody has already made one just like it.”

But there is a way out. It’s the way the photographers whose work you see in this book have taken. Simply, to interrogate their own practice, to study, to investigate the medium, to come to a place like UNITEC and learn from people who know. Not everything but something. Something worth knowing. To discover the process and the strength of a good idea and how to make it work. To realise and embrace the fact that photography is one of the most difficult of all art forms, simply because anybody can do it. To learn how to make it different and tougher and to accept that the best work comes out of uncertainty. And that there is never any arrival, only the journey, wherever that is leading. To learn the value of substance and integrity and authenticity. To focus on the work, the vast possibilities, and come up with ways of doing it better, doing it differently, doing something with it. More than just another picture on Flickr.

Even if all the photographers who made the work in this book never made another picture you can’t take from them the real reason we make pictures. The passion and perseverance to look, to question, to challenge, to invent and reinvent and to try and understand. Which after all happens in the mind long before you even pick up a camera."

Harvey Benge

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