Sunday, October 3, 2010
I've just received a copy of Street Photography Now a new photobook edited by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren and published by Thames and Hudson. I bought this book because it has work in it from Bruce Gilden, who will be here in Auckland in January for the annual AUT workshop. Also there is work from friends Jeff Mermelstein and Wolfgang Zurborn.
A number of the photographs, I have to say, strike me as more THEN rather than NOW. Included are pictures that rely on "clever" irony and shallow visual jokes with picture elements mirroring other picture elements. The book's cover image is a good example, a low angle picture of people walking, the angle of their legs duplicated by those of the pigeon in the foreground.
Of course one of the most famous examples of this sort of picture making (with this same visual joke) is Cartier-Bresson's 1932 photograph (Paris, Place de l'Europe, Gare Saint Lazare) of the man leaping across a puddle and his stride picked up by a figure on a poster in the background. But then Henri's picture was made 78 years ago and is a much better photograph than Street Photography Now's cover photograph.
Surely street photography has moved on from 1932.
I like to think that there are two sorts of photographs. Those that I call "so what" photographs where the moment of engagement is fleeting with nothing much of interest in the picture for the viewer or reader to use to construct their own narrative. Then there are the "what the" pictures, those that have strange mystery, intrigue, enigma, where the viewer is left wondering what is happening, what has happened, what might happen. Those sorts of pictures can be read and interpreted, viewers can bring their own experience and subconscious to make a narrative that goes way beyond the photographers original intentions.
In my view photographs that rely only on tired, overworked and dated visual humor fit squarely into the "so what" category and are certainly not NOW.
But this is just my opinion. If anybody else has another take I'd like to hear it.
Posted by Harvey's Blog at 12:15 PM