Thursday, June 19, 2008

More On Who Is Going To Be Remembered

Do read the comments from the previous blog. A number of important points were raised.

1) with the advent of self publishing, being published perhaps doesn't mean as much as once it did.

2) there are so many good photographers now, what does it take to be remembered?

3) Perhaps the only way to be remembered is to be different just to stand out - I surely hope this isn't the case, but perhaps Camera Arts knows something I don't.

4) Perhaps the heyday of photography is past and no one is going to stand out and be remembered 50 years hence. I don't think this is the case, but maybe...

We tend to think of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams as pioneers but truth is photography had been around for 100 years when Ansel was in his heyday. People like Timothy Sullivan were capturing the grand landscape with huge view cameras long before Ansel. Edward wasn't the first to shoot vegetables and nudes.

Throughout history each of the arts has progressed from the established to the new, the latter becoming the established in time if it's good enough.

There is still plenty of room for sharp, fully toned, well composed images. Take for example the mining photographs of Louie Palu - refreshingly new, yet not relying on any tricks, techniques or antiquated processes.

On the issue of 'so many good photographers', while it's true, few show us anything about the world we didn't already know. I suspect that those who will be remembered are the ones who were able to do so.

One problem with photographers who photograph modern life is that we are so familiar with it (after all we are living it) that we tend to discount it. Mind you, living it and looking at it aren't the same and photographers like Stephen Shore and others are appreciated by those who realize that showing us ourselves is important now and even more important in the future.


mkinsman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mkinsman said...

Perhaps the model we use to measure this is the problem, as that too, is changing. With social sites like pbase and flickr posting thousands of images per minute - the method of recognition itself is changing. The old model lifestyle of photographer is morphing into something still being defined. Does this change how / who is recognized as for what they do? What would Ansel or Edward be doing if alive today? Would they be unique? What about Bresson? Perhaps it is because we are too close to it daily that we cannot see it until it reaches a certain critical mass. Maybe it just means - photograph and worry about this later? Maybe these databases of online photos become the shoebox undiscovered until many years later?

Mauro Thon said...

I do not think that nobody will remembered. There are lots to be remembered, in the last 10 years i have seen so much more good photography than in the previous BD 30 years. But maybe it is better to say that in the last 10 years i "knew" instead of "seen". Mass market was busily selling SLR when i was young.

I have found an amusing picture resuming this discussion at:

the post is about wine but strictly related.

Joe Lipka said...

"Perhaps the only way to be remembered is to be different just to stand out - I surely hope this isn't the case, but perhaps Camera Arts knows something I don't."

That's funny. The fact that it is true makes it even funnier. The real arbiter of "goodness" is endurance. You might be famous today, but the real test is will you be considered good twenty, fifty or one hundred years from now.

The good stuff doesn't grab you by the lapels, shake you and scream "notice me". That seems like an immature type of art. Polite, refined, and precise communication of an artistic vision will persevere and be considered great in the long run.

How rare it is to be recognized in ones' own life time.

George Barr said...

Joe has a point - perhaps we haven't even met the people who will be revered in the future. Still, I'm not convinced that is the norm. It is remarkable, and often sad, how many composers were not recognized in their own time, yet the majority of those who are now famous - Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert et al were in fact famous. Sometimes a particular piece of music was booed when first presented, but the composers themselves were already famous. The photographers we now think of as famous from 50 years ago had large reputations even then - Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, and so on. Picasso was certainly a giant within his lifetime. Certainly the Beetles were famous 40 years ago and it seems unlikely they are going to be forgotten and replaced by someone unheard of within the next ten years. Michaelangelo didn't get to paint the cistine chapel because he was an unheard of newly discovered artist. The vast majority of painters in those days were only able to paint because of their reputations - they hired themselves out to paint 'important' people and their wives, religious scenes to decorate churches and so on. They were the best of their time and were hired accordingly.

Certainly there are a number of photographers who were discovered in their dotage or after death, Atget being one of them, but I think they are the exception rather than the rule.

All this being the case, I would still argue that most of the photographers who are going to be revered 50 years hence are likely to be known to us now, already admired, already with a reputation, already getting published in books and magazines, writing articles and making money.

The question is - will it be Cindy Sherman or Bruce Barnbaum, Olivia Parker or John Sexton?


Adrian said...

I think your implied question is, "who of the ones praised now will be forgotten?"