Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who Is Going To Be Remembered

Ever wonder who, of the modern crop of famous photographers (or perhaps not famous) is going to be revered 50 years hence?

Did the world know that Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange et al know that they were going to be in a similar position?

Oddly, I suspect the answer is yes. Edward was being collected when collecting photography was unheard of. He was writing articles for photography magazines. Margaret Bourke White was on the cover of Life at a time when that was about as big a deal as you could be in North America. It's my impression that virtually none of the greats now revered were unknown in their own time.

The implication is that we likely already know of the photographers and their work; who will be famous 50 years hence. Kinda makes you think.

Will the revered be the current crop of Ansel Adams followers - John Sexton, Bruce Barnbaum et al, or will it be the photographers who took colour and made it art - people like Joel Myerowitz? Could it be the photographers who push the envelop and scribble on their images, use alternative processes to photograph the dead and rotting - people like Joel Peter Witkin. It's interesting to me that he's famous, but I can't think of a single person who has continued along that line who's name I know or who's images repeatedly show up, suggesting that common sense has prevailed - the originator gets the fame, the followers wallow in obscurity.

Who do you think are the photographers now in their 30's and 40's who are going to be revered in 50 years?


Mike Mundy said...

Of course, George Barr, whose oeuvre is now known primarily for his breakthrough "Machine Shop" series.

cabrabesol said...

I agree with mike. But i fear that it will be more a matter of statistics instead of names. Mass market has its costs.

George Barr said...

Nice one Mike, but I doubt that. The problem is that photographers under 45 typically don't have books published of their work yet. Of those older I think we can have a better idea. I suspect Micheal Kenna will be remembered - his images have a unique style, certainly Joel Myerowitz and probably some of the others shooting 8X10 colour of more ordinary and urban material, Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore. Not sure of how old these people are.


Chuck Kimmerle said...

In Lange's and Weston's time, photography as art was just coming of age and those serious about photography were relatively few. Unfortunately, nowadays, we're over run with many hundreds of wonderful and deserving top-tier photographers as well as the thousands of second-tier photographers who gain minor or short-lived fame.

We remember Ansel and Weston and Lange because they were unique and leaders of the art of photography. Not sure any of today's photographers measure up to those standards. By that, I don't mean in talent, as many of todays photographers are, IMHO, better than those three. Instead, I mean in uniqueness.

There are so many talented photographers today that it's almost impossible for any one person to stand apart atop the pile as in the past, and just as impossible for us to know all of them.

Sure, Michael Kenna will surely stand the test of time, as will Barnbaum and Clyde Butcher (to remain within the landscape genre). But I doubt that, as they have so many peers, any of them (or anyone else, for that matter) can rise to the individual prominence of the early masters.

chuck kimmerle said...

...except for George, of course :)

George Barr said...

Chuck has some good points here. Is it possible that with photography so easy it's attracted millions and out of the millions there are thousands of really good photographers, could it really be that no one will stand out from this period in 50 years?

For a start, I don't want to believe that, but of course believing and wishing don't make it so, Chuck may well be right.

Problem is, I can't think of a parallel situation - certainly not in painting - painting is still hard and a quick glance can separate the Sunday duffers.

What about music? Certainly anyone can play with music editing programmes and computer generated music yet there are few masters. There are thousands of rappers but few who are fresh, original, creative and likely to be remembered 50 years from now - could that be a suitable analogy?

Is this why magazines like my infamous Camera Arts makes such an effort to present the different, even to the cost of quality, just so they don't inadvertantly show 'Sunday duffers'?

Keep the thoughts coming people, this is more interesting than I had thought and I have a suspicion it's important to us.


Robert Hoehne said...

not me, I'm sure of that.
But it won't stop me doing the best I can do.

Mike Mundy said...

I'm wondering how important published works are now in the internet era. Also, we are now in the era of "print on demand" (POD) books. Dave Beckerman has a great introductory post at

Personally, since I am now in my 60's I tell everyone to hurry up and buy my prints . . . prices will surely jump up once I kick the bucket.