Saturday, March 24, 2007

Yesterday's Photo Experience

I've slept on it, I've thought about it, I've waited.
I've got to say something.
I looked at two entirely different photographer's work yesterday and I've come to a more specific understanding about my own work.
After lunch with my friend Dell, I went back to the MFA H and looked at the work of Sid Grossman.
My friend David says that Grossman was a better photographer than Robert Frank and certainly in at least one respect I have to agree.
Grossman's "street" work from the "Black Christ" the "Fulton Fish Market" and even the "gruesomes" all show me a closeness and a connection to the people being photographed that I just don't see in Frank's work. While I am very much a fan of "the Americans" in comparison to Grossman's work, they seem somehow distant or detached.
It's seems clear to me that Sid was truly one of those he was picturing. He was "one of the people" or at least he thought of himself that way, while the Swiss, Robert Frank certainly was not. As my friend David says, Frank was good at promoting his work while Grossman was not.
Speaking of promotion, the bulk of the pictures I saw last night at the University of Houston certainly benefit from promotion.
Many thanks to the university for having the wisdom to create the new department of Visual Studies, it sounds like a good idea, time will tell, depending on what they do with it.
I"m my opinion the wet collodian process was a step along the way that died because,
1. It's difficult as hell to make a plate that's any good.
2. It's at least as difficult to turn that wet plate into a negative that's any good.
3. It's generally a pain in the ass to fool with the whole mess and did I mention that it doesn't work very well.
That's why the process died or tried to become extinct. which is exactly where it belongs.
But who am I to argue with a great artist like Sally Mann?
She tried to explain to me that what she was doing was in fact art when all I could see was bad photography.
It sure looks to me like her best work is behind her and her early work is wonderful, even the derivative early landscapes.
But then I have to remember that Sally's an ARTIST and her adoring public was out in force last night. It was a great night for the University and their new visual studies program, it was an unfortunate experience for those who wanted to see some good photography.

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