Ever wondered why great photographers had/have never the eloquence to talk about their photography or about photography in general?
Coz they didn't/don't need it.
Coz the didn't have any street photography projects.
Coz street photography is a life long project with no start and ending.
Coz, even if they did have projects (rather assignments) to make a living, they knew there is something more than delivering documentaries, news, fashion, travel pictures, wildlife, nightlife, family portraits, flowers, revolutions, pornography, misery, glamour, suffering, pain, wealth, decay …
Coz they knew that the only thing that counts is spotting a meaningful photograph out of hundreds made.
Coz they knew that there is nothing out there to be discovered, until it has been photographed!
Coz they knew that "B-side-pictures" are those which stand out of the bunch.
That's why the only project in the history of photography that gave so many meaningful pictures was the Farm Security Administration's project on agricultural workers led by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange both fired, laid off, by the Farm Agency for not respecting the project's requirements. For the record, the "inspired" editor was punching a hole in the negatives he considered inadequate.
That's why Winogrand had no other project except serving his obsessions. Thank you Garry for saving the face for the rest of us.
Stop street photography projects, and above all, stop talking about street photography; but if you need to talk, stop talking about chaos and challenges in street photography, lose the "keywords", spare the world from your "wisdom"!
" .. drown in the magic of chaos, learn from your failures, challenge your luck, seize the randomness of the fleeting moment, leave your comfort zone, expand the dialog of the aesthetics, be honest with your experience .." .. is nothing than mere verbal pollution.
Instead, enjoy Corneliu's photograph (with no captions, comments or titles) made on a freezing 1st of January, when in the meantime others were having a warm "foie gras" (produced from agonised geese) and a Magnum (QFI) ice-cold champagne.
In my festive opinion during a yet another obligatory holi/holly day, abstract photography (no matter its artistic value, which I am not capable of judging) is a necessary exercise both for the photographer and the viewer to get familiar and open to the multilevel representations and transformations of street photography.
By observing the first two of the presented pictures (Patrick's and Dragos') we let them undermine our perception of what is real and what oneiric. Not without the benefit of subsequently "accept" more easily Gabi's distorted crucifixion and Rose's chromatic extravagance.
The photograph is no more a window. It is a metamorphosis with a new identity(ies). A street photograph must be challenging the documentary identity and authority of an image.
Not to be confused however with the erroneous (but dear to many) concept that any motion-blur or out-of-focus image is automatically engaging abstraction and surrealism; and respectively, sharply executed and spontaneously composed images are not necessarily closer to a documentary approach.
On the other hand, the above described challenge should not reach the limits of an obvious manipulation which would make the viewer loose her interest on a scene by making her doubt that this very scene or action has truly taken place.
To support the above, observe how delicately the images retain a sense of authenticity which implies a certain veridicality (rare in the digital era of manipulation) and allows the full deployment of the photograph's impact.
Are you reading all this? Well, don't. For this last article of the year, allow me to go further into deconstructing (again) the pretentious body of work of myriads of photographers (as opposed to the ones presented here). A work usually bundled with expensively paid reviews, then self-published, the whole packaged in a gift special edition.
Bresson said that "il faut signifier le monde" which translates into "reveal the world, uncover it, give it a meaning". I would take this further by stating that photography is there to give the photographer's life a meaning instead, and nothing else. This last axiomatic statement may appear so close to the Plato's "aphorism" on art having no value for us since works of art are simply a mere mirroring of reality. And this becomes even more plausible when we refer to photography, a mechanical process.
Shouldn't we leave art to the artists and to the critics, and start following what always was the initial drive of a photographer: The quest of her identity, first of all, and the universal truth's, secondly; only with not much time available. A photographer is an impatient investigator. She cannot afford in-depth reading or studying the human issues. She gets quickly overwhelmed by the phenomenological variety and the difficulty of explaining the world; and so she does what represents a closure, an instant truce with these demons. She triggers the shutter. The photograph is no more a window opening to a new experience. It is a door slammed into the viewer's face, into society's burden.
And I am perfectly fine with that. Aren't you?
I am realising that in SCP we have many anti-conformist artists flirting (again) with Dadaism.
The photographs of the authors presented here, albeit their visual confusion, and thus provocation at first reading, they convey a nonsensical and ethereal narrative after a while.
Rafael calls his pictures "Broken Dreams", Elisa's images are forcing an impression of distorted reality, George's are going further into fragmenting the imagery of the ordinary.
Moriyama called his pictures fears, D'Agata called them obsession and darkness.
Bottom line is, all the above fall under what André Breton termed "convulsive beauty" in the Manifesto of Surrealism.
The same goes for Kertesz's distortions, Man Ray's violin, Atget's shop windows ...
Dadaism appeared post WWI, hand-by-hand with Surrealism as an anti-bourgeois protest "against this world of mutual destruction." As a scream against the madness of collective homicide.
But why now, at times of relative peace, this cyclical re-emerging of the opposite of everything? Why still go beyond aesthetics, offending the established harmony?
It is because almost two centuries of photography could not convince us that perfection in art can perdure. Better technologies, cameras, films, lenses, sensors came to provide crisp images able to be magnified at gigantic levels. And yet, we merrily and happily embrace Man Ray's words: "I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea."
As a reminder, but also to accommodate complaints that overanalysis is worthless (sic), we will re-state the essential elements for evaluating a picture. Two in our case.
Context: Two photographers, 2 nationalities, 2 countries, the same sea.
Impact: Critical view on the society
Artist's intent: Provocation through irony
Composition: Active framing (the image starting at the edges and going inwards)
Technical quality: Well balanced hard light, hyper-focal sharpness
Expressive value: Contradiction and allusion suspending the realistic representation and initiating the questioning phase to the viewer.
PS: Is that all, you would rightly protest. Yes, because the rest of it lies inside each one of us and I can only talk for myself, which I will.
Yulia is part of the scene, she was there with them for such a long time that probably nobody cared about her camera anymore. Of course the jump is what made her trigger the shutter, but mind you, the rest of the frame was composed well ahead. The multitude of solitudes represented here are interrupted by this very jump but the viewer knows that it was only for a short moment. By looking at the picture afterwards, the protagonists would probably have wished that time were suspended this way for ever.
Michael is a skilful follower and observer but he can also be a patient hunter. Already the subjects on the right side would have been enough to illustrate a social comment. But Michael is widening his frame to include the replicants which underline the contemporary tourist invasion of the once ascetic, but at the same time idyllic, places.
More on Yulia and Michael
Dragos is special (he does film, expired slides, pinholes of all kinds ... mind you, digital too) so I wanted to ask him before going any further in commenting this picture.
Of course the dialectic part of an evaluation is accessory but it happens to know some details about his work. Hellas, not all of them!
So instead of partial knowledge and partial guessing I decided to ask him. But not before writing down my thoughts.
Is it film? The grain doesn't appear to be digital. Nor does the subtle grey palette, so complete that any colour would have contaminated this bursting visual experience. (ed: it was digital after all)
Do you think that people are important? They are not. They are props to fill the scenes imagined by Dragos.
Are they staged? Of course they are. Only that it is also done differently. The subjects are set, then left there until they start regaining control of the self. And it is then when the frame is captured. Forget that you may obtain these looks or body postures by directing human beings. (ed: they were only partially staged after all)
The author knows the difficulty (not to say the impossibility) of getting meaningful portraits out of consciously posing individuals.
HCB was saying that: "The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt." Dragos is putting his camera at eye level and looks through the viewfinder until he becomes part of the scene.
Observe the expression and the look of the girl. It is almost as feeling admiration then compassion for someone spending his time over there and over them. Like asking: "Why are you doing it?"
And the boy's gesture giving up his position and moving towards something else, changing into something we'll never know.
Last but not least, geometry. But I do not need to talk about this. It is obvious that the author masters it and joggles with it at ease. Circular patterns, tilted bodies/poles, fragmented shapes.
Why are you doing it Dragos? - Because I am there and you're not Michail! (ed: not his words).
More on Dragos-Radu Dumitrescu
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