Re: And how sharp I am was/Re: Temperaprint & Gum

From: Judy Seigel ^lt;>
Date: 02/02/04-02:24:16 AM Z
Message-id: <>

On Sun, 1 Feb 2004, Sandy King wrote:
> It appears to me that the only person who has tried to narrow the
> range of acceptable work is Judy, through her suggestion that those
> who are interested in sharpness and/or archival issues lack
> confidence in their work. Which implies that only those who avoid
> sharpness and concern with archival issues have any right to consider
> themselves confident artists.

Sandy, are you in league with Shannon? Or the devil? Or are you just
trying to get me to say something that someone can dismiss as a "pedantic
insult"? Whichever,the fact is that civilisation depends on the ability
to make distinctions and you are distorting my point into something that
no more resembles my meaning than diddle diddle dumpling my son Horatio.
Or, as we pedants say, you have committed reductio ad absurdum.

Not only did I never say any such thing, if you can show where I did, I'll
send you the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, as your punishment I am going to
explain in tedious detail, although in truth you deserve far worse:

I don't think it's individuals who need super archival or super sharp to
bolster confidence (although obviously on this list some are more
concerned with it than others). I have the sense that it's the field as a
whole, that it has become so engrained and automatic, those who wish to be
"good" photographers internalize the value(s).

What led me to this conclusion, or if you prefer, hypothesis, was my own
schooling. I come out of a background in art, not photography -- I never
set foot in a darkroom until I was 48 years old. But I spent a lot of
years in "art school," beginning with the Art Students League at age 9,
then Art Institute of Chicago, and finally Cooper Union, at the time
(certainly in the opinion of their students !!!) two of the best art
schools in the US. Now it's true that Cooper was the heyday of ab ex, so
technical stuff and *materials* were beneath us -- we were *poets*! But
Chicago at the time was very academic and traditional... we drew nine hour
poses with hard chacoal. Still, in all that time, I never heard the word
archival -- we were ARTISTS and what we did was *art.*

No doubt that was too far in the other direction, in that some of the work
done then has gone belly up -- but plenty of early work did that even
sooner-- think Albert Pinkham Ryder, for instance.

I daresay that's changed as art changed, but I taught at an art school
within the past decade and had no sense AT ALL that either the photo or
art students had these concerns --which may have been an idiosyncacy of
that photo department, but my *guess* would be the general allover
influence of being in *art* school.

At an art school (and I've written about this elsewhere), the main
(unspoken) agenda is inducting students into the legion of *artists,* a
mind set and life view that's more important than any style or technical
info, because by the time the students reach their maturity, the styles of
their teachers are going to be obsolete. (The students' job is to define
*next.*) I never heard any student or any teacher in all that time make
more than a passing reference to "archival" issues, if that. (I truly
don't remember ANY, but am trying to play safe. Painting teachers talked
about "fat over lean" but that was for the paint to stay on, now, not 50
years from now.). As for sharp, obviously art, even "realistic" art,
comfortably runs the gamut from sharp to fuzz.

Anyway, especially on this list, but also among photographers generally, I
see a fierce concern with exactly archivality and sharp, even though all
ranges are accepted and successful in the *world,* with pinhole and Diana
and other toys probably bigger today than ever... Maybe there's been an
exit from this list by groups with that sensibility? (Isn't there a
pinhole list? Is there a fuzzy list?)

Of course list discourse, which is essentially *shop talk,* would cover
these issues -- a bunch of experts hanging around handing out/ sharing
info. But it struck me that it's lopsided, more extreme than seems
seemly, and the broadband assumption is that sharper is better. I thought
that needed to be pointed out -- and questioned. I compared it to my own
background and training, and what I know of the history of both media.

Nor have I changed my mind. It even occurs to me to wonder if Sandy's
extreme OVER-reaction is..... extreme enough to prove me right?

Oh, one more point -- about folks who, in Sandy's words, "consider
themselves confident artists." Sorry guys, you may consider this
pedantic, but I don't know a lot of artists who *consider themselves*
confident... They're always, including and especially, the best ones,
worrying, not satisfied, agonizing, fussing, taking something back and
re-doing it, and, as John Yang so eloquently (to my mind) put it, "It
takes a while to know what to throw out."

To me, incidentally, that's one of the satisfactions of teaching -- I can
look at a student's work and consider it *perfect.* I never think anything
I've done is *perfect.* There's always some corner, some value, something
about it I worry about, wanted to change, wish had been different...

That is, being confident that one is an artist and being a confident
artist are two different things. And being "pedantic" and being *clear*
are also two different things.

Received on Mon Feb 2 02:24:35 2004

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