Lucky Charms and other Photo Ephemera (Re:Crappy/Kappy Rant)

From: Jordan Lee ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 01/03/05-11:39:55 PM Z
Message-id: <007f01c4f21f$d27a12a0$dd97fea9@Jordan>

    *Warning for the casual peruser: the following is a long (semi-coherent) reflection. Read only if you have the time and desire to do so.I would suggest a nice Chianti while reading the following......
    I've been reading the Crappy/Krappy thread with great interest. This discussion reminds me of an argument I accidentally started in my college photo class. I came from a history major background and didn't really consider myself an Artist. More of a photo enthusiast. But then I decided to really pursue what I loved and became an art major. This created a dilemma. I felt like a fraud. I was only interested in the technique. I had no goal of expressing any artistic virtue. If I made a beautiful photograph (perhaps even emotionally stirring) it was a question of chance (so I thought).
    If made a picture that made someone feel.. say sublime sadness... then it was all accidental. I felt like I had tricked them. Because I wasn't looking at the scene thinking "Now here's a picture of sublime sadness". I just thought "That's cool" and *snap* took the picture. I thought that if I was a real artist I'd see the emotion and meaning in the work I was making and further develop it. That I'd create depictions of my *Vision*. But I wasn't. I just made pictures I thought looked good. (At the time I was mainly worried about contrast control)
    So the argument was am I making legitimate art? I felt like wasn't, because I was just working on technique. If someone felt sad when looking at the picture then that came from them and not me. I felt that I should be exploring the mysteries of the human condition to really be making art. So I was a fake because my emotionfilled (it's a word, I swear) art was made by cold emotionless means.
    And then one of my fellow classmates made a point that really stuck with me. He said, "It doesn't matter if you take a bus or a taxi to get downtown. So long as you get downtown." The point being who cares how much control/technique/vision/accident it takes to make the art. So long as it's art when your done (which ultimately is decided on an individual basis by each viewer). If you get there by technique then go ahead and ride that bus. If you feel you art is entirely accidental and are uncomfortable with that, sign your work as The Sum of My Immediate Condition (or God, or the Logos, or Anon., or whatever). If you like the happy accidents today and hate them tomorrow does that make the art any less valid?
    The fact of the matter is that most of the people that see your work will know nothing about you except what you've shown in the art (intentionally or otherwise). I might see it and know what it takes to make a cyanotype, and what that means to me. Someone else will like it because they like the color blue. Some one else will hate it because it reminds them of a dress that their nasty old aunt used to wear (and they may not ever realize that).
    For some discussing technique ad nauseum may be masturbatory. For others it will provide them with that momentary kick of insight that allows them to make a deep and meaningful piece of art (even if they don't consider it so). As for the person that was talking about their classmates telling them they need to bust up their Holga to get better (or more valid) pictures, I try to be careful of such advice because ultimately they are telling you how they'd make their pictures (which of course aren't your pictures).
    I may have gone way off topic here, and if I have I apologize. Having recently graduated and now being faced with the prospect of putting the faith in my art to the test I feel that this lies at the root of the argument. And this is the way I'm dealing with that currently.
Hope my thoughts provided insight for any who are dealing with the same,
Jordan Lee
Some final points of interest:
I finally decided that I was indeed making real art because whether I realized it or not, only I (and only I at that very moment in time) could have made that picture. So even if I though I wasn't including any emotion in my art I was really creating something that showed a unique moment in my life. (Pictures from that period are either way too contrasty or way too grey, and show me as a budding photographer).
Atget never considered himself an artist. He went out and took pictures that he thought would function well as guides for painters that wanted to paint pictures of Paris. Only after Man Ray came along and dubbed them art did he realize what he had done.
I'm sure I've taken peoples comments out of context, and I've probably said some things that I'll disagree with 20 years from now. So take what you will from this.
**shameless self-promotion... my work (much of it made during the above period of time) can be seen at, comments are welcome.
Received on Mon Jan 3 23:40:15 2005

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