The Concept Crap… eh… Trap

Concept is overshadowing skill in contemporary photography! There is another provocative theory of mine. Seriously, the stuff you nowadays see from established and newbie “emerging” photographers… (Don’t you hate these terms? “Emerging”. As in: I have just hatched from the egg, the slime and goo are still sticking to my feathers. *doh*) Where has good, old-fashioned proficiency gone? Is concept all and competence secondary? What is the key to making good photography?

Rusty keys growing from a tree in The Square.

Art has to push the boundaries both of its own genre’s conventions, as well as the society it documents/criticises/interprets. Photography is not just a simple representation of reality, but an art form in its own right, with its own aesthetics and possibilities. Therefore and undoubtedly, originality of ideas is needed to bring something new to photography. But some of the crap stuff you see in galleries nowadays just simply throws me.

What is it with monster size prints of “carpark with telephone poles“, “white blobs on blurry background”  or series of photographs with “untidy crap on dirty window sill“. Yeah, I guess you can come up with some serious meta-blurb about the alienation of society and the subjectivity of perception. Or the beauty of the banal and the reality of decay. And now jumble the words: the alienation of perception and the society of subjectivity. Or the beauty of decay and the banality of reality. Equally valid? Well, game, set, match Sonja – the concept is as interchangeable as the images. And the images do not even stand up by themselves.

Yes, this is some serious blasphemy here. After all I am using images from three established artists – Seawright, Goldin, Tillmans – as examples. I am not saying that subject matter has to be of superficial aesthetic merit. There is beauty in the mundane! But to get back to the beginning of my post: Would these images/concepts stand up, if they were produced by a new name on the scene, an unestablished photographer who does not have agents and galleries behind him/herself? I somehow doubt that. And yet newbies are being forced under the yoke of concept, when it comes to art photography.

The concept crap trap certainly puts me off from pursuing art photography. No, I am not advocating pictorialism. But I would like to see relevant images, that are skilfully produced. And I would like to see an equality of perception when it comes to new and established photographers. Or should that be a perception of equality? Anyway, good bye, bye good.

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