When the medium becomes the message - PS


General Photography

In a post I wrote a little while ago I said that I was not very interested in the photographic process, but in the resulting images. I didn’t expect to get that many emails from people agreeing with me. But I also didn’t expect that some people would assume that my unwillingness to consider the process when looking at photography meant that I’d be happy to basically accept anything, in particular photography that was done not very well (for an example, see a recent post by Mrs. Deane).

That’s not what I wrote, though. Of course, crooked lines or bad prints or whatever else it is that can result from a shoddy process bother me (provided they clearly clash with the intent of the work). But when I say I’m not interested in the process that means that of course I expect that process to be done properly - it’s just that I don’t think it’s very worthwhile adding it or using as a criterion to whether or not some photography is good or not, and it’s not a good idea to think that if you just do everything right with some complicated process you will automatically get great photography. You won’t - you will get photographs that are technically perfect and maybe challenging to do. But their artistic quality is detached from that.

(It’s like going to the symphony and then reviewing the music based on whether the orchestra hit the right notes and played in tune [which, admittedly, for some modern music is hard to tell]. That’s not what people do - and there’s a good reason for that. We admire master musicians not for their abilities to hit the right notes, but for their unique ways how they hit those right notes.)

One could argue - as a close friend of mine did - that I’m saying this because I didn’t grow up in the age of darkroom prints, where the print quality and the choice of paper etc. would add so much to the image. But then, if I find a Diane Arbus photograph in a newspaper (maybe somewhere in the Arts section) it’ll still blow me away, even though technically, it’ll look like crap. And that is what I’m talking about.