“Uprooted from the Real: Photographers without a stance”


General Photography

There’s a post over at foto8 that states:

“What we find incongruous is that we are unsure of the basic moral position of the author in relation to the socially significant subject matter.”
As a generalized statement, this strikes me as flawed. For some work it might be a problem, for other work is will not be a problem. In particular, the question at the very end
“Is it in fact not the case that documentary photography demands a moral position on the part of the photographer?”
seems to contain a whiff of nostalgia for the good old days, when there were always clear divisions, and you knew which side was good and which side was bad. I view documentary photography that covers the gray areas, where things aren’t always only good or only bad, as quite an improvement, especially in the light of the vastly increased visual literacy of the average viewer.

I also object to statements such as

“This same ‘need to know’ can be applied to landscape photography, depictions of English life for example, that have so possessed photographers this past year. We need more than dramatic vistas or seductive tableaux, we want to know rather to know if the photographer takes a position on their mother country’s devastating record on inequality or the criminal recklessness exhibited by finanical [sic!] institutions for which the country will pay for decades to come.”
What’s the point of photography when you basically demand to see a certain outcome before the photographer gets to work? You may disagree with those who don’t have a problem with “their mother country’s devastating record on inequality,” but I don’t think a photographer trying to portray what it means to be English has to focus on any of the issues mentioned here for her/his work to be relevant. Such a thinking strikes me as one-dimensional.

Whether we like it or not our world has become considerably more complex over the past fifty years, and photographers adapting to that complexity - instead of striking simple/obvious poses - is one of the many consequences of this development. Ultimately, we all can only gain from this expanded breadth of photography, because it gives us more space to explore things, and to see them from more angles than just two (“good” versus “bad”).