B and B in high demand

While strolling through town today, Tim and I stopped into a gallery. After some conversation and the usual “sniffing out” of each other–us and the gallerists that is, somewhere in the conversation the issue of my upcoming graduate studies surfaced. Without a blink, the gallerist offered some friendly advice: “If your going to make photographs, make sure they are BIG. And while your at it, don’t make blue or green images. Yellow can be a problem too. In fact, a lesson I learned some time ago: if your going to exhibit in cool climates, make warm images and if your going to exhibit in warm climates, make cool images. And everyone loves colorful images.”

Is this really what it all boils down to? Is this the true commoditization of art?

I have to say, I really enjoyed listening to these pearls of wisdom. It was almost as if I was in a dream state imagining such things being said. I could barely believe my ears and yet right there, in front of us, was a kind gentleman trying to launch me into graduate studies in a way he thought was most helpful and generous.

Pinch me. This can’t be happening.

You may want to read a previous post on this topic if you have not already done so… B and B and the corruption of photography

B and B and the corruption of photography

Today I had lunch with my friend Costa. He is a remarkable photographer and is wise in his experience and image making. We realized today that we have been friends for nearly twenty years… perhaps seventeen to be more exact. Anyway, he has been a remarkable friend and mentor and in our too brief lunch, he continued to guide and jabb at the institution of art photography. There were two specific things that jumped out of the conversation:
B and B
Costa coined a great expression in describing an exhibit he recently witnessed at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston: B and B (Big and Boring.) While flip, it does address the scale issues I have been thinking a lot about lately. It seems that gallerists and artists and collectors have somehow been courted and won over by technological confections over innovation of thought. Big images hanging on gallery walls around the world have become the confection of the day. Just because you can print it large, should you? Where are the notions of small and intimate? And boring is an unfortuante truth behind so many of the images that have rolled off these amazing digital printers.
Photography has been corrupted by the institutions of art
This was quite the loaded statement. I have been reading The Photograph as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton recently. I have to say, that while Costa’s strong opinion on such matters often seems extreme, I found myself sympathizing with his idea. Our conversation spun around the issue of “truth” in images for a while. The chat brough to mind the James W. Loewen book Lies My Teacher Told Me. The premise being that in reality there are so many more compelling moments than in fiction. So what does this mean about Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson and their peers? The manufactured truth? The manipulated image?

And, if art has corrupted photography, where will photography find a friend? What does it mean? Does it mean that photographs are a thing of their own… neither art, nor commerce, nor trade? Maybe photographs transcend definitions:

From dictionary.com

v. tran·scend·ed, tran·scend·ing, tran·scends
v. tr.

1. To pass beyond the limits of: emotions that transcend understanding.
2. To be greater than, as in intensity or power; surpass: love that transcends infatuation. See Synonyms at excel.
3. To exist above and independent of (material experience or the universe): “One never can see the thing in itself, because the mind does not transcend phenomena” (Hilaire Belloc).

So our chat went on for much longer and covered a lot of ground around his Magnum Photo friends and his recent works etc. He is off to his annual Magnum meeting next Monday so Im guessing thats why it was all so top of mind. Sounds like that meeting is quite an event.

Anyway, Costa is a wonderful friend and a great conversation. I miss the times we had together way back when…