The word game or better known as the Tories pathetic attempt to put their spin on a word to try to alienate the working class and turn them against each other. I wonder If it had occurred to them that there are plenty of decent hard-working people who can’t work largely due to their own economic policies that have put wealth before people. Its based on on the myth of something that Joseph Stiglitz called the trickle down effect, you know the one, its based on the principal that if you look after the wealthy it will eventually trickle down to the poor. As Stiglitz points out though it dosen’t work, in 1850-1900 Briton was one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet had a level of pauperism as bad as many third world countries. He goes on to point out the same was true in the USA during the 1980s, very little if any of the countries wealth benefited the poor. So the play on words clearly and poorly designed is both insulting and hypocrisy, most of those sitting in Westminster don’t know the meaning of hard-working compared to most poor folk. And the only thing that has trickled down so far is Bull-Shit!
Published on Flickr.
A year down the line I finally got there. A big thank you to Anna who wrote the forward for the book, I’m honoured to have had you to write it. You can view and read the book by following this link:
The Discontented, a set on Flickr.An ongoing project that probably has two more years to run.
I was once accused of being very political in my photography, but in fairness there is a little bias in every photograph, its how you interpret it. I prefer my street work to be ambiguous leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions, a little too close and it becomes street portraiture and it loses the essence of street by excluding its surroundings altogether.
I was asked this week by someone about my approach to photography, the person in question was making reference to the fact that for my personal work I still work with film. I have a number of reason for this that are stated elsewhere on this blog so I’ll try not to run over old ground. Photography was invented, at least in the UK by a man that couldn’t draw, to aid his sketching he took to using a camera obscura, his aim was to make his sketches as realistic as possible to what he saw in front of him, his dream was to fix that image that the camera obscura reflected permanently on to paper and Henry Fox-Talbot would eventually succeed in doing just that. The essence which drove him to achieve his goal was one of truthfulness, to capture what was in front of the camera and to transfer its likeness to the permanence and physicality of something you could hold in your hand, the photograph.
Work continues when time allows on my second book ‘One Camera One Lens One Reason’ but as always with street photography its progress can be be very slow accumulating the images no matter what the photographic medium. But when shooting with film its even more of an unknown until you have developed the negatives. I shot four rolls of 35mm on my last visit to London and shot plenty of rubbish in amongst it, but then take respite in the fact that I am not alone in that respect.
‘You only know it when you see it and even then you may not even know that you got it’ ……Martin Parr
The Martin Parr interview can be seen here:
I had a argument once with a University lecturer, over the content of certain street images that I had taken for project, it was a preliminary view of what I had shot up to that point, I should point out at this stage that this guy had a fashion background. He liked one particular image and felt that the whole project should be shot around it, the image in question was shot on a day trip to London and was taken of a crowd of people waiting to go into the theatre. Now putting the cost aside of travel to London, which is a big deal when your a student, and the practicality of putting together a series of images that had any coherent feel to them based on the same subject would take time. Time when you have a deadline to meet does not exactly go hand in hand with street photography, its more off the cuff stuff and instinctive, you capture what happens to engage you at that moment in time. I pointed out to him that this was not a studio shoot where you can plan in advance exactly what you want and reminded him also that the cost of making such work would be prohibitive for a student in the time frame allotted to this assignment. It was met with much rolling of the eyes because he felt I was challenging his academic judgement which I guess in a way I was. Anyway I shot my own thing probably didn’t get the grade I deserved because I chose to shoot it my way.
Fast forward to present post University, and a few more personal projects under my belt I feel vindicated in what I said at the time. My current project and book has so far taken me to London twice, I’ve shot seven rolls of film and have at present posted 35 images from a possible 250 frames and I have at present probably 4 to 5 frames that I am happy with. And I now know from experience there will be many more trips and many more frames exposed before I have enough images of the required standard to fill the book.
In a recent interview Magnums Bruce Davidson stated the following : ‘I find that young people tend to stop too soon. They mimic something they’ve seen, but they don’t stay long enough. If you’re going to photograph anything, you have to spend a long time with it so your subconscious has a chance to bubble to the surface’ You can read the full interview here: http://blog.leica-camera.com/photographers/interviews/bruce-davidson-thoughts-on-a-lifetime-with-leica/
So I’ll continue to work the way I do because I believe in what I do and I and only I will know when I have the right images. I can’t explain that because I feel that’s it a photographic phenomenon that a photographer develops over a period of time, its a kind of instinct that tells you have a picture that ticks all the boxes.
So to the lecturer in question and in the words of Bart Simpson ‘Eat my Shorts’
As a university student you are taught to challenge and question most of what you read or see, if you are quick to criticise you are quickly told to have an open mind, but more importantly if you do question or challenge at least have the evidence to back it up with. As a photography student I found myself doing this often, even if only to satisfy my own curiosity, I started university under the illusion that all photography was art and yet had never really given any thought as to why it had been placed under such a heading. It was at the start of my second year when my own thoughts really began to be challenged, my brief was to put on an exhibition showing my own work. Placed in a group of five students we immediately began our search for a venue, ideally its proximity needed to be near the university to ease the transportation of framed prints. The first two venues could accommodate us but not in the time frame that we had, the third a well known local shop for supplying raw materials for artist run by a rather obnoxious woman, who clearly felt we were from another planet. We enquired about the gallery space and were directed up stairs to meet her, consulting the diary she enquired as to what we would be exhibiting, street photography we replied, she shook her head, ‘we don’t display photography’ One of my peers thanked her for her time and turned to leave, but I didn’t, I felt compelled to ask the question, you don’t regard photography as art do you?…….My question was not answered by words, but with a stare of disgust, as if I had uttered some kind of profanity, I smiled nodded and uttered the words, thought so as I left. At the end of my second year I spent a good deal of the summer reading and researching in preparation for my dissertation, what I uncovered during that period not only changed the way that I viewed my own photography but the way that I viewed art.
Art has become complex in relationship to what is considered art and the reason for this lies deep in it roots, I refer here mainly to the one of painting because this is the area that is as closely related to photography as any, and is the one that most people are generally referring to in relation to photography. But often I have seen people struggle when asked to define it, but the answer is really quite simple, in order to define something it is necessary to reduce it to its lowest common denominator. By doing so in this case, we need to go back to pre renaissance guilds of Florence of which there were 21. From the beginning, not all arti were equal: to the original seven Arti Maggiori were added fourteen Arti Minori as the guild system spread. . These guilds included seven major guilds (collectively known as the arti maggiori), five middle guilds (arti mediane) and nine minor guilds (arti minori). The key here is the word arti or art, a definition used to cover everything and anything that contributed to the infrastructure of social life at that time, ambiguous terminology that covered everything from shoemakers to lawyers and ordered according to their validity to society, presided over by Arte dei Giudci e Nota, (Art of Judges and Notaries), the number one guild. The vast majorty of these guilds were crafts that were passed down from father to son or by way of apprenticeship so that each guild could teach its own skill according to laid down tradition, while some gained entrance by way of association as suppliers to each individual guild. Painters or Artist, were no exception to this and gained entrance to these guilds by way of association, as they bought their pigments from the apothecaries, they were therefore granted permission to share the same guild as Doctors and Apothecaries being elected in 1314, before being granted their own in 1378. But as early as 1400 the argument to elevate art to status above that of other other crafts already had its champions, Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (c. 1370 – c. 1440) an Italian painter, who had argued that painting should be regarded as a liberal art and not a mechanical one, liberal arts such as poetry, discourse, logic and grammar required theory and scholarship, the mechanical arts required practice. ( Pooke and Whitman 2008:13). Cennini’s argument however is flawed by his own hand when he authored ‘Il Libro dell’ Arte’ The Craftsman’s Handbook, aimed at the apprentice painter, the book offered advice on technique and methods as well advice on lifestyle to young painters. But are not the very methods he described in his treatise one of practice and is not the art of producing anything worthy of note one of repeated practice and therefore mechanical by nature. The use of liberal thinking is one that follows after you have mastered your craft. A child does not become a mathematician by learning trigonometry, it learns to add, subtract and multiply first.
Paintings rise to prominence was brought forth by rapid economic growth of the ruling merchant classes,such as the Medici and the patronage of Holy Roman Emperors, the Popes and the King of France. Such classes wanting a visual means of displaying their power and wealth, it was also considerable cheaper than alternative methods such as sculpture. The prestige of having of having such patronage is something that the artist held onto tightly in its attempt to elevate their status to a higher platform than that of other crafts. In the later part of the sixteenth century academies of Florence, Milan and Rome were founded, the word ‘academy’ is significant here because its use implied one of intellectual status rather than one that was practical or mechanical. An attempt to once again to challenge the craft guild and elevate the status of painting above the level of other crafts, and it would gain further support.
Using Italian examples as models in 1638 a group of influential painters persuaded the King of France, Louis XIV, to support the creation of a French Academy. It would be instrumental in not only establishing painting as an academic vocation but its influence would spread throughout Europe where by 1790 there were over 100 academies. The first director of the French academy Charles Le Bron ( 1619-1690) laid the foundations for the teaching of formal painting, he considered composition and drawing as the basis of good painting and that colour was of secondary importance. Subject matter was categorised by way of hierarchy with history being the most prestigious. What Le Bron had achieved was proving that painting could be taught by applying a set of rules, but it could also be influenced by applying a hierarchy to the various genres. But what he unwittingly proved was that painting was no different to any other craft if a set of similar rules were applied and it was privileged to be supported in the same way.
The definition for me then at least is clear, that painting at least can be defined as an elevated craft, I can almost hear the howls of discontent at least from the some quarters of the art fraternity but all of what I have written here is based on fact via history, unlike most art work that incorporates fiction as part of the fabric of its make-up. Christopher Frayling, Rector, of The Royal College of Art wrote on the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum ”The American Customs & Excise definition of ‘a work of art’ is that the owner must be able to prove it is completely useless. Craft work is something else, though it can produce objects for contemplation as well as objects for use”(2012) Is not then the very fact that paintings are bought as investments, hung on walls to complement the décor proof that they are objects are for use and therefore nothing more than craft.