Friday, March 12, 2010

A response to a review of a show I'm in

I have one picture at Seattle's Photographic Center Northwest in a show called Exposed: Critical Mass 2009. Here's a link to a review of it (yes, I'm mentioned) by Pete Brook of the blog Prison Photography.

Pete's review makes the work sound pretty appealing, but what I was most struck about the work  reviewed was its do-goodism. If I sound dismissive of social conscience, I apologize, kind of. But I have little interest in this kind of work when it isn't formally or intellectually innovative. Occasionally, I'll be drawn to it as intended. In the PCN show, for example, Carl Bower's beauty pageants in Columbia are fascinating. On the other hand are the pictures dedicated to raising awareness of animal welfare by Mary Shannon Johnstone are not. The pictures are upsetting. They certainly confirm my opposition to animal cruelty and, not that I needed much persuading, to death in general.

It's funny how photography works this way, divided perfectly between form and content, window and mirror, subjective and objective, facts and truth, blah, blah, blah. But I guess what I want out of art is some sort of mystery or poetry or confusion, something that adds to what I know or, better, challenges the way I think or feel. I know there is injustice in the world, but the mechanism of the kind of photography I don't like has a formula--exposing ills leads to remedy--which I don't find nourishing at all, even though photography can help solve problems. That's a big "even though," I admit. Using photography to right wrongs is entirely commendable. The social good is surely more important than art. But I guess I'm self-involved jerk (but let's just say "a man of feeling"), because nothing is more important to me than art. William Carlos Williams wrote, "it is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there."

1 comment:

ellen boughn said...

Agreed: I resented being hit over the head by dead and dying kittens. Does anyone need to be reminded that dead kittens are regretable?