relevance of the greats?
I should probably open this post with a disclaimer: the opinions expressed here are based purely on my limited experience and knowledge, and I’m particularly interested in the possibility of widening this experience, with a view to changing – developing – my opinion.
So… I can’t get a grip on how modern photography relates to those ‘great masters’ (mostly in terms of the still-life shots – those peppers in particular are in my mind) when the respective environments are so radically different – when photographs weren’t bombarding us in their thousands every day, when only a select few had access to the facilities required to create prints, and where there wasn’t a whole history of photography already in place. It meant that so many pictures were the first of their kind, and that made them unique, at the time.
Should everything that has come since automatically fall below par and be considered, well, not derivative because I think everything is derivative in some way, but simply bad because it’s not original, if you know what I mean… ?
Is there any way for someone to come along and actually surpass that, when everything has already been done and people are now going against what’s naturally aesthetic just for the sake of creating something different?
Thinking of my own pictures – I was back at the botanics on the bank holiday there, as you’ll see from my flickr stream. When I go to that place, I find magic. Every single time. And it’s just one place, and I’ve been there a good few times over the last year. A lot of the plants will be different from week to week, but there are some that I come back to, as the same plant, but with different eyes. Photography, for me, is about trying to capture a bit of that magic, not to show people what something looks like, but to show them what they might not see if they wandered round without really looking. This point is illustrated so much better by Andy Chen in his post on re-enchantment which I read and nearly shouted out loud “Yes! That’s what it’s all about!!!” after having wondered previously just what it was I was doing with my pictures.
That last rambling paragraph I suppose was meant to explain that even if it has been done before, I think it’s worth doing for yourself. And it’s annoying that the ones who got there first took away a bit of the appreciation for those of us coming along after, because as a friend said – you could go and buy some pappers and take some pictures but would you be creating your own, or would you be mimicking Weston’s image? But then – what is the significance of that photo in today’s society of image overload, and also our different photographic technology?
Sorry, no conclusions, just open ended questions.