I first learned of Monk via his inclusion in this show but tracking down his photographs had been difficult until yesterday, when Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town was kind enough to email me a huge batch of images. I was immediately gripped.
It was funny to get this email on the same day I received notices announcing the finalists of Hey Hotshot! and Critical Mass.
I haven't yet reviewed these portfolios in depth but my solid first impression is that Monk's photographs —taken a half century ago by a forgotten amateur snapshooting bouncer— possess more grit, depravity, and raw wild power than anything I see in either contest.
My hunch is that if Monk's portfolio had been entered in these reviews, it would've been knocked out in the the first round.
I doubt it would even reach second base.
I'm not sure what that says about the state of contemporary photography, or about me. That the photo world tends to repeat itself maybe,
or that I'm isolated in my opinions or that I romanticize the past.
Or maybe I just need to get out more.
Regardless, I can't help pointing out
that the more that contemporary emerging photography courts the embrace of the art world
the more it risks falling in love with itself.
(All photographs by Billy Monk unless otherwise noted. Photos reproduced courtesy of Michael Stevenson Gallery, which is hosting a Billy Monk retrospective in early 2011.)