Thursday, June 4, 2009

Two photographers in their own words

"...Secondarily, the geometric patterns of home and community begin to take on an archetypal quality which imbues the image with a charge which derives its potency from the precarious balance of the human and the familiar, with the disturbing otherness of the austere or baroque abstraction of those familiar elements..."
Jeff Krolick describing his project Elemental Neighborhood in the current F-Stop Magazine

"...The actual moment of my discovering toy camera photography was a fairly prosaic one. I saw a hand written flyer, made a phone call, met a man on the north side of town who claimed to be holding and we made the exchange beneath a purple sky in a Circle K parking lot. It was a small cardboard package, plastic wrapped goods, smelling slightly of laudanum and black earth. Cost me ten dollars. A dime bag. And it was highly addictive..."
Gordon Stettinius recounting his early Holga days in a blog post 2/22/9

I know which statement I find more inviting. How about you?


Ian Aleksander Adams said...

I feel words like "precarious" should be used with precision. They shouldn't build a wall of syllables that tends to get in the way of meaning for the average reader.

mikepeters said...

You know, I read statements like the first one and feel stupid and uneducated. Then I feel even more stupid because I feel stupid, when I should just be angry for having to read such claptrap.

How do people come up with this stuff, is there a school of obfuscation that I don't know about?

Does this person actually think of this stuff while they are out making photographs?

Have they scripted this so they get the right photos to go along with the words?

Or do they just make this stuff up when they are done shooting by playing mad libs with an art critic?

Or maybe it's me.

Anonymous said...

Much like Wagner's music, Krolick's photos are better than they sound.

- dmcguire

Blake Andrews said...

I actually like a lot of Krolick's work, so I don't mean to come down too hard on him. I just think he went a bit overboard on the statement.

I think Mike Peters makes a good point. A statement like this either makes a normal person feel stupid/uneducated or it feeds their suspicion that the artworld is trying to put one over on them.

mikepeters said...

Indeed, I like the work too. Statements can be such a can of worms for all of us. I'm sure Krolick will get much more interest from the "art world" with his statement than anyone will who writes in standard english.

Hey Blake, are you insinuating that I'm a normal person? Normal people everywhere will take exception to that.

Blake Andrews said...

Actually by "normal" person I meant layperson, or at least someone who's never written an artist statement. Photographers (that means you Mike) and other artists don't qualify since I think their understanding of artist's statements can be quite different than folks on the street. I like artist statements that can appeal to both sets.

Gordon Stettinius said...

Thanks for the nod - and link - Blake. The artist's statement as a general idea has been a longstanding subject of interest for me. I was warped fairly early on by being working as a photo editor in a fine art stock agency (an oxymoron to be sure but another topic altogether) where I was responsible for correspondence with fine art photographers on a daily basis... and the daily exposure to photographers in their own words was really kind of a subversive developmental regimen. I feel like the the ten dollar words and the tinge of self-importance are sort of the norm in what has become an esoteric sublanguage unique to artist statements. Maybe this started with PhD's cobbling intellectually opaque language for the walls and catalogs of museums? ...and then this high handed style can be mimicked passably while the substance of such writing is far harder for those of us without the years of study behind us.

Anyway, this is threatening to be an essay itself but I will stop short and say that, in my office long ago, we would often read those artist statements for pleasure as well as for their intended purpose. So, personally, I always try to avoid self importance and lofty sentiments if I can but at the same time I do try to indicate a seriousness of intent... which can be an awkward straddle definitely and my lowbrow sense of humor may not always serve...

Sometimes, those crazier pimped out statements could be an excellent guide into the motivations and mechanics of a given photographer's method but the wonky language can threaten to make them unreadable. Which is too bad really.

Anonymous said...

So on the one hand Krolick's artist statement (or "my artist's statement" if you prefer) is generally regarded as inaccessible. However nobody makes an observation about Stettinius. I find it to be a mildly intriguing anecdote embellished with one too many drug associations. It does not tell me anything about the photographer's work. In general the usefulness of the artist's statement is questionable. The work should speak for itself. The artist's claim upon it becomes just one of many perspectives when it is released into the public domain. So Krolick's statement can and should be regarded as pretentious, deliberately or inadvertently obfuscating and maybe revealing some insight into how the artist viewed his work at one particular moment in time for whatever that that is worth which is not much really.

Gordon Stettinius said...

I actually agree that toy cam as drug metaphor is overdone. It usually hurts me to later reread anything I have written. But in my defense, this was actually a blogpost written in response to a question about how one gets into toy cameras. It definitely was not an artist's statement.

But saying this doesn't indicate that my standard artist's statement is any more mature really. Just saying that I threw the written piece in question together to amuse moreso than to illuminate...