I loved it. Finally, someone explaining me to my self in a way that was completely believable.
I really like the idea that photographs produced by enthusiasts can be the equal to those produced by the anointed power elite. Beyond the obvious reason, and beyond what Brooks wrote, I have the strong sense that what drives the photographic power elite is commerce and narcissistic attention. Money. Me.
Money is not a bad thing. Don't get me wrong. Everyone needs to eat. Me? Well, didn't the Beatles sing about that once upon a time?
Money can change a person's point of view so radically as to lead them into managing "perceptions" of themselves (Me!Me!Me!) and their work. For the power elite, "perception" is more important than image content. "Perception" of the artist, however, can lead to stagnation. Again, as Brooks points out, few photographers ever produce better work after they have been "discovered".
About a year ago I was at a significant fork in the road of my own artistic endeavors. I needed to decide if I was going to don the cocktail party coat of "perception". I needed to decide if I was going to drag my wife around to cocktail parties and talk "high art". I needed to decide if I was going to put the time and effort into trying to become one of the photographic power elite.
After all, my wife and I can converse on a wide range of topics. We know our wines and food very well. We know our politics inside and out. We can speak to art and its place in culture and society. We can even dress up and look pretty darned good in the process. Alas, I knew that isn't truly me.
Through contrasts, Brooks Jensen makes a strong case for the photographic "enthusiast". Boy, am I ever glad he wrote on the topic so very strongly. I identify with what he says. I love taking and making images much more than I enjoy partying it up with groups of self proscribed photographic art "power elite". I enjoy finding ways of expressing my art more than I do worrying about how to pay the $50,000USD needed for the latest newfangled camera toy. I much prefer selling for a modest price my prints to folks who really enjoy the work than I would trying to convince anyone that a 30x40inch print of mine will help make them an acknowledged and well respected photographic art collector.
During my interview with Brooks for LensWork Extended #78 Sept-Oct In the RailYard he made two obvious points. These points are so quickly glossed over by the fast paced moneyed authoritative art power brokers that I feel too many folks don't even realize these p0ints exist. The Smoke and Mirror game has been very well played. Here's what I took from my conversation with Brooks.
First obvious point - In 200 years no one will care if you used film or digital to make an image.
Second obvious point - All that an artist can hope for is that their work stands the test of time.
In a society where money "speaks", in a culture where all that matter is how things are "perceived", in a country where all that people care about is how to get "there's", art is a nearly impossible thing to understand.
Its very useful to me to take a big step back and attempt to look at what I do and why I do it from the perspective of time.
I will never know, but I sincerely hope that some time, some where in the distant future some one will take a print I have made and find joy in looking at it.