Photographers, try not to be this unthinking

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Photographers, try not to be this unthinking

Yale art-history-department-to-scrap-survey-course

My wife, who taught a section of this course when one of her students was Maya Lin, notes that like music, art has historically felt insecure and inferior to literature because:

  • It was considered a craft, unworthy of a gentleman's time
  • It has trouble conveying meaning and being analyzed, unlike literature

We see how photographers struggle to see themselves as important by imaging that a few photographers were responsible for social change, which they cannot but be observers and fellow travelers of.

Just one example of a great photographer making a fool of himself by trying to fill an empty mind with what he thought was relevant meaning for the future:

Touted as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Paul Strand is uber new to La Ghana Rising Blog's radar but we are already fans of his work especially those iconic black & white photos taken in Ghana at the request of our founding father, the late great Kwame Nkrumah in the 60's....

Strand did nothing to prevent "the late great Kwame Nkrumah" from ruining his country.   Nor, I would venture to say, did he do anything to accelerate its descent into deeper third world poverty and corruption.   Why?  Because it is just photography.

You may disagree, but this is fundamental.  Art deals with the most simple and primitive things - sight, sound, shape, form, human expression.  And using these primitive things it arranges them in ways that speak very deeply to the mind and the soul.   But these things do not translate directly into the more superficial forms of meaning that insecure artists strive for, but never attain.

I'll quote one example.  When first married, I picked my wife up from a "socialist study group" of Yale trained art historians.   I was taken aside by the leader of the group, who was teaching at Princeton, who said:   "Frank, you understand these things.   Can you explain them to me?"

If we just stick to photography, we will do much better than if, out of intellectual insecurity, we try to make photography something it isn't, at the expense of what it so beautifully is.

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