My thoughts on Sean O'Hagan's criticism of the Deutsche Börse prize and The Photographer's Gallery.
From his article:
Director Brett Rogers has stated that the prize rewards those who "interrogate" the medium, or, as she puts it in this year's catalogue, "have consistently demonstrated a commitment to reexamining the photographic medium". In a way, that is a laudable manifesto, but it leaves a lot of photography out: straight photography, street photography, reportage, documentary, portaiture …
I'm currently reading Words Without Pictures, arguably Charlotte Cotton's most valuable contribution during her short stint at LACMA, and really enjoying others' takes on many of the issues I've had in my own head over the past year or so in thinking of photography in an art context, which is where my primary interest in photography lies. There's a huge movement currently, which Christopher Bedford has coined New Formalism that continues to lay the groundwork initiated by the prior generation, creating work that deals with the question, "What is photography?" It seems somewhat outdated to me, however - a banal question, yet so ubiquitous in contemporary photography discussions. That's not to say that I don't like the work of many of these contemporary photographers concerned with this, but perhaps I like it despite the concept behind it. Concept's nothing to me with the aesthetic.
I guess it's becoming clear to me that the photographers whose work I admire most, among them, to name a few, Jeff Bark, Katy Grannan, Lise Sarfati, Pieter Hugo, and Viviane Sassen (not to mentions the classics) are making work without centering on the question, "Is photography art?" or "What is photography?" These photographers know very well that photography is art when it's in the right hands and they are simply and directly shooting art photography without this emphasis on concept.