Panda Boobs, as Promised.
Can I be totally honest? I try really hard not to consume a lot of contemporary photography that skirts the art/commercial line. I do this for a lot of reasons, one being that I don’t want to be influenced and rip something off. We all rip stuff off, but I try really hard not to influence my subconscious in a way that might manifest itself in my images. We all steal, and I’m as guilty as anyone else, I’m just trying not to steal from those around me (if I can help it.)
A friend of mine invited me to a gallery opening by a small group of photographers and illustrators that have published a couple books and are getting a bit of press these days. I was stoked to go, I love openings, I love printed photos, I love the smell of freshly white-painted walls. So I’m leafing through the books and I’m thinking that they are all by the same photographer because I keep seeing models in Indian headdresses. That’s cool, I’m thinking. That’s an interesting motif to lace through your books. Except, it was three different photographers. All part of the same collective. And that seriously bummed me out. So I’ve compiled a short list of trends that I’d like to not see for a looooooooooooooong time.
I’m not upset that you’ve appropriated the most racist thing you could have from Native Americans aside from the Tomahawk Chop. I’m all about mixing things up and starting a little controversy. I’m upset at this weird, youth-worship, care free, “I smoke cigarettes and wear a headdress cause I’m so fucking young and creative and different.” AND that everyone is doing it.
I was completely behind high waists from a fashion perspective but you’re beating me over the head with it. I can’t open tumblr without seeing 100 badly cropped photos of twiggy girls in these shorts that are pulled up so high they make my vagina hurt. A little is good. A lot is a rash.
Naked Girls In Animal Masks.
Again, the first time I saw this, I was really into it. Creepy. Sexy. I love those things. Are these photographers confronted with a bevy of models who desire to be naked yet remain anonymous? This is a creative solution to the problem. I can totally understand closet exhibitionism, and I would say that I PROMOTE it of all things, but this is not the way. And it goes double for those unicorn heads that are all the rage. You are beating a dead horse. (Ahem.)
Foxes. Especially Taxidermied.
Neko Case gets a pass on this. Everyone else, GTFO. Find a new animal to stuff and make boring.
Big glasses are duck lips for your eyes.
Crappy Does Not Equal Authentic. or Outsider Art Does Not Equal Good. Insider Art Does Not Equal Good.
I realize that parts of America are rebelling against education and doing a lot of teacher-hating and that some presidential hopefuls are painting people who go to college as snobs and elitists. I realize that there’s a whole contingent of people who are going to go to the Creationism Museum in a not ironic way. And, yes, there are many many completely non-scientific folks who are making up science on a daily basis and spouting it off as fact every chance they get. I’m not going to name any names but you know who you are and frankly, you don’t matter. What DOES matter, is that ART and ARTISTS are the safe haven in an otherwise fucked up world. Art is where I’m going to hide when some jack-off outlaws evolution and only white people can get married. (I mean, I’m going to hide in Canada, too, but partly in Art.)
What I’m seeing is a lot of hesitancy to embrace technical ability for fear of being an elitist. I say this as I am watching a very beautiful and well done music video by a band that tries way to hard. It is gorgeous, however, down to the makeup and costumes and scenery and cinematography. Until the boy-hero shows up. A waifish, pale, Marc-Jacobsy androgynous kid with these three terrible, awful, badly placed and horribly rendered tattoos. Many times it is the case that tattoos are applied in this fashion (in prison) and bad fake tattoos are in movies all the time. But this was different. These tattoos somehow lent credibility to the character, as if having a good tattoo by an amazing artist was just too highbrow. And then I realized that I’ve been seeing this shift in a lot of art, and so much in photography. There seems to be a fear that technical ability discredits the artist as being genuine. As if spending time on your craft was a way to lose your street cred. However, shitting all over an entire medium gets you big ups. It aches my eyeballs.
Being good at art is a combination of a lot of things, not the least of which is the inhuman amount of stubbornness to put up with the years of failure and trial and error and failure and failure and failure on your way to making your work. Be proud of that level of dedication, son! That shit takes some serious commitment, of which you should be proud. Don’t hide your intellectual/artistic prowess under a bushel. We need it now more than ever.