SUn in the bLOod of the CaT
Jay, B., (2001) Sun in the blood of the cat. Tucson, Az.: Nazraeli Press
from Pointing a Finger at the Moon, pp.13-17
I have to admit it: I am only interested in changing lives, not providing information for its own sake. It sounds impertinent and I make the statement with some embarrassment. I do not know why such admissions are awkward but they are, like conducing to virtue, or advocating Beauty and Goodness, or even Truth, or urging on the artist as spiritual seeker. Such notions, nowadays, tend to prompt the gagging reflex. But I cannot imagine the purpose of education if such concepts are not at issue. And centrally so. This is true no matter what the field of study, but particularly crucial in the arts, where the medium is, or should be, merely the tool for prying apart the barriers which separate the individual from a more meaningful relationship with reality.p.14
from How to be Famous, Sort of pp.27-32
… when John Szarkowski was chief pusher at the Museum of Modern Art he could create a reputation by stamping “MOMA Approved” on the foreheads of his chosen band of accolytes, which included Gary Winogrand, Gary Winogrand, Gary Winogrand and Whatever-Happened-To-Whatsisname-Egglestone.p.31
Now that Szarkowski is retired, the MOMA no longer has this power to create fame, so no point in dropping off your portfolio, not that there was much hope before, so you have to suck up elsewhere, like the saunas frequented by filthy rich homosexuals who are not photographers. This was Robert Mapplethorpe’s clever ruse, and you can learn a lot about what is wrong with contemporary attitudes in photography by studying his rise to fame. He was a second-rate professional studio photographer until he determinedly cultivated a rich friend/lover called Sam Wagstaff You must find your own pusher who is plugged in to the sort of moneyed clout that will do you the most good, but I cannot help you in this matter as I have never visited a sauna that I will admit to.
from Artists: Rebels Without a Cause pp.115-123
the divisions (themselves the most creative constructs of artists) between truth and fiction, altruism and commercialism, art and advertising, are meaningless. When I hear my colleagues pontificate on the purity of art versus the sordidness of advertising I have to wonder at their own grasp on reality. The boundary between art and advertising cannot be erected because there is no dividing line. This has always been true. Art, even so-called Fine Art, is no different in principle or spirit from advocacy. The chances are good that our ancient ancestors, like us, were equally complicitous in the selling/buying pact.p.118
practically all art history textbooks are so ridiculous. They talk about solitary genius, iconography, stylistic movements and artistic influences, with only brief asides on patronage (Michelangelo) and politics (Goya). They all miss the important issue: money. The real history of art is its economic history. Art takes place when there is surplus wealth which can be spent on the promotion of an institution, product or person. It is no coincidence that the major centers of art production throughout history have been the centers of thriving commerce
from After the Rapture, pp.139-141, regarding Michael Kenna’s night photography
This interpretation is a personal one, needless to say, and can be ignored. It is mine and in no way undermines whatever you see in the images. Its only pertinence is that I am writing this introduction and you are not. On the other hand, I do expect us to share a gratitude that these images are not overtly about the author’s angst. I am weary, oh so weary, of the emotional incontinents in contemporary art and photography forever chanting their petty philistinism. Michael Kenna is cool. His pictures are “out there” at exactly the right distance from self, oscillating at the interface between objective fact (this is what the camera sees) and subjective feeling (this is who I am because I made creative decisions).
I can remember the ve1y moment that marked the beginning of art-photography’s demise. It was in March of 1975 and Ansel Adams was asked to give a presentation at a national conference of photographic educators. His opening sentence affirmed that fine photography was inseparable from craftsmanship – and the audience of young academic “artists” erupted into boos. What unmitigated gall! The hubris … Still, Ansel was right, and it is significant that you have heard of Ansel Adams but everyone of the booers never rose above oblivion so were incapable of sinking back into it.
How refreshing, then, in this era of vapid posturing, that Michael Kenna reaffirms the truth that revelation of the subject is achieved through careful craftsmanship which can only be reached through painstaking attention to detail.
And this takes effort, and a lot of time. One of the puzzling attitudes, unique to this medium, is the notion that young photographers can brainstorm a project for seconds on end before banging off a few frames and claiming the results as Significant. If only. Then I could buy a trumpet, blow a raspbeny and call it music. It is a basic conundrum of modern photography that the antics of these young artists are not scorned. So I thank Providence that rare photographers like Michael Kenna exist to reaffirm that tenacity, long-term commitment, persistence in search of a vision and steadfast focus on subject matter are the characteristics that lead to images depth and significance. And surprise.
from Arnold Newman pp.151-154, quoting Newman homself,
I’m convinced that any photographic attempt to show the complete man is nonsense, to an extent. We can only show, as best we can, what the outer man reveals; the inner man is seldom revealed to anyone, sometimes not even to the man himself. We have to interpret, but our interpretation can be false, of course.p.152
Pointing a Finger at the Moon
Photography by Degrees
How to be Famous, Sort of
Footnote to Fame
The Black Art
The Curious Case of the Combination Portrait
Women in Photography
Back to the Future
Artists: Rebels Without a Cause
After the Rapture: Michael Kenna
Photographers as Exhibitionists