The Viewer And The Photograph


©2017 Dave Ortiz, from the series, Epistemology

Not too long ago a friend of mine, a fellow photographer, e-mailed me a link to a post from A.D. Coleman. He had this comment, “Finally someone has written something I couldn’t articulate but know to be true.” What was this writing? This excerpt was included in the e-mail:

No matter how pampered and groomed, how sleek and well-fed they appear to us superficially, can we fail to understand why, when we ask these starvelings to make art that might nourish us, they not only “prefer not to” (like Melville’s Bartleby the scrivener) but couldn’t possibly do so — even if they wanted to with all their hearts? […]

This apparently is Mr. Coleman’s critique of Post Modernism. I partly agree in the sense that the reason for this starveling status is that these artists were raised on a diet of corporate imagery. Their world is one mediated by images. They are awash in  imagery and it is no wonder that when they attempt to create imagery as Art they mimic what they have been fed – images to be consumed immediately, saying nothing that could not be absorbed in 30 seconds.

Since I have been alive for more than half a century I was able to witness  photography as practiced by the likes of Minor White and Robert Frank, born before the age of television and the supersaturated image environment we have presently; and photography by the so called “Pictures Generation” and beyond. Photography as message, photography in the age where nothing was new (so why bother trying) and appropriation was the law of the land.

So I see Mr. Coleman’s point. But Art is supposed to reflect the society and conditions one finds one self in and so I believe there is tremendous validity in what many photographers have to say. My one problem is that many young photographers do not go out into the world directly. There’s is a mediated, Googleized experience of the world. In my opinion they must step out of their mediated image environment. My one advice to young photographers today is – Face the world directly and come back with honest, unmediated photographic reactions to the world.

I consider myself an old fashion (some could say – out of fashion) photographer. I like to explore the world around me. My whole reason to have a camera is as an excuse to go out into the world and create images. The images I try to make are contemplative. They are not meant to be seen in 10 seconds. You have to sit and look and let whatever is inside you (psychically) bring meaning to the photograph. The viewer and the photograph become one.



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