I was very pleased to receive a pre-publication copy of Making Photographs: Planning, Developing And Creating Orginal Photography by Mike Simmons as I’ve the image above reproduced in the book. It was a bit of a shock to realise that it is over seven years since I embarked on my photography Masters course and nearly that since I took the picture. I found going back to college (after a gap of more than thirty years) a lot of fun and I learnt a great deal from Mike, Paul Hill and Greg Lucas who taught the programme. Although I’ve used photography since I was 17 until the course I’d always seen myself as someone who ‘took’ photos (and, as a painter, often abused them badly!) rather than someone who ‘makes’ photographs – pretty much the basic thesis behind Mike’s book. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in developing their creativity as a photographer (but I guess I would, wouldn’t I!).
It’s interesting that the use of photography as an artist is very much in the creative community at the moment with the prosecution of Luc Tuymans just the other day. Of course the case revolves around appropriated images rather than self originated but, like many others, I’ve done my share of that too over the years. Thinking through the case makes one realise how the explosion of the mechanised image over the past – nearly two hundred – years now, and especially the exponential growth since digitisation has smashed the distinctions to smithereens. I play about with both drawn and photographed images on my iPad all the time…and am thinking of making a portfolio of some of these at the moment…and it occurs to me that amongst the sources I’ve plundered are colleague artists, my students and famous artists and photographers whose work I’ve seen on my travels over the past few years. Ok I do ‘bowdlerize’ them more often than not but nonetheless… And I’ve been using other people’s ‘stuff’ ever since I was a student…
Adrian Searle makes a good case for the absurdity of the decision in The Guardian but maybe misses a serious point…after all the young Belgian photographer, Katrijn Van Giel has her copyright too. Ok Searle asserts that the painting is quite different to the photograph…and of course it is…as long as it is viewed as a painting. But of course (as the work is in a wealthy American businessman’s collection) most of us only get to see the image…and are just as likely only to ever see the image of Van Giel’s photograph…indeed nowadays its likely Katrijn has never actually made a photograph of the image…(ok maybe not until now!). Now the image is still ‘different’ to a degree but the subtleties Searle ascribes to it are pretty much lost on the screen that most of us will view it.
There is of course one simple reason why this all matters…money…and one of the things it points up I think is the relative ‘value’ put on traditional ‘art’ and ‘photography’ – those contemporary artists and commentators ‘outraged’ by the judgment are, I suspect, simply unprepared to accept photographic reportage as ‘art’…they hanker over some transformative mojo to turn what they see as base metal into gold. Heck I may even be one of those myself…I just don’t know anymore?