QUESTION: Why bother yourself about the archaic world of long-forgotten photographers when there is so much happening that is now? Why concern yourself with images that are so passé when there’s a new aesthetic that supplants those banal images of the chemical days? Why study outdated ideas when the world has moved on and left them in the fossil bin next to the dinosaur teeth?

via LensWork Daily.

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  1. WHY?
    Because the photographers of yesterday knew how to make a photograph.
    The photographers of today just know how to do really bad imitations and add a plugin.
    Or take snap shots and call it art.

    The emperor has no clothes and the towns folk don’t have the common sense to recognize it.

    • Eggleston took snapshots and called them art…

      • For the record, it was the art world who called William Eggleston’s snapshots “art”. His artistic contribution to photography goes a bit beyond simply taking snapshots. He was a pioneer of the use of color transparency film and later, the use of the dye-transfer printing process which yields beautiful saturation of color. This was during a time when the notion of the camera as a “democratic” was propelled to an art form. It was also during a time when the general population was not inundated or saturated with billions of images at the click of a button.

  2. Many MFA kids don’t know anything and have really bad social skills, and they are copying Tillmans, Mann, and Dykstra. Seriously. An MFA is, for many, a place to hang out and inflate the ego.

  3. History is bunk.

    You think great artists ever studied previous great artists. Probably not.

    • I repeat the ANSWER: So you are not a stupid, vapid photographic twit…?

      • Uncle Bob, Re: “You think great artists ever studied previous great artists. Probably not.”

        Actually I think in most cases, you will find they spent a huge amount of time studying them, wherever possible. Most art (like many other areas of development and progress) are always built on the blocks left by their predecessors. It is very hard to create something in a vacuum.

        As Pablo Picasso said:

        “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

        • Richard Avedon comes to mind with regard to great artist who’ve studied other greats before them. He spoke extensively of this topic during this lecture in 1994

    • There is a shocking amount of ignorance in that comment. A certain glee in being totally unaware of the subject on which you are commenting. Throughout history, artists studied the works of their predecessors, at times copying them stroke for stroke, to understand how these things were done. The great ones understood how to take what they learned to the next level, to improve on the work of those that came before.

  4. One thing that affects me is the rapid changes in technology in our time versus 100 years ago. Now, with technological advances, things move quickly in and out of style. Some elements, however, are timeless, and that’s what I strive to create. The ease of plugins, smartphone apps, editing presets (that someone has created for mass use, mind you) often attempt to mimic the look of old technology, outdated film, etc. But, in using these tools, we run the risk of overuse. The great thing about creating with analog is that those fuzzy Holga borders are never quite the same. That roll of cross-processed slide film is going to have a different color shift than the last one. Traditional black and white film still looks worlds better than digital black and white images. All elements are tools. I shoot digital for some projects, film for others. I think about what I’m creating and why. That’s why we should look to the old masters and the old technologies – pick the right tool for the job, the right tool for the art.

    • I constantly look at his work and think, “I thought I had that thought first, but he did it 60 years ago.” It’s very humbling.

  5. A few years ago I saw an ad from a maker of PS Actions: “Get the latest photographic trends, that your customers want.”

    By the time a trend filters down to the hoi polloi as an Action, the trend has become both passé and a cliché … and only the déclassé will use them. A true artist will find a cliché from 50-75 years ago, _and make it his own_!

  6. This person asking must be like 22-23. Everyone will always study previous artists to learn from the past. Why is it bothersome to study these people? Would you rather shoots all day and post on instagram when getting MFA? IS that what you are spending 60K for a year?

    I agree with Donnor Party, these kids have NO SOCIAL SKILLS
    These kids do not even know how to shake a hand no less hold a conversation!
    Half of the battle is being pleasant and and interesting, a good person to be around. NO one wants to travel on a shoot with someone with no personality.. or is boring!

  7. Put it all into influence.
    You see more of this and I see more of that. At some point we all recognize that what we see in common is of course kick ass.
    Your flavor is just unfortunately lame.

  8. Honestly, to what degree of subjectivity, or taste, do we not start being open minded about what we actually enjoy for the sake of pleasure?
    This is a visual pleasure market, not say an efficient visual market.
    Have you ever mentioned that one image in particular exhibited an incredible amount of visual efficacy for its genre?
    So why can’t we acknowledge that there really are very minimal number of experiences in this industry that are academic?

  9. One of the best posts to date, thank you Rob for inciting and inviting us to ponder the past….have a nice weekend everybody.

  10. Classic education is lost unless, it isn’t demanded by the younger generation of students. They are lost when it comes to social skills, confidence versus arrogance in their knowledge and ability, Their listening skills are an equivalent of the TV programming they grew up consuming.

    I rarely see a younger photographer produce work that captures my interest. They (the younger generation) have become enraptured with fast paced mediocrity of Instagram, Lightroom and Photoshop actions to create. Their knowledge of those tools are just as lacking as their darkroom and printing skills. To me there is an unwillingness to invest in time, hard work, and education.

    I have to say I have met some exceptions of the younger generation and they are far from commonplace.

    • “I have to say I have met some exceptions of the younger generation…”

      Fortunately, there are those of the younger generation of photography who embrace the history of photography while integrating the present. I was very impressed after catching a YouTube clip of this young photographer a while ago

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