Symptoms of humanistic multi-layered photography
I hope that in the near future, the Internet space that I have just created will become a place for a free exchange of interesting comments and thoughts related to photography.
For a good start, I am publishing here an interesting text spontaneously sent to me by Piotr Denis, a text in which he discusses important topics related to contemporary photography. I was very happy about this article, especially since I found it was very in line with my own feelings, which I expressed earlier in the text titled “Fear of being an average photographer.”
I give you the words and photo by Piotr Denis:
Symptoms of humanistic multi-layered photography
I decided to write a few words on this topic after months of observing two quite significant and opinion-forming photographic spaces on the Internet – Lens Blog (New York Times) and Burn Magazine (under the patronage of a great photographer D.A. Harvey). The text was not finished, but as I noticed that Tomasz Tomaszewski observed a similar tendency – I decided to release these thoughts.
Lens Blog was created to share good photography, this universal language which we are surrounded with, but in this case it was, and still is, supposed to focus on photographic essays of the highest possible level, or else cycles of individual photographs which have a common denominator – a common message. In turn, Burn Magazine was created as a place through which can make promising photographers and photo enthusiasts visible relatively quickly. Sometimes they also publish here works of photographers with extensive experience and proven achievements – but this is a rarity.
However, for some time I have had the impression that the level of photography on both of these “websites” has decreased. Simple, single-layered photos prevail, and while they surprise with their form (but less and less often), not so much with their content; they have incredible emotional charge, but it is difficult to even specify whether something is experienced by the characters on the photographs or by the photographer. The attempt to discuss intimate topics, cross certain intimacy limits and comfort zones of both the photographed and the photographer is quite apparent, but the effects are usually (again – this is my impression) unconvincing. It’s as if I felt in my bones that something is wrong, that this is not completely honest, or something is set up – posed, despite trying not to look like it.
Being passionate especially about what happened in photography thanks to the man named Szarkowski, or perhaps primarily thanks to the actions of photographers wading trails in what was in 1967 called the “New Document”, I am almost sure that what we now observe in excess on Lens Blog and Burn Magazine is a bit of a mockery of the reputation of photography and generates a space for endless undermining of its value, while also favoring focusing on the average – as it is shown on the referenced websites. Why do so few photographers try to observe the world in a multi-layered way? Why do we so often only see the documentation of things and objects that do not take on new meanings? Why is there a lack of emotions, replaced with separated beings? In the early 80s, Garry Winogrand said that we already know so much about what photographs look like, that we frequently copy them. But this is boring, and we will only be able to offer something new when we are both sure and uncertain of what we are photographing, when we try to offer with our personality something unique, but also complicated, maybe even mysterious. This is difficult because it requires getting to know, accept and like yourself – is it becoming something exclusive? Looking at repetitive imaging trends on Lens Blog and Burn Magazine – I think so. Perhaps, then, there is some disease that hurts multi-layered humanistic photography and we need an antidote. This, in turn, may require a counteraction – a simple, though not easy, task to look for and take such photographs.
In order not to wither away under this critical look – there are other materials – extremely interesting, intriguing, leaving no doubt that photography can take us to almost indefinite cosmic abysses, despite the fact that we are looking at fragments of the real world, that would seem well known to us. Last year, such materials were in my opinion, these:
They were particularly memorable to me and I gladly follow the work of their authors, you can even find interviews with them. I sense in them an extraordinary humanism and a real amazement with the world. In addition, both these cases show what I am really happy about: that to create amazing photographs it is enough to just go out onto the street with your camera, to systematically penetrate your nearest public surroundings and have the courage to approach it closely. You don’t even have to penetrate private spaces. Perhaps this is why I was so intrigued by that because I myself am constantly trying to look at the world like this – with wonder, looking for common bonds, which are often not obvious, with my eyes wide open as if I were an owl on the arm of Athena, filtering this look through my experience, tastes, weaknesses. Wishing such experiences to people dealing with good photography – I send my best regards.
Piotr Denis, February 2018