Monday, June 2, 2008

Artfullness Redux

Heather Morton is a freelance art-buyer based in Toronto. Her blog, Heather Morton Art Buyer is always informative and part of my weekly reading. Last week, Heather posted an entry called "Artfullness Redux" in response to an anonymous comment (not me, I assure you) addressing an issue that has puzzled me for some time now. The posting revolves aroundthe  growing trend in editorial photography for images that appear to be more like "snapshots" than images executed by skilled and talented masters of composition and light. The commenter makes the statement that this trend seems to be a "generational thing", something I agree with. There is a whole new generation of not only photographers hitting the scene these days, but younger art directors, photo editors and art department staffers also.

Heather attempts to explain/justify this trend in her responses... it's definitely worth a read. The argument seems to revolve around the issue of  the value of technique vs. the value of concept. The commenter, "Ben Dover" makes the following statement:

"While I strive to admire the ‘artfulness’ of the images, I’m more than a little shocked how practically all the images are essentially snap shots. Sure, fairly good at capturing a little emotion. But man, shooting hand held with a point and shoot and on-camera flash!? Imagine if Leonardo da Vinci just sketched the Sistine Chapel and left it at that. Or just slapped together David as a charcoal sketch!

I’m convinced it’s a generational thing. I meet very few creatives under 30 who appreciate truly great work. By that I mean work that evokes emotion but is also so well executed and lit it gives you goose bumps. David gave me goose bumps. No offense, but some of the stuff you reference as artful is, well… simply snap shots that happen to be well exposed. Is that all it takes nowadays?"

Heather makes a couple of good points in rebuttal, as do others on this blog... still I remain unconvinced and hold on the the belief that it is, indeed, a "generational thing" and a trend (although this trend seems to have lasted for at least the past 6 or 7 years at least).

The argument also forces me to consider the geographical factor when it comes to making editorial images. Much of this "new" work is created on the mainland, much of it for the New York publishing markets. By nature of sheer geography, urban environment lifestyles are far different from what we experience here as tropical island dwellers. In New York, Chicago, LA... there is a sense of personal isolation, muted/desaturated color, drab/grey skies where we in Hawaii live what might be described at times as a fantasy lifestyle in an incredibly beautiful environment with bright, very saturated color, closely knit communities... an altogether different experience from living on the mainland. Here, our editorial and commercial imagery is used to portray and/or sell that fantasy lifestyle.

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