A small skirmish is taking place between two contemporary Large Format colour photographers – both of whose work is sometimes concerned with the urban/suburban condition (among other things) - Alec Soth and Robert Polidori.
Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagra) often likes people in his photographs. Whereas I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person on a Polidori photograph (Zones of Exclusion, Havana After the Flood etc) – okay, maybe one.
A while back on his blog, Soth wrote about (among other things) the crop of projects and books coming out of the Katrina disaster – by Chris Jordan, Robert Polidori, Katherine Wolkoff etc and bemoaning the lack of people in the work:
"...I think these are all terrific photographers. And they’ve done admirable work. But after awhile I find the absence of people in the pictures a little frustrating.
Katrina is a good example of why I often defend the efforts of photojournalists. Certainly photojournalism has numerous faults, but I admire the attempt to connect the subject (in this case Katrina) to real people."
It gets better…:
"There were no people in these neighborhoods.
The place was empty. I happen to have a press pass.
That was the only way to get in unless you were
police, army, FEMA, or some other government entity.
The city was evacuated. What am I suppose to do?
Track down some owner and fly him him or her in and pose them
like stick figure props in front of their house? By this method maybe I would of taken 10 photos in the cumulative 3 months I spent there. And besides, and more to the point, that is not my intention. What more are you really going to learn from having a person here? My belief is that you should take stills of what doesn’t seem to move, and take movies or videos of does..."
"...Furthermore these comments about museums and galleries underpresenting photos populated by the human figure are ridiculous and sound as if the Great Lakes had become a Sour Milk Sea."who knew blogging could be so much fun – two contemporary photographic egos marking their territory (more comments from Soth: here)