Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Judy Linn - contemporary black and white

...well - and colour too. In my recent quest for who is doing contemporary black and white work, I saw Alec Soth had a post on Judy Linn. Apparently she's most well know for her photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith - non of which happen to grab me (and I say apparently, because the one picture of her I had seen before was one of her "knee" photographs from an upcoming show at Vancouver's excellent Presentation House Gallery - she does seem to have a thing for knees and calves)

Anyway, she just fits in my arbitrary criteria of contemporary as being at least a Baby Boomer. The main stuff on her current exhibition is here and here

The short review from the New Yorker is interesting in what it says about her small show being so disparate - seemingly very different subjects, mixing black and white and colour and so on - and yet still hanging together. In fact, while a nice tight theme can be helpful and provide a good security blanket for a viewer, sometimes a photographer just takes picture of stuff and things - what they see - and the real underlying theme is just the photographer themselves.

Alec also picked all the best quotes, so go there for the full deal - I'll just cherry pick a couple

The short review from the New Yorker: "This survey of thirteen recent photographs—some in color, most in black-and-white—is modest, quirky, and offhandedly shrewd. Like so many contemporary photographers, Linn tends to take pictures of things that are not very interesting: bits of bread scattered on trampled snow, a sunny sidewalk peppered with tiny buds, a blond woman with an extravagant ponytail, a pine tree in a flooded field, a solitary cow. But each image is at once self-effacing and just right. The show doesn’t exactly cohere (what does this woman in bed have to do with that dishtowel?), but no matter; Linn’s scattershot approach feels right on target."

And this from Linn:

Words and pictures by nature don’t agree. There is no good fit. I can’t say what I do or have done, but I know what I want, what I try to do. I can tell how I aim. I can’t say how I land.

When I began, I hated what I couldn’t control—all the annoying things I couldn’t see in the moment of taking a photograph, the crazy stuff that jumps into the edges of pictures. Now I like that part the best. But I do want to be accurate, although “accurate” is a slippery word. I don’t mean a quality of photography. I think Cezanne, Ingres, and de Kooning are all accurate. I don’t think Ansel Adams is accurate. If you look at a Hiroshige woodcut of a whirlpool, you figure it is a fanciful rendition because how accurate can a woodcut be? But if you go to see the whirlpool, you see that he is telling you exactly what it looks like.

I think when someone first looks at a photograph they automatically wonder, “What is it?” I want a photograph that easily answers that question. I want to be extremely obvious; obfuscation is bad grammar. Hopefully, the two-dimensional arrangements of shapes on the paper will be as lively and interesting as the three-dimensional world trapped inside the photograph. There should also be something there you haven’t seen before. Something should happen in the act of looking.

I want a photograph that makes me aware of what is physically in front of me, a photograph that gives me the pleasure of getting lost. It is like asking yourself a joke: not really knowing what the answer is, giving up, and then seeing the punch line and really laughing.

(and I had to include the one colour photo because my laughing nearly caused me to choke on my morning coffee when I pulled it up...)

1 comment:

Stan B. said...

Some interesting stuff. Recalls a photographer (forget name; back in the 70's) who got a grant to document Wash, DC. He immediately started taking B&W shots of cracked sidewalks and gutters with these giants ants walking over them. They were great, and needless to say the funders were not pleased.

Anyway, do these B&W shots finally push us over the edge? That is, are
we officially in The B&W Revival now?