Just finished reading a New Yorker article about a particular sculptor.
Got me thinking about two books I recently bought, both in the same vein, aiming to tell you why such a photo (a hundred or so in each book) is a masterpiece – though a lot of them, particularly contemporary photos, may at first sight appear rather challenging, or simply boring.
There was a similar series running in the Financial Times where the writer presented his favourite photos.
The point of this post isn’t to debate whether the selected photos really are great, what it means for a photo to be great, or how the books’ authors found themselves in possession of such insight and in a position to pontificate to others.
The point rather is that it’ll always be possible to write beautifully about something, however dull, and to find a way from that dullness to the viewer cum reader’s emotions through a coherent series of thoughts neatly packaged in beautiful prose.
That alone doesn’t make the underlying photo any less dull; it’s merely a reflection of the writer’s own, subjective – and entirely legitimate – appreciation of the photo (or painting, or sculpture); or, rather less legitimately, of the writer cum dealer’s desire to flog his boring, overpriced wares to meek buyers unwilling to question his authority.
True, others may provide insights that we did not initially have into a particular work, enabling us to establish with it a deep connection that can survive and develop independently of the initial insight/message.
On the other hand, once the “wow factor” of the message has worn out, if we’re left looking at the same photo still finding it boring – well perhaps it just is.