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the attraction of rubbish photos

Ever remarked how compelling crappy photos can sometimes be ?

Last weekend I had a bit of time to kill after bringing my son to a crafts event so I thought I'd go see what was on at the Centre de la Photographie here in Geneva.

There was a show by a German photographer whose name I've since forgotten, with something of a war theme.

The things in each frame were indifferently photographed, and the photos (very) badly printed. It was evidently intentional and the photos were grouped in various sets. One was made up of photos of all different kinds of bombs and missiles in absurd domestic settings; another included several photos which were diptychs with an attractive young woman on the left and a war scene on the right, where you couldn't quite figure out if and how both sides were somehow related. All indiffently/badly photographed, and horribly printed.

But It was compelling for a number of reasons:

First, you wondered and wondered, without really finding an answer, as to why the artist was so deliberately shoddy about his framing, focusing and printing (or his selection of photographs if they weren't his, which wasn't entirely clear to me either).

Then you also wondered and endlessly hypothesized about the meaning of the individual photos and sets.

Finally, you sort of asked yourself why you were thinking so intently about all this rather than just dismissing it as a bunch of crap photos.

Certainly, what got me thinking, and by extension accepting that this work had depth - though I wasn't really able to fathom it - was the incongruousness of crappy photos assembled in grand sets in a museum.

What if the photos had been beautiful in themselves and impeccably printed ? Would the artist have been taxed with superficiality ? The thought is interesting and paradoxical, but almost certainly, the overall effect would have been less striking and compelling.

Still, it's much easier to put out a load of crap, and it's therefore potentially a fine line between a bunch of crappy photos that are nothing more, and one that truly has emerging properties - i.e. depth and meaning - beyond simply intriguing the viewer.

Then again, an uncharitable and iconoclastic view may be that there isn't in fact any difference at all: our mind has a natural tendency to seek paterns within sets of things (for instance photos), and at the end of the day we'll always find one - and by association of ideas extract, or construct, meaning.

Be that as it may, I came out of this exhibition quite baffled, and for whatever reason it is probably one I'll remember.

Would I want these photos hanging on my walls at home ? definitely not. Might I want to come back to this exhibition ? quite possibly.

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