Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Short Essay on Post-Contemporary Curation : Blogs

A beautifully written piece of literature from Vincent Tsang of On & Beyond that leaves us with one question. Where do we, as photographers, stand? or as Bloggers? While the 60′s had John Szarkowski to re-establish the balance between curation and photography. The internet is a much bigger Art Museum than the physical institutions...

"As I peruse through my regular list of inspiration blogs or properly known as moodboard blogs, I came to an interesting comparative theory. These modern day curators like JJJJound, The Impossible Cool or One Man’s Style, are no different from the classic ones like Newhall, Steichen or even Szarkowski.

First let’s examine the evolutionary line of being that defines photography as Art. We first heard of this theory through avant-gardist Newhall’s conception of what it means to consider photography on the same plane as high art painting or sculpting. While he failed to penetrate masses with the idea, it was undoubtedly a stepping stone for this unclaimed ideology. His focus on curation was purely artist-based; in other words, he preached personal expression and the photographer as an autonomous artist. Public mass wasn’t ready for this. A photographers work was imcomparable to the time and competence needed to achieve an oil painting. Visitors didn’t comprehend the concept of a presence by absence of the photographer which, at the epoch was seemingly viewed to be snobbish and pontifical; often criticized for being submerged in some esoteric fog. Of course, the rise of mechanical reproduction made it impossible to praise the uniqueness, singularity and authenticity of a photograph.

This is where it gets revealing. His successor however, Edward Steichen remapped the idea of what it means to curate an photo exhibit. With the help of Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer, four guidelines became the appraisal of curation’s organizational logic: space, color, elevation and most importantly typography. His goal? Penetrate and endoctrine an idea and specfic reaction by persuading the visitor to a, not so much biased opinion, but definitely a planned one. Much like these blogs, the photographers were almost or nearly considered a run of the mill. While I, myself as a photographer, hold no belligerent thoughts, it is simple historic fact and modern day truth. The photographer now became an illustrator of another artist’s ideas(in this case, Steichel); the designer’s hand soon became more important than the photographer’s eye. Nonetheless, he succeeded in grabbing the public eye, not because of the talented photographers, but because of the installations and the way photography was being displayed. During Steichen’s 15 year stay as the photographic curator and director at the MoMA, some of America’s most notable photographers went through unnoticed: Callahan’s formalistic style or Robert Frank’s romantic and poignant style slipped through the editting and cropping that Steichen allowed himself to do."

Trolly, New Orleans by Robert Frank
The Americans by Robert Frank
Cuzco, Peru by Harry Callahan
Untitled (#372) by Harry Callahan
 [Source] On & Beyond

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