Monday, June 17, 2013

Siege on Photography

I'm not saying I necessarily agree or disagree with these thoughts, but here are Siege's (AKA Clayton James Cubitt) thoughts on Photography:

1/ Painting is irrelevant. We've been putting colored dirt on flat surfaces for 30,000 years. Little has changed or advanced in that time. Most of the major advancements that have happened, have happened because of cameras, and their predecessors, the camera obscura and lucida. Painting is done, photography is doing.

2/ Painting is primitive. The medium is the message. The camera as an object embodies the heights of human achievement and aspiration. It says "We are Promethean, we have made this wondrous clockwork machine to enable anyone to make art like the gods." A paintbrush says "Here, not-so-clever monkey, dip this stick in your poo and smear it around on something and hopefully your mom will like it."

3/ Painting is ignorant. The camera is a passport to understanding others, accepting them as they are, and being understood by them. Artists want to understand the human condition, illustrate it, translate it, and record their own soul for others. More than painting, photography forces social interaction, negotiation, and sensitivity by the artist for his subjects. This is a shorter and surer path to understanding. A painter need not venture further than his navel, and most don't...

4/ Painting is elitist and useless. Any art suffers when forced to explain itself in base terms of sheer utility (in survival mode, I'd take one farmer over ten artists), but if reduced to even this brutal standard, photography wins hands down. Besides being a beautiful and enlightening art form, and a democratic one, it is also useful in the strictest utilitarian sense of the word. From science to justice to history, photographs are far more useful than paintings. When man went to the moon, he brought a camera, not a paintbrush. You do the same on your vacations.

5/ Painting is poor. Despite the romantic notions to the contrary, there is no nobility in starving for your art. The real money in painting (or any fine art) is in the secondary art market, which sits looking over the painter's shoulder, like a vulture, waiting for him to die, so that his work skyrockets in value. It greatly disturbs me that Van Gogh lived like a pauper his whole life, and every penny of the hundreds of millions of dollars his work has generated has gone into the hands of art dealers and collectors and auction houses. No art career is a good investment, but the demand for photography is an order of magnitude greater than painting. Even judging commercial art against commercial photography, photography wins, for reach, for volume of work, for income. Starving is for suckers.


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