New York 1999. It used to be a busy freight elevator in a proud factory on the upper east side of New York. Now it’s a parking spot for a New Yorker’s bicycle while he works in a pretentious art gallery full of profane works of art.
Much of contemporary fine-art photography celebrates the ugly, negative, sad and despicable. I don’t like it. It distresses me. I love art. I love great art. I dislike sifting through the profane to find something beautiful and uplifting. Who buys this art?
I’ll admit that the predictable and common “Bob Ross” art is a bore. I’ll admit that art purpose isn’t only to uplift, its purposes are endless. But my favorite art gives me a fresh perspective into the finer and more civil things. In the words of John Szarkowski:
Pictures are memorable for different reasons: some because they show us what we did not know: some because they show us differently what we thought we knew: and some simply because we could later draw them tolerably well from memory.
There are a row of sculptures at the Huntington Library in San Marino. They are marble busts of rich folks from centuries past. They are exquisite. Absolutely lifelike. I often catch myself peeking around for the art guards so I can touch their delicate surfaces.
About 15 years ago I went to an exhibit of portraits from Yosuf Karsh. They were custom darkroom prints from his most celebrated 4×5 negatives. Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Ernest Hemingway and so forth. They were the most richly printed photographs I’ve ever seen. That’s my kind of art. Masterfully executed, simple subject matter that makes you think to yourself “how’d they do that?”
I shot this image onto the fine grit sandpaper of tri-x film. Leica m6, 35mm summicron lens. That camera is a work of art.