200 words in response to...
… Jonathan Jones.
On the 13th of November, the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones published a blog post about photography that provoked something of a reaction within the photography community. His article (which is here) takes offence to the fact that at this moment in time, photography appears to have gained in popularity and is being exhibited in galleries. After viewing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the Taylor-Wessing Prize and some scientific images taken by a robot, his assertion is that only painting is good enough to be framed and exhibited, and that all photography should only be seen on an iPad or some journal. I’ve already posted something about this, but as part of the writing workshop, this had to be pared down to 200 words, so that is what I have done below:
I have a problem with Jonathan Jones’ comparison between photography and painting, with his assertion that photography cannot be art but merely “flat, soulless and stupid”. One second he talks about photography on the gallery walls, the next about some robot beaming images from a comet thousands of miles away. They’re different products for different purposes. I can make a similar comparison between his beloved Caravaggio and my lounge; both are painted, so by these (clearly flawed) guidelines, the same.
For a so-called critic, his observations are incredibly short-sighted, generic and, let’s face it, wrong. Art is not simply about the craft of a painter, but the communication forged with his audience, his “art” aspirations and the manner in which it is intended to be viewed. It would appear that Jones fails to appreciate the evolution from the Baroque, through an age of mechanical reproduction and the “flatness” of the Modernists painters and Post-Post-Modernism, etc. Photography is currently in ascendancy, perhaps at painting’s expense, and will no doubt fall away too, replaced by something else. At the moment though, photography is where it is, and there’s not a lot Jones can do to take it from those gallery walls.
To be fair to Jones, if you look at the fact that he mentions the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, then here we have a more “scientific” form of photography. Many of the photographs will not have been intended to have been viewed on the gallery wall as “art”, but then is that what they’re being touted as? It will be a photography exhibition, not an art exhibition. Where he does overstep the mark, at least in my reading of the piece, is the broad brush approach he takes to all photography. He would be outraged if someone was to do the same with all painting, to lump Caravaggio in with Pollock or Reinhardt’s black squares that were mentioned in another recent post of mine. They’re not the same, so similarly Philae’s photographs from the far side of the galaxy are not the same as a Hockney joiner or one of Crewdson’s composite images, or any number of other photographs intended to be viewed as art. A huge oversight in my view. So yes, I will agree to disagree with him.