The art of speculation
Last night Errol Morris posted a wonderful series of tweets:
For what it is worth, I subscribe to every single one of these assertions. But the fun part of reading this is thinking about the implications for fine art photographers. What does the clumsy and pretentious term ‘Fine Art Photographer’ mean? For me it means the kind of photography in which authorship is essential to the reading of the pictures. With this in mind, Morris’s 2nd point is key:
The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. (You can imagine what they are, but it’s pure speculation).
This speculation is at the heart of what we call fine art photography.When I look out Robert Franks’s window in Butte Montana, I hold in my head all of the other pictures in The Americans along with some words by Kerouac and whatever else I know about Frank and his biography. In other words, the intentions of the photographer might not be recorded, but their speculation is essential to the experience of the work.
This is a point Geoff Dyer eloquently makes about Frank in his book The Ongoing Moment:
“The pictures are apparently so casual as to seem hardly worth dwelling on. If we do choose to linger it is often to try to work out why Frank took a particular picture (what’s so special about this?)…The purpose of the photograph made from a hotel window in Butte, Montana is to confirm that the view, partly hindered by net curtains, does not merit a second glance (as such the photograph demands that we return to it again and again).”
So what is the photographer’s intention when he recreates another photographer’s picture? I’ll leave that for you to speculate.
Alec Soth, from the series Broken Manual, 2008