“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining.”
“An art critic who gives Jeff Koons a negative review is like a yelper who gives one star to the Olive Garden. The market has already made up its mind and institutional policy follows. The art critic confronts this consensus and tries to express an independent, individual opinion in spite of it—a thankless task. The art critic doesn’t change the art world’s systems of power; he simply gives them publicity by reminding readers that they exist.”
— From Vernacular Criticism By Brian Droitcour

A review I wrote of Joan Fontcuberta’s great new show at Media Space London, which explores the truth value and manipulative possibilities of photography.

Review – Close and Far: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky at Calvert 22

Dinner during haying, 1909 Earlier in the week I reviewed a new show of contemporary Russian photography…

“Grundberg also identifies another type of criticism as ‘connoisseurship’, which he rejects as severely limited. The connoisseur, of wine or photographs, asks ‘Is this good or bad?’ and makes a proclamation based on his or her particular taste. This kind of criticism…is extremely limited in scope because the judgements it yields are usually proclaimed without supporting reasons or the benefit of explicit criteria, and thus they are neither very informative nor useful. Statements based on taste are simply too idiosyncratic to be worth disputing.”
— Terry Barrett, Criticizing Photographs

Review – Close and Far: Russian Photography Now at Calvert 22

Village Day, Olya Ivanova It’s far easier to reduce complex subjects to clichés than to attempt to tackle that complexity head on.

Review – Dr. Harold Edgerton: Abstractions at Michael Hoppen Gallery

Dr Harold Edgerton - Bubble Chamber, 1967 © Harold Edgerton Archive, MIT. Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery…

"Many artists cannot reason logically about the drive that moves them, about the instincts that compel them to their subject matter—even if they rationalize prior to, or more likely, after the event. Such rationalizations, while useful, tell only part of the truth, and artistic creation, as any artist knows, often owes much to serendipity."

- Gerry Badger

(via laurenwansker)

Review - Under the Influence: John Deakin and the Lure of Soho at The Photographers Gallery

John Deakin’s Mantlepiece, John Deakin London’s Soho has a reputation for seediness and edginess, which can lead tourists to feel a little disappointed when they actually visit it.

“Children and young people involved in the arts should:

1) have a sense of ownership and control in the process;

2) have a sense of possibility, transformation and change – that the process is not closed with pre-planned outcomes;

3) feel safe in the process, and know that no matter what they do, they will not be exposed to ridicule, relentless testing, or the fear of being wrong;”

Today on Disphotic, a write up this year’s Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed graduate show at The Photographers Gallery

James Duncan Clark, Direction of Travel It’s easy to be cynical about student work. Some of it certainly is hobbled by youthful naivety, the desire to please others, or by the sometimes rather narrow requirements of courses and institutions.

In my latest post for BagNewsNotes I look at how social media campaigns are appropriated and resteered using imagery. In particular I look at the hugely successful #BringBackOurGirls campaign, and how it has been repurposed to protest everything from the kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, to Russia’s capture of Ukranian ‘combat dolphins’ in Crimea.

Photoworks recently invited me to contribute to a series of essays on photographers who have been overlooked or deserve greater recognition. Being contrary I decided to take aim at the question instead, and ask where the obsession with reclamation in art and photography stems from. Read my answer here.


W.G. Sebald on photographs (via caille)

As the world has slowly woken up to the genius of W.G. Sebald’s project there’s been an explosion of critical interest in his work, and the use of photographs in his work. I’ve read most of it and all I’ll say is that I’d much rather watch Max talk about it himself. Thank goodness for the existence of this very short clip, found and yanked out of the stream of history just like Sebald’s photos.

Few authors offer any particularly valuable insight to their novels when they talk about them, Sebald is one of them. I could listen to him talk all day…

(via conscientious)