Purity in Medium: Open Thread
It's odd to be asked that question in the context of an art fair (which I was repeatedly) where since everything's moving so quickly, I'm never quite sure who the person is who's asking or where in the chronology of the debate to begin to answer it. So my stock response has been that I'm totally in favor of both. So long as the gallery declares what the process is, the resulting image is what really matters to me. Purists who only want to collect traditional photography (i.e., from film to negative to print, without computer interventions) need to be able to trust their galleries on pieces they're being shown, but that's the only consideration, IMO.
I note this partly in response to a lecture Tyler Green gave at the Brooklyn Museum this past weekend on the Edward Burtynsky exhibition. Apparently Mr. Burtynsky is a purist, eschewing digital manipulation in his work, and Tyler noted how he's opposed to the practice particularly as it's applied by the big-name German photographers. In fact, one series of images that Burtynsky took in China appear to be a direct elbow in the side to Andreas Gursky...as if to say, it doesn't take a computer to do this, pal:
Edward Burtynsky, Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, 2005 (image from edwardburtynsky.com)
Even photographers I know who 5 years ago were still committed to "pure photography" however, have very recently begun to sing a slightly different tune, often arguing that when there's no preceptible difference in the final print, and there's a humungeous difference in control and efficiency, the new technology begins to erase any concerns about purity. After all, in the end it's the image that counts.
And generally I agree. I do think there's still something to the randomness of pure photography...having to live with what fate delivers...that's romantic and interesting, but if an artist knows exactly what they want an image to look like, I can't see why something less than that is superior.
In fact, there's a strong parallel I've noticed between pure of digitally altered photography and oil versus acrylic paint. I've witnessed also painters who winced at the idea of giving up their oils make all kinds of excuses later for making the switch. Perhaps it's all about efficiency, but I suspect it's also being repeatedly told the general public can't tell the difference anyway, so why make your life that much harder.
But enough about what I think...what's your stand on purity in medium?