La fotografia è arte?


Jonathan Jones, il supercritico d’arte del Guardian, va giù abbastanza pesante sul rapporto tra arte e fotografia, mettendo subito le cose in chiaro:

Photography is not an art. It is a technology. We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions. My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device.

Lo spunto gli è derivato dalla notizia della vendita, per 6.5 milioni di dollari, della fotografia Phantom di Peter Lik. Fotografia che, secondo Jones, presenta anche il problema dell’uso posticcio del monocromatismo:

This record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists. It is derivative, sentimental in its studied romanticism, and consequently in very poor taste. It looks like a posh poster you might find framed in a pretentious hotel room.

Phantom is a black-and-white shot taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona. The fact that it is in black and white should give us pause. Today, this deliberate use of an outmoded style can only be nostalgic and affected, an “arty” special effect. We’ve all got that option in our photography software. Yeah, my pics of the Parthenon this summer looked really awesome in monochrome.

Alle critiche di Jonathan Jones risponde, sempre sul Guardian, Sean O’Hagan:

Several things are wrong about Jonathan’s reasoning, not least that he still thinks painting is in some sort of competition with photography. How quaint. He also seems to think that all photography is derivative of painting. This is plainly not so. A great photograph by William Eggleston, though he claims to be influenced by abstract painting, occupies its own space, makes its own rules.

Jonathan writes that photographs look better on a computer screen than in a print. Some do, but most do not. Has he never stood in wonder in front of a Julia Margaret Cameron portrait? I doubt it. Has he ever seen a painting or drawing of Samuel Beckett that possesses the stillness and intensity of the great photographic portrait of Samuel Beckett by John Minihan or Jane Bown? I expect not.

He makes no distinction between types of photography, and seems unaware, that photography has changed utterly since Henri Cartier-Bresson. Look at the politically charged conceptualism of Broomberg and Chanarin, the playful invention of a fictional series by Joan Fontcuberta, the wonderful artists books made by the likes of Cristina du Middel or Vivienne Sassen. Photography is as vibrant as it has ever been – more so in response to the digital world, which Jonathan mistakenly thinks has made everyone a great photographer. It hasn’t. It has made it easy for people to take – and disseminate – photographs, that’s all. A great photographer can make a great photograph whatever the camera. A bad one will still make a bad photograph on a two grand digital camera that does everything for you. It’s about a way of seeing, not technology.

Non è la prima volta che Jonathan Jones se la prende con il mondo della fotografia. Già lo scorso novembre aveva raccontato della sua idiosincrasia nei confronti delle fotografie messe in mostra nelle gallerie d’arte:

Photography is a miracle of the modern world. It gives us instant visual information from all over the planet and far beyond. It is a unique documentary record of our own lives, a simple source of creative pleasure and fun. I just wish people wouldn’t put it in art galleries.

Let me be clear: photographs on the page or screen are fascinating. Who can fail to be entranced by the first-ever pictures from the surface of a comet that were taken this week? The power of photography to show and to tell has never been greater, as modern technology takes it simultaneously to the far reaches of the solar system and ever deeper into the heart of daily life.

But that does not make it sing on a gallery wall.

It just looks stupid when a photograph is framed or backlit and displayed vertically in an exhibition, in the way paintings have traditionally been shown. A photograph in a gallery is a flat, soulless, superficial substitute for painting. Putting up massive prints is a waste of space, when the curators could provide iPads and let us scroll through a digital gallery that would easily be as beautiful and compelling as the expensive prints.

(foto: Phantom di Peter Lik)

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