If you ever asked yourself, why this site is called DESTROYPHOTOGRAPHY, here is why:
And I don’t want to engage here in a futile discussion about what “authenticity” means, or if professionalism in photography is a good or bad thing. Kudos to the stone-cold face of the photographer while talking about “a really deep story”. But if you want to have an example where Susan Sontag’s rage about the photograph being embedded into a furious circulation of commodity and capital comes from, here it is.
The observing photographer(me?!), who struggles to make ends meet and tries to make a career completes the perverted triangle when he indulges in an endless stream of videos that show you “how to get better”, “how to make it into a hyper-competitive field of work”, “how to make a career” and so on. And within this thriving eco-system of photography that now mostly makes its money from pushing gear and how-to-books and workshops that pretend to teach you to make photos – who is left to look at the images? We are now on the threshold where more images are produced than we can ever look at. If everybody wants to be a popstar, who will find the time to listen to the music? If this does not make you want to drop your camera for good, I don’t know what will…
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This is probably the strangest and most fascinating story on photography that I have read in a long time: Isabelle Mège, a medical secretary from Paris wrote letters to photographers she liked and asked them to take her picture. For more than twenty years she managed to get photographers as diverse as Joel Peter Witkin or Ralph Gibson to take her photo.
You should definitely read the whole article in the New Yorker, it is full of strange twists and shows the many layers of this fascinating story…
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Don’t leave the car. Just point and shoot through the window. The fast moving car takes many things out the equation: There is no time to compose. You are reduced to “trying to get that thing onto film”. What triggers that “want”? A church turned into a gunshop. A road sign: When I was there it said: You are here, now it says: You’ve been there. Orientation vs. proof. Flags and cars as the two things you see most of the time. A cemetery by the side of the road, this vast country full of sky and death. The Oregon Lotto sign, reminding me that your luck can turn at every crossroad either way… It’s the election year and out here in the country, making America great again just doesn’t make any sense. There is no-one here, the skies are endless and so is America. And then you see: Nothing particular. A patch of grass. A rocky path curving away from the main road up into the mountains. Trees. Trees. You just go on driving.
The process of taking the pictures is more important than the images themselves.
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There is probably much to say about Thomas Ruff’s “ma.r.s.15”- series from 2011/12. You can jabber on endlessly about this special form of appropriation, about the relevance of the context where things are reproduced, about how art is what you declare as art and so on. But obviously not by himself. I kind of liked that anyway: A photographer at loss for words to explain what he is doing. This somehow resonates with me, as I often think that I am photographing precisely because I cannot properly say why I am photographing or why I am photographing what I photograph. I find that harder and harder to stick to this as I continue to photograph and I continue to go to workshops, where talking about what you do and why you do it is kind of the whole point of being there.
What is it about? And the simple answer being is stammer some artsy blabla but basically, resort to “Why does it always have to be about something?” and “Look at the pictures”.
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Here is one guy, who really hates his rule of thirds: He has a point, though. It’s often very hard to understand that from the rich canon of composition that we have amassed over several thousand years of producing art, the rule of thirds is the one thing that has made it into photography education. The rest is mostly left to feeling: You slowly, very slowly get a vague sense of composition and design when you talk to photographers that look at your work its flaws: “You let the viewer escape” (pointing to brighter spots near the edge of the picture.), “This lacks density”, “there is too much going on here” and so on. Photographic experience is – apart from some technical aspects – mostly that: A subconscious knowledge you have amassed over time what makes a picture tick.
And you either have a natural knack for that, you patiently wait until this form of knowledge miraculously emerges, or you just look into art theory and -history and try to derive some simple facts from how people have been drawing and painting for centuries:
…and then go on from there and look endlessly at paintings by Vermeer(or as in this case: pictures wrongly attributed to him).
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I went for the pars pro toto: A speck of light on a leaf, some bark, upturned roots, the soil where the roots dug in, the rustling of wind, the looking up into the sky tinted green, thirty images of an owl almost hidden on a branch. Green, green, green with rarely any discernible features.
What I wanted to photograph was the totality of being there. This whole, gigantic, centuries-slow moving organism. Now I can’t even be bothered to look at the images. There are literally thousands of them. I counted them. The forest is an opaque being, he does not easily divulge its secrets to us.
Redwood National Park, July 2016
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Since I’m back from the US I’ve been in some kind of photographic slump. That probably was to be expected: The photos came easy to me in America, the desire to hold on to what you see was overwhelming and the light triggered some kind of chemical reaction with the camera… Being back in Germany, I ended up with the photographic equivalent of a giant hangover. Haven’t done anything since. I brought back an SX-70 I bought at a thrift store for 10$. The camera is probably broken, as it overexposes everything and the focus is off: Still, I’ve been doing nothing much but taking Polaroids in the past weeks.
It doesn’t really help the faithfulness of the photos to use expired film and I also had to learn that Impossible’s Instant film is very sensitive to heat: With temperatures hovering around 30°Celsius you better put your camera into the fridge when you are not using it…
Yet, I still like the feel of photographing like this: It is slow as hell and as it is also expensive as hell I ponder endlessly about a picture (only then after an hour or so to shout I don’t give a fuck and just shoot) – it is “pictures as an object”, which is a welcome change to the ephemeral feel of the digital image and my constant feel of too much of everything…
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It was 1979 and the future was a place of promise and overflowing with colors and not of dread and endless stretches of grey…
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Let’s not forget what Europe is actually about: A shared horizon, a common frame of reference, a troubled past, and the chance to not kill each other for a change. Let’s remember that there has been Europe even before the economists have claimed this fragile project for themselves and started ruining it…
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