By a strange twist of fate, the Royal Photographic Society magazine just dropped through the letterbox .. it contains an article by John Migden called “The Aesthetic of the Real” and is a review of the New Documentary Forms exhibition that I recently described following my visit to the Tate Modern a few days ago (see the entry for March 17th). I’ll put more about this in the hard copy journal so I can reproduce some of the text and images.
As did I, Migden chose to focus on the works of Luc Delahaye and Mitch Epstein as his main theme (so I got something right then!), and also included Akram Zaatari, in which I had found very little appeal. Zaatari’s studio shots from the Lebanon in the 50’s do have a certain edgy quality, given that they are developed from negatives that an attempt had been made to destroy, but the powerful symbolism felt by Migden certainly escaped me. Zaatari did portray another pair of spooky twins (well, not quite, but identically dressed girls posed in a similar way to Arbus) to go alongside Diane Arbus’s well known picture and Maja Daniels’ image that I highlighted from the Taylor-Wessing portrait exhibition (see Feb 6th entry), and I will add these to the collection in my hard copy Learning Journal !
The RPS article also highlights the detachment that one feels from viewing the Delahaye images and how he takes an almost dispassionate and distant view from scenes of war and suffering. Interestingly, the author focused on the “most confrontational” Epstein image that I found the least appealing. “Biloxi, Mississippi (2005)” is an image of social destruction taken following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. There is certainly a lot going on in the image and much for the eye to travel round and absorb, but I found it too fragmented to be attractive. This could be because in many ways it is the opposite to much of my own photography which tends to be of single and discrete objects. Interesting thought maybe, and a good learning point to consider for something to try at a later stage and give the viewer more to look at in my own work.
The one Epstein image reproduced by Migden in the article was the “Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia, 2004” although oddly therefore, he does not comment on the image in the text. It was one of the images I selected to discuss in my hard copy Learning Journal as well.
Migden, J., The Aesthetics of the Real, The Royal Photographic Society Journal, pp92-95 (March 2012). London, EC1 Publishing Ltd.