© Max Dupain
In these climes of “hero” photographs and “native” advertising I’m trying to get my head around what’s “good”.
Given that some festivals and competitions pride themselves on democracy, maybe there is a contradiction between the flat playing field of democracy and an image that is described as “heroic”. (I enjoyed the ABC’s “Parer’s War” with its visual references to Australian photographs by Dupain and, of course, Parer’s extraordinary footage of Kokoda. Talk about “hero” images on ANZAC weekend?
So perhaps a better word to use would be “popular”. From my overworked memory, the most recognized images in the world are those of Mickey Mouse, Chairman Mao and Jesus Christ. In Australia arguably the most recognizable photographic images are “The Sunbaker” (Max Dupain) and “Tea Cup Ballet” (Olive Cotton). These images seem to have settled comfortably into our national psyche.
Yesterday I visited a “photo gallery” in a shopping mall where a staff-member was organizing images for browsing mall-goers. I searched the walls for something or someone I knew but, alas, there was no-one. There was some beautiful printed work, but nothing that knocked me out. I asked the staff-member if they had any Robert Doisneau prints. Despite being a compatriot of Doisneau, the staff-member knew nothing of him (or Willy Ronis). Kind of tragic I felt.
Now we have diatribes from Instagram users explaining just how “easy” it all is and a long list of awesome apps. But is “ease” in making art a prerequisite for “good” work? I think that one earns the moniker “Artist” through extraordinarily hard work, commitment and a great love and understanding of the medium; not what the camera/digital industry is constantly selling us, but something from the soul. Absorbing the work of those “greats” who photographed before us is healthy. It gives us a visual language and direction. They speak to us deeply, and with heart.
“Time will say nothing but I told you so” WH Auden