More NYC Art World Elitist Nonsense

I get it. There’s a lot happening in NYC. But this over-the-top self-satisfaction so arrogantly misses a few major points: 1) Photographers are doing exceptional work everywhere; 2) Great printers are plying their craft everywhere, some sitting in front of their computer at home or in their dedicated darkroom; 3) Just because you can make a print big doesn’t mean it gains anything in the process; in fact, more often smaller prints have a more pronounced effect. Georges Fevre, HCB’s printer, used to say “if you can’t make them good, make them big!” George rarely printed larger than 8×12. That seemed to work out alright.

Videos like this do no one any favors. Somewhere, in some small town in France or Scotland or Argentina or some god-forsaken place in rural America, there are photographers and printers doing exceptional work, work that doesn’t rely on a hyper-active urban environment for subjects and personal, professional and corporate backslapping. They’re there, doing their work instead of bragging about it. Ilford needs to go find some of these people instead of perpetuating the lazy narrative that claims everything happens in NYC. It doesn’t.

6 thoughts on “More NYC Art World Elitist Nonsense

  1. Dan Newell

    Puffery has it’s uses I guess. Some of this must be more of a “We’re still here!” after the lockdown type of promotion. I know the printer I use took a big hit from the lockdown but managed to survive.

    But, honestly, my P800 does pretty much everything I need to do. Problem is, as I get older, I want to shoot more and print less. So I end up sending the file down for printing even though I could have done it.

    You mean New York isn’t the center of the universe?? Maybe for Jewish Deli……..

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  2. Rob Campbell

    Difficult topic on which to come down on one side or the other. The biggest problem is to decide whether one is thinking in terms of a professional photographer or an amateur one: they have some quite separate needs to fulfil.

    As I mentioned before, problems can begin with scale, with the simple question of how big does your client want his prints to be, rearing its head. That, in turn, bears implications of farming out, and to whom to entrust the work that the limitations of his own facilities prevent the author from doing in house, assuming that, today, he has the slightest idea how to do that; there are usually physical limits for the small photographer – or studio – limits that only a specialist printing operation can overcome because of scale and finance.

    Small cities don’t always offer enough volume to make good, independent labs viable businesses. When I lived there, there were two places in Glasgow where one could get colour processed and big prints made. Unfortunately, they were also both running photo studios too. You can imagine the security problems that kind of setup offered. London, on the other hand, was the equivalent of your own NY. But it was over 400 miles away… for day-to-day work, it might as well have been on the Moon. Today, neither if those two Glasgow labs exists..

    Looking at the video, I get the impression that much of the work featured (as it probably would be, being about Ilford), was “art” specific, in which case, I expect that budgets do not assume the same rigorous examination that commercial jobs will have to work within. There’s little argument that if you know your craft, working with an external lab can be a valuable route on some occasions. That, of course, means if you get access to the labs, not just to the reception desk – as was my unfortunate position.

    Personally, I think that the two worlds, the commercial one and the art one, are possibly too far apart for convincing parallels to be drawn. Of course, they are both commercial in the sense that money is involved, but the commercial one has to go through so many cost quotations that room for manoeuvre is pretty tight. Art? Who knows where a production might go price-wise?

    From the purely photographer stance, the Big Smoke sure did offer the opportunities that did not usually exist elsewhere, but also the over-supply of people hustling for that same work. I guess if you are born in such a city your chances are far better: you know it, you are at least a little bit more enchufado. If you are single, prepared to doss under a bridge, going to photographic Mecca from the sticks is a different proposition. Worked for Leiter… 🙂

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  3. Stephen_J

    The Germans never stop fretting over their obsession with establishing themselves as “top nation”, in every endeavour…

    I give them an “A” for persistence…

    But a “Z” for competence.

    Why can’t they be happy that they make the best cars, and leave the other stuff, like language to those more able?

    The point about the English language is that ‘ze rules” are flexible, are there to be broken.

    It is no accident that Spanish (except in Chynah) is the first language of more folk than any other…

    But English is spoken as a first or second language by many more.

    I am happy to accept that my Mercedes Benz will start from cold, probably at the first turn of the key, and I can go about my business for the day with confidence.

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  4. Pierre

    I entirely disagree. I grew up in the suburbs on the other side of the country and even I knew that New York was the center of the universe before I’d ever been there. Sorry, man. New York or nowhere (even if you don’t live there.).

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    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Interesting. I grew up 10 miles from Times Square. Was in and out of Manhattan the first 20 years of my life; attended “Art School” there for a bit. My creative journey didn’t take off until I got away from NYC. NYC is an artificial hothouse flower. It’s not real world. The arrogance is stultifying- just because you moved from backwater town and am renting a flat the size of a postage stamp doesn’t give you some privileged aesthetic cred. Streets are street everywhere. Walking the streets of Lower Manhattan doesn’t automatically give you a jump up on ‘good work.” It just gives you NYC street scenes, like we don’t have enough of that already. Frankly, NYC Street photography is sooo played out. Want good work done in the boonies: check out Erik van Stratten in Holland. I’d take one of his prints to a MOMO published book on “Current Photography” any day.

      The ‘best’ work is being done elsewhere. Certainly now that we can send work anywhere to be printed and returned. Physical proximity means nothing. Plus, being outside of “cultural centers” such as NYC allow you to bypass the entire curatorial network that is increasingly finding it’s raison d’etre challenged by the connected world. Who possibly cares what MOMA’s photography department thinks of work. That fashioning of taste from on high – and the aesthetic cow-towing that created certain ‘styles” – may have worked in the 40’s through the 90’s. But it’s dead. They’re irrelevant dinosaurs. Who the hell even heads the MOMO Photography Department anymore? They’re just too fat and happy to see the writing on the wall.

      Thake this very blog for example. Started it myself. No input from anyone, ever. Don’t want input; what I want is a venue to write about, and show, good work. It gives me worldwide recognition without some credentialed mafia barring the door because I don’t know the right people or I’m not invested in the latest aesthetic style. I’ve had people buy my books and prints from all over the world. I’ve had people recognize me on the street with my camera in foreign countries. I’ve probably been read more than the banal academic who is publishing his thoughts in NYC curatorial publications like Aperture (does anyone read that ‘Art Photography Circle Jerk’ Periodical except the people publishing it and contributing to it, which often seems to be the same folks over and over and over?) Wake me up when any legitimate discourse about photography comes out of the entire, incestuous NYC curatorial mafia – MOMO, Galleries, Critical Publications like Aperture…..

      The best work is being made in the boonies, luckily ignored by the NYC curatorial culture, but will invariably out live the shit they push on us as “important work” if for no other reason than to re-establish their right to make such claims. I could not care less what MOMO thinks should be worth my time. Good stuff will be discovered by art students and academicians in due time when all silly performance art, appropriation art, anti-art etc has been flogged to death by NYC people too stupid to realize that 1) they’re not even as smart as we are, and 2) we have their number.

      Now, unless you’re Lenny Kravitz or some such approved beautiful person whose opinion we are told should matter, Why should I care what’s being flogged as “the latest.?”

      Frankly, I can drive 20 minutes to Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, NC and see more arresting photography and speak with like-minded creators….all for free and without the heavi-handedness that goes along with professional artistic cartels who presume to know better than I do because They’ve gotten a degree from Parsons.

      Reply
      1. Dan Newell

        Was it ever thus. Living as a privateer is a hard business.

        I’ve had this type of discussion with the kids coming up (that have the goods), but they lack one or two strong points that end up damping their aspiration.

        Reply

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