It’s not easy to sum up the entire contemporary photography scene. I’m positive I’m going to leave something really important out. I know for certain I will — Cindy Sherman isn’t in my presentation, after all. (But seriously, her newest pieces are really hard to look at. Sheesh.)
But I’ve proclaimed a moratorium on downloading or scanning new images for Monday’s presentation. Photoshop helped me turn the 200-or-so images into 11 contact sheets, which I’ve been looking at over the last couple of nights to create my notes. The contact sheets — I will post them soon — are luscious, but the notes are still very spare. Obviously, not all of the images will make the final cut.
I have had a bit of success imposing order on the collection. The four loose categories are (1) the social landscape including portraiture, beginning with Alec Soth, traveling through Nan Goldin, and ending up somewhere near Thomas Struth; which leads naturally to (2) the reaction to Ansel Adams in the (mostly American) landscape, which involves a lot of conceptual and serial work. (3) There are number of photographers who are currently collected in my notes under the heading “constructed and unusual”: Christopher Bucklow, David Hockney, Vik Muniz, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and a host of Japanese artists. Finally, (4) I have a wee bit of fashion photography. There are recurring threads of commerce, photographic truth, the limitations of the camera, and the individual. Somehow I also need to deal with gender, race, cultural identity.
Putting Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, and Laurie Simmons into the social landscape context gives me a chance to introduce some of these issues — gender and cultural, for example — while sneaking the human form into the presentation. I agonized for a while about how to include nudity, which is a significant part of contemporary photography (artistic and otherwise). I’m going to start with a humorous disclaimer and then treat everyone like adults, even the septagenarians.