The hyperbolic, carefully controlled, museum- and gallery-specific versions of photography, in which every prop and gesture can be attributed to the artist’s direction, have been the most pronounced arrivals in the art world. If you are, like me, schooled in the magic of photography’s willful embrace of luck, mistakes, and happenstance, you view the art world’s partial endorsement of this bastard form with some suspicion. . . .
I am sure I’m not alone in beginning to think that the more complex, messy, unfashionable, and broad territory of black-and-white photography is where we are going to find some of the grist to the mill in photography’s substantive and longer-term positioning within art. . . .
One of the most important factors here is our visual recognition that the act of making and defining photographic practice in print form is increasingly nostalgic, and perhaps that calls for an aesthetics of nostalgia. . . .
Herein lies a timely, central issue for those of us who obsess about the future of photographic thinking. These projects are key propositions for what photography carries forward into the 21st century, as a bid for us to remember that photography is an act of making choices. This includes choices regarding methods and style of vision, which need not be defined by the fashionable, marketable production values of an era. . . .
The contemporary black-and-white photography I’ve described above has moved my thinking about the present state of photography onto a much more optimistic platform. Through these contemporary manifestations, the true, maverick character of photography, of our medium’s history, is far from lost. Indeed, these threads of the past are given new and meaningful effect. I am not proposing that contemporary black-and-white photographic prints represent the full embodiment of the future for photographic practice, just that the degree of self-determination that I am sensing in these photographers’ work is timely. I’m enjoying their contrary and imaginative choice to work in a monochrome media at a time when photography’s value as a contemporary way of seeing is to be questioned.
This article by Ms. Cotton — whose criticism I adore — is wonderful and quite timely.
With thanks to Gallery Hopper