What Type of Photographer?

The Three Types of Photography That Appeal to Me and Their Intersection

While I was recently poking around on the Royal Society of Photography website I was curious to come across the genres of photography into which you could categorize your body of work for assessment. Of the eight categories only three really appealed to me:

Contemporary: Photography that communicates a visual realisation of a stated argument, idea or concept.

Landscape Photography: Photography that illustrates and interprets earth’s habitats, from the remotest wilderness to urban environs

Visual Art Photography: Photography which communicates a creative vision.

These are quite broad and give you a lot of space to work in. Never quite satisfied. And because all three appeal to me, I wondered about the intersections of these genres and what’s there.

I had fun putting together the graphic above to explore this a little bit. Also fun to learn a bit more about the history of photography in this way.

I think that ‘contemporary’ could be interpreted in two ways – it could mean ‘of our time‘, it could also mean ‘conceptual’. I’m going with ‘of our time’.

My new types of photography then are:

Contemporary Landscape – think Robert Adams or Edward Burtynsky

Fine Art Landscape – think Hiroshi Sugimoto or Michael Kenna

Contemporary Fine Art – I’m thinking of people such as Arno Rafael Minkkinen or those doing composites such as Jerry Uelsmann or John Paul Caponigro or what Jeremy Cowart is doing with photography, light projection and painting.

I still don’t want to be hemmed in by definitions but these seven categories – including contemporary fine art landscape – nicely encapsulate the world that I’m currently playing in.

How about you? Do you put a label on the kind of work that you’re doing? Does it help or hinder?

Friday Inspiration: Jan Töve

When I was recently on my Nordic exploration one of the photographers I came across was Jan Tove.

It never fails to amaze me how many amazing photographers there are in the world – you just have to go digging a little.

Shooting range

I feel like Jan is relatively unknown in the US which is a shame because his work deserves a much wider audience. A professional photographer since 1994, his work explores the intersection of man, nature and society.

I was excited to read that Jan has published 14 books, perhaps more now, and I’m currently on the hunt for a few of these to learn more about his work. From the essay in Faraway/Nearby we learn that Jan had originally risen to prominence taking more traditional landscape photography but made a pivot to explore the intersection and impact of man on the landscape. While this could put him into the ‘New Topographic’ realm of photography with the likes of Robert Adams and Steve Shore I find his work to be more accessible. I have seen the term visual poetry used in a number of places to describe Jan’s photography, I would certainly agree that there is a calm presence in all of his photographs, and looking through Faraway/Nearby again just now, a depth that draws me in. I will continue my hunt for more of his books here in the US but until then check out his website for portfolios of the work presented in the books and enjoy the flip through below of Faraway/Nearby and Night Light.

Friday Inspiration: Robert Adams

I have enjoyed Robert Adams’ writing about photography immensely. ‘Why People Photograph‘ and ‘Beauty in Photography‘ contain a series of short essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. His recent book ‘Art Can Help‘ continues in a similar vein and is well worth picking up.

As a photographer however he’s someone that I feel I should like but his photographs just don’t move me. It was interesting then to come across the two videos below and listen to him talk about what he’s trying to achieve with his work.

Check out the videos below and tell me what you think.

Friday Inspiration: Stephen Shore

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I’m continuing to dig deeper into the work of some of the photographers that were part of the New Topographics exhibition curated by William Jenkins in 1975. These were a group of photographers working to find ‘beauty in the banal’, making ‘photographs of a man-altered landscape’. In many ways it’s easy to dismiss this work as having a ‘snap-shot’ aesthetic and for some of this work I really struggle to connect with it. This week’s project has been Stephen Shore. If you read his biography one of the first things that is pointed out is that he sold his first photographs at age 14 to Alfred Steiglitz and that at 24 was only the second living photographer to have a solo show at the MoMA.

His work in the New Topographics exhibition was in color whereas the other 7 photographers were shooting in black and white. It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that at that time in the early ’70’s shooting in color was not what you did if you wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. Color was okay for magazines but not for ‘art’. Perhaps this further adds to the sense of these photographs being snapshots. In looking over this work and some of the subsequent work that arose out of these early projects I can’t help but think that this would be a great instagram feed and indeed you can find Stephen Shore on Instagram although I was surprised to find that I don’t connect with these photographs in the way that I do with the images in his books.

Shore Cars

I often feel like I’m missing the joke when I look at contemporary photography and so it’s been useful for me to listen to Shore talk about his work in the videos below and lift the veil, at least a little.

Stephen Shore American Surfaces from Spike Productions on Vimeo.

Stephen Shore Uncommon Places from Spike Productions on Vimeo.

Stephen Shore in Conversation with Peter Schjeldahl from Aperture Foundation on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Robert Adams

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I first came across Robert Adams when I was looking for the answer to the question ‘why do people photograph’ and found his book ‘Why People Photograph‘ and then later I came across his book ‘Beauty in Photography‘. These small books are collections of essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. I have enjoyed reading these books and get something new out of them as I reread them with a deepening understanding of photography as an art.

Why People Photograph must have been on my bookshelf for almost as long as I’ve been taking photographs, almost 10 years now, and yet it was only last year that I realized that Robert Adams can not only write but he is a well know photographer too! How many other holes in my appreciation of the history of photography could you drive a truck through?

I’m at my beginning of my exploration of his work, and I’m doing so by starting with his most recent projects first. Photographs taken around his home near the Oregon coast of the forests, coastline and meadows, very different subjects to the photographs of the American west increasingly spoiled by the urban sprawl that brought him to prominence. This work can be found in ‘The New West‘ a new edition of which will come out in the summer.

Check out the interview of Robert Adams on Oregon Public Broadcasting here and the interview below from 2006 that supported his exhibition ‘Turning Back‘. Also below is a profile of Adams by Joshua Chang, curator of the retrospective exhibition ‘The Place We Live‘.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365178810

ROBERT ADAMS – JEU DE PAUME from Terra Luna Films on Vimeo.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365178810