I made a number of 5×4 negatives for the 2015 Magpie Springs Photography competition. This is one image that failed to make the cut, and as the outtake didn’t really work in colour, I converted this underexposed negative to a black and white image using Silver Efex Pro 2 software.
Though it looks better in black and white, and I’ve overcoming the over sharpening problem caused by the Epson software, I still have the other problem of blown highlights caused by scanning the negative. However, looking at this image of straight photograhy makes me uneasy, and this unease is over and above these technical flaws.
I cant help but feel that straight photography, exemplified by this image, appears as a rather archaic discipline—even in its digital form, let alone the chemical one. There is still the attitude in the art institution that contemporary visual artist’s love for the photographic medium is because it is so “simple,” so “non-artsy,” so “direct.” Photography, in this sense, has always been an important counterpart to modern art, The corollary of this is that straight photography has gradually acquired a strange status of something not completely artistic and yet highly artistic.
Despite this there is less and less photography (and photographers) in contemporary art exhibitions.Those that exhibit–Bill Henson, Rosemary Laing, Trent Parke— are seen as artists rather than photographers. This implies an identity crisis for photographers because art is about ideas whilst photography is about resemblance.
This suggests to me that contemporary art photography needs concepts and ideas, and it needs books where photographers can present both their writings and their images. It’s not just a book of sophisticated images–art photography needs to reclaim its conceptual heritage.