It’s always great to see prints like these go out the door. I was there to place a signature label on the mounted print. They cut a window in the backing board to provide access to the signature.
The Arcaid architecture photography award gets a lot of media attention — showing the finalists — not just the winner, which will be chosen in November. Many of the websites that do features are architecturally oriented, but some general news sites take an interest as well. The Guardian did a really nice presentation the other day with comments from readers.
Someone said my photograph was only good because of the two shacks, which is true.
A lot of the discussion centered on whether these were photographs about architecture or photographs that utilize architecture for other purposes. My favorite comment was this one:
Gansevoort and Washington Street — Photo by Justin Brooks (Curbed)
Was out with my view camera in the Meatpacking District shooting a video for Curbed, the blog on urban life and architecture. The completed video, which will be about the transformation of the neighborhood and my project photographing it, will only be a few minutes long, but we put at least eight hours into it — footage on the street and in the studio, and an audio interview. I’ll let you know when the video is available.
The story, for those who don’t know it, is that I photographed the Meatpacking District over several cold days in January of 1985. I processed the film, but never printed any of it. The negatives sat in a Kodak box on my shelf for almost 30 years, when on a whim, I decided to scan them and see what was there.
I was stunned to discover — or rediscover — an exquisitely decrepit New York utterly devoid of people and traffic. The contrast with the present day city was so extreme that I decided to rephotograph the Meatpacking District — repeating the original images with a few variations — and adding a number of contemporary views. The result is my book Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.
Trump Plaza wall — © Brian Rose
I returned to Atlantic City to continue working on my project — Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction Left by Donald Trump. I intended to spend part of my time on the Boardwalk, which in mid-August is filled with people and activity. But I ended up mostly on Pacific and Arctic Avenues just to the west of the beach. Even at the height of the summer, the streets were strangely quiet.
The photograph above was taken in the area adjacent to an immense outlet mall and a large fishing and camping store — efforts by the city to generate tourism and commercial activity. The former Trump Plaza stands empty, a black and white shell, its parking structure denuded of the Trump logo, though its possible to just make out the letters to the left and right of Trump’s golden crest.
Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.
Just a block or two from Caesars and Trump Plaza — the white tower in the background — it’s a different world. Junkies and alcoholics mingle on the corners while beach goers drift toward the Boardwalk carrying umbrellas and towels. The arched wall at center is the site of the former Trump’s World’s Fair, another failed casino.
A vacant building and empty lot just behind the outlet malls on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. In the distance is the Sheraton Hotel, which primarily serves the Atlantic City convention center. A man approached from a shop just to the left of the pink structure and asked what I was doing. it turned out he was the owner of the place called The Fishmarket. I explained a little about my project, and asked him whether he thought Atlantic City was coming up or going down. He gave a thumbs up, and told me that business was good. I don’t know if I share his optimism, but I felt encouraged by his attitude, nevertheless.
Just in the next block, the neighborhood of Ducktown remains largely intact with densely packed blocks of row houses. On the corner is White House Subs, which was probably not Donald Trump’s inspiration to run for the presidency. It is, however, a wonderfully funky and happening sub shop, which was packed with a diverse melange of people at lunch time.
My family came along on this trip — I deposited them on the beach while I was shooting — and we had lunch at White House Subs.
Across from me in the booth a grinning Jimmy Fallon from 10 years ago looked me in the eye holding one of White House’s classic Italian subs. Yes!
A couple of book notes. WTC, my latest book, was included in the Athens Photo Festival this summer. The selected books were placed on tables in the gallery so that viewers could pick them up and page through them. It would have been fun to go to Greece, but I’ve had a busy summer.
Athens Photo Festival
WTC is available for sale on my website. PLEASE GET YOUR COPY.
And one of my photographs has been selected for what promises to be a terrific photo book about Brooklyn. Brooklyn Photographs Now, written and edited by Marla Hamburg Kennedy features the work of well known and emerging photographers. Some of the recognizable names include Joel Sternfeld, Mitch Epstein, and Joel Meyerowitz. Lots of newcomers as well.
Brooklyn has seen exponential change over the past fifteen years, and this book presents the best work of the photographers from all over the world who have been capturing those changes and movements in cityscapes, portraits, vignettes, and process-oriented photography.
The book will be out in the Spring of 2018. You can read more about it here.
I’m just going to park these here with only a few specific comments. It’s a very quiet, very spare series of pictures. Rather than the raucous sounds of an amusement park, it feels hushed, somnolent. Rather than throngs of people crowding the rides and games, it is almost empty, desolate.
In the fourth picture, on the wall it says “Film by Ray Wisniewski.” He was an avant grade filmmaker of the ’60s and ’70s. Associated with Andy Warhol. Was I was aware of who he was? Possibly. I can’t recall.
Below, Uncle Sam says he wants you to win. See Dracula’s head chopped off. Bar & Grill. Screechy Nell and Shaggy Sam. Clams on the half shell. Corn on the cob. Spook-A-Rama menu.
Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose
The Thunderbolt roller coaster, Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose
The last black and white photographs I took were in 1977 when I first came to New York. After that it has all been color — 35mm in the beginning, and 4×5 negative up until the present. I was in a hurry in those days, and just did not get around to printing the black and white I was shooting. I took a class taught by Larry Fink, who constantly told me to move in closer, and I insisted on staying back. (I love Larry Fink.)
All I remember is that I made lots of walks with my camera in downtown Manhattan, and I took the subway to far flung parts of the city. Inevitably, I ended up in Coney Island, which was a gloriously decrepit wreck of a place in the late 70s. Much of it was abandoned, though there were still rides, funhouses, cotton candy and Nathan’s hotdogs. The Cyclone and the Thunderbolt roller coasters were still running, clattering wooden structures that did not inspire confidence in their safety.
I’m not exactly sure when these pictures were made. It was obviously still warm, but the summer crowds are not present in the pictures. So, I’m guessing it was September or early October. As run down as Coney Island was, I wasn’t necessarily documenting social conditions. I had just arrived in New York, and I accepted the shabby state of things as normal. I was interested in the texture of the cityscape as raw visual material, and I carefully, albeit quickly, made rigorously formal compositions.
One of the great things about Coney Island — then and now — is the dense urban structure of it. The city streets run right to the boardwalk and beach, and there are narrow alleys and passageways. Most present day amusement parks are, not coincidentally, parks. They are built adjacent to freeways, are surrounded by huge parking lots, and feature pastoral landscapes. Coney Island is an urban playground, like Times Square, and in 1977 it had some of that same allure of sex and danger. The increasing prosperity of the city has drained some of that “authenticity” out of Coney Island, but it remains a crazy quilt of planned and spontaneous urban profusion.
From the Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose
Coney Island boardwalk, 1977 — © Brian Rose
From the Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose
I kind of want a larger format negative — or high resolution digital — with more detail for these images, especially the one above. But they are beautiful, nevertheless. Atmospheric tokens of another time, a young photographer finding his way in a city teetering on the edge, a wondrous rediscovery for me all these years later.
More Coney Island pictures to come.
New York, unknown location, 1977 — © Brian Rose
Although my early black and whites are without question documents of time and place, I did not, as a student, consider myself a documentary photographer. There was never any question about the goal, which was to make photographs as art. Not some hybrid mixed media animal — though I did make a painting in school where I stuck a photograph onto the canvas — but photographs pure and simple — crystallized reality, but not reality at the same time. To me, there was power in that. I still think there is power in that.
One of the basic, and profound, truths of photography is that the moment preserved, is fleeting. It seems “decisive,” to quote Cartier Bresson, but it remains fugitive, unknowable, When I look at the man above crossing the street in the fedora (they were not so common even in 1977) I cannot know what he is thinking, or where her is going, or just came from. But he strides, nevertheless, through the frame as if there is meaning. It is an awkward meaning in a slightly awkward composition, but somehow compelling, cinematic. To me. Maybe not for you. I’m keeping this one in the mix for now.
New York was a mess in 1977, and you can see it in many of these pictures — in the scraggly vegetation in the parks, the trash on the streets and sidewalks, the frayed edges of the landscape. But the photograph above was not a critique on the condition of the city. I was aware, of course, that a small tree lay uprooted in the left foreground of my picture. It’s a notation, not central to the motive for the photograph. There are two verticals — the trees — and a tangle of limbs, benches, and shadows in between. There is a perfect sunlit square hovering left of center. Several people bask in the winter light, talking, dozing.
Tudor City Place, 1977 — © Brian Rose
I wanted the camera frame to take in everything evenly — non hierarchical. This was learned from Friedlander especially, and my teacher at Cooper, Meyerowitz. Composition was not just side to side, but front to back as well. Each shot was an experiment in seeing and describing the fabric of things not necessarily the things themselves.
East 40th Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose
I look at many of the pictures I made in 1977 and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Pointing the camera at what seems like nothing. Baffling to me now.
But then — there’s the image above…
As I was scanning my 35mm black and white negatives from 1977 I came across a series of images that I could not locate in the city, at least at first. I remember roaming the five boroughs with my camera, sometimes taking the subway to the end of the line, with no particular goal in mind other than satisfying my curiosity.
Looking at the image above, I was not sure where it was — and I could not remember ever taking it. I knew it was not Manhattan because of the relatively low buildings and the fact that the street was passing underneath my position behind a balustrade and a row of telephone booths. That doesn’t happen often in Manhattan. But having spent a lot of time in the Bronx the past few years going to my son’s basketball and baseball games, I knew it had to somewhere along the Grand Concourse, the broad boulevard that runs through the center of the borough.
Bisecting the Concourse is Fordham Road, a busy shopping street that for a half mile or so defines the southern edge of the Fordham University campus. In 1977 it was a visually cacophonous place, and it still is today. The creeping blight, the fires and abandonment, of the South Bronx never made it up to Fordham Road though it threatened.
The RKO Fordham Theatre was showing Star Wars, the cultural touchstone that premiered in 1977. The theater was demolished years ago and replaced by a nondescript retail building. And back then, there were still stores that specialized in “hosiery.”
Alexander’s was a big discount department store that dominated the corner of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse. The building is still there, but divided up into smaller retail outlets. That’s a Checker Cab to the left and Ford Mustang to the right.
Hair on Face Removed Forever. We Dissolve the Roots. These buildings are still there, but the Dollar Savings Bank is now an Apple Bank, and the parapet decorations to the right have either been stripped off or are obscured by new cladding.
I was able to locate this photograph by reversing it in Photoshop and identifying the Ascot Theater across the street. It was demolished in 2016.
This one was hard to find, but I eventually located a small triangular park on Google street view at 181 Street and the Grand Concourse. It’s still scruffy looking, but there are now a half dozen trees behind the benches.
A story I’ve told many times — 40 years ago, today, i arrived in New York and found an apartment on East 4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue. At 9:34PM the lights went out, and I spent the night in Penn Station unable to get my train back down to Washington, D.C. where I was living at the time. It was eerie in the station, but there were cops around, and I was unaware of the riots and fires raging elsewhere. A few days later I was back to this scarred and battered city with my stuff, mostly clothes, a guitar, and photography materials.
I set up a darkroom in the bedroom of my tiny apartment, and that summer began roaming the street with a 35mm Nikkormat, mostly shooting Tri-X film.I didn’t print much of it, however, because I had already begun working in color, and I soon left black and white photography behind for good. This is the second installment of scans made from that work — most of it from 1977 and 1978. As I said in an earlier blog post, I do not remember taking any of these pictures. It’s like discovering an unknown self intently searching for a style, for a formal approach, for a subject, which to a great extent turned out to be New York City.
1977 — it was the summer of Son of Sam the serial killer, the Bronx was burning, and the Yankees won the World Series. It was my entree to a city that would become central to my life and career. In that first year or two I attended Cooper Union, wrote songs and hung out in clubs with my friends, met my musical comrades in arms, Jack Hardy and Suzanne Vega, and took a lot of photographs. In 1980 I teamed up with Ed Fausty to photograph the Lower East Side in color using a 4×5 view camera. It was an exciting time — though wistful nostalgia is tempered by the fact — which I have not forgotten — that it was also a difficult time, financially and emotionally.
Stay tuned for more pictures.
Going through some boxes yesterday, I began looking at my early black and white negatives.
During the 1970s I shot dozens of rolls of film, Kodak Trii-x and Plus-x, along with dozens of rolls of Kodachrome and Ektachrome color slide film. Most of the black and white has never been printed, or even contacted. I didn’t have the time, and I was moving quickly from one thing to the next.
So, I scanned eight strips of black and white film — a small sample of negatives — and well, I’m kind of stunned. I literally can’t remember taking any of these pictures. It’s like discovering my alter-ego out on the street in New York, a young photographer fully engaged in making images, densely composed fragments of a now distant past.
A photograph of nothing and/or everything. A nondescript location in some far flung part of the city, a precise balance of interlocking elements welded together at the center of the image, a face staring out from a cigarette ad, two cobra style lampposts acting as quotation marks.
Similar vertical elements dividing the frame, foreground and background brought together in an overall, highly activated composition. I remember now, the way I thought about things back then. I wasn’t interested in one area of focus, or one subject of interest. I wanted everything treated equally across the field of view.
I’ll scan more images as time permits going forward.
The three books I have published in the past seven years comprise a New York trilogy — the city seen and explored over an extended period of time. Taken together they form a portrait of New York, especially lower Manhattan, during a period of extreme transformation. I hesitate to say “unprecedented” because change is integral to the nature of New York going all the way back to the first Dutch settlers.
The story told in these books relates to past photographic projects even to the way in which Marville and Atget documented Paris during the remaking of the city under Haussmann. I was familiar with all of that history when I began photographing the Lower East Side in 1980. At the same time, I was influenced by contemporary strains of street, architectural, and landscape photography. Color was an exceptionally new thing when I started this work in the 1970s, Today, it is the default photographic medium. As I was exploring New York with my camera, I was also discovering color’s descriptive nature, and its capacity to reveal as well as obscure.
These books also form a personal narrative, and I have kept my voice present throughout the text accompanying the photographs. I was 23 when the first images were made, and 62 when the most recent were done. At the center of this trilogy — though not seen directly — the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. That wrenching event propelled the city forward, inexplicably, as a complex barely understood motive — and simultaneously, propelled the nation backward, convulsively, to the present moment of political crisis.
The trade edition of this book is, unfortunately, sold out, though used copies can be found on the internet.
The limited edition is still available — signed books in a slipcover with an 8×10 inch print inside.
Purchase the limited edition or browse images and reviews here.
Metamorphosis. Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013 is before/after view showing rthe dramatic transformation of the former meat market of New York City. Rose spent several days in 1985 photographing the neighborhood with a 4×5 view camera. The negatives remained in a box unseen for over three decades. Rediscovered a few years ago, the images portray the streets and architecture of New York, stunningly empty, but vividly real.
There are only 150 copies of this book still available.
Purchase the trade or limited edition of the book here.
WTC is a visual history of the Twin Towers and the rebuilding of the city after 9/11. It serves as both historical record and personal story going all the way back to 1977 when the Trade Center was only a few years old and Rose was a newcomer to the city.
WTC pivots off of 9/11 with a series of images made directly after the destruction of the Towers, and moves forward to the ascendance of One World Trade Center on the skyline.
Purchase the trade or limited edition of the book here.
Stephen Shore, Wilde Street and Colonization Avenue, Dryden, Ontario, August 15, 1974
Forty-two years ago, an exhibition called New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape caused a stir in the photography world, and the controversy around it, surprisingly, has continued to ripple down through the decades. I was 21 in 1975 when William Jenkins mounted his now famous exhibition of landscape photography. I was in art school in Baltimore, and just beginning to shoot in color. No one at the Maryland Institute – teachers or students – was doing anything like what Jenkins highlighted in his exhibition, and certainly not color landscape photography.
Scene from Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1965
It took longer in those days for new ideas to percolate through the image making community, especially if you were not in New York City, or Rochester, the home of the George Eastman House where the exhibit took place. My strongest influences at that time were masters of the 35mm camera like Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander, but perhaps to a greater extent, I was fascinated by the color imagery of Michaelangelo Antonioni’s films from the 1960s and 70s, especially Red Desert and The Passenger. Consciously or unconsciously, I set out to bridge those worlds – socially aware street photography and the more studied color landscapes of Antonioni’s movies.
Joel Meyerowitz, ‘Camel Coats, New York City’, 1975
In 1975 I was basically following my instincts, not exactly in a vacuum, but at a remove from the groundbreaking shows that were coming out of the Museum of Modern Art under the leadership of the enormously important curator John Szarkowski. At some point, I came across several images by Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, and Joel Meyerowitz, pioneers of color photography. Seeing those pictures printed in a magazine, it was as if the future flashed before my eyes. I knew what I needed to do.
By 1977 I was in New York where I studied with Meyerowitz at Cooper Union. It was the heyday of Light Gallery, which was one of the few galleries in the world dedicated to serious art photography. I remember seeing Frank Gohlke’s pictures of grain elevators at the Museum of Modern Art, and became familiar with Joe Deal and Robert Adams, particularly their images of the expanding suburbs of the American West. The way in which many of these photographers stayed back a bit, and allowed the detail afforded by the large format to do the work, appealed to me. When I photographed the Lower East Side in 1980 I turned to the 4×5 view camera as the best way to describe the neighborhood and its architecture.
Robert Adams, Mobile Homes, Jefferson County, Colorado, 1973
I don’t remember when I became aware of the term New Topographics, but for me it was a curator’s thing – I was interested in individual photographers whose work I found compelling. To me, Robert Adams’ images possessed an almost spiritual power that transcended labels and art theory speak. At the same time, his pictures expressed the uneasy symbiosis of our relationship with the natural world. That is true to some extent of all of the photographers that Jenkins grouped together in his show.
That’s where Jenkins was most persuasive, I think, to point out that landscape photography had moved away from the romantic idealization of the world epitomized by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. I’m afraid, however, that Jenkins unintentionally diminished the individuality of the photographers he chose for New Topographics. Placed in the same cubbyhole, the singular richness and complexity of their images was diluted by proximity, and this diverse group of photographers were seen to be part of some kind of group think. At the same time, many viewers were put off by the cool temperature of the images, the way in which visual content was diffused over the entire frame, rather than organized hierarchically.
Watering, Phillips Ranch, California, 1983
Recently, in a Facebook group about contemporary landscape photography, a contributor suggested that too much of the work posted there looked derivative of New Topographics. I don’t actually know what that means. I suspect it refers to the wide angle, evenhanded, approach that many of Jenkins’ selected photographers employed. But that seems to me a narrow criterion for work by markedly different photographers. Are we talking about Lewis Baltz? Stephen Shore? Henry Wessel? New Topographics was a cuator’s thesis supported by the work of a number of talented photographers who eschewed conventional approaches to landscape. But it was never a movement, nor a particular style.
Charles Marville, Demolition of Butte des Moulins for Avenue de l’opera, 1870
The reality is that photographers have been documenting human presence on the landscape since the medium was invented. It could be argued that the photographs of Ansel Adams and others depicting a pristine picturesque world were the true aberrations, and that the New Topographics photographers were actually extending — in various different ways — an unbroken line running through Marville, Atget, O’Sullivan, Evans, and others. The Düsseldorf School photographers who are often connected to New Topographics were undoubtedly influenced by this continuum inspired as well by German photographers like August Sander and Albert Renger-Patsch. Even the more conceptual work of Bernd and Hilla Becher echoes that history.
Albert Renger-Patzsch, Winter landscape with colliery Pluto in Wanne-Eickel (1929)
Walker Evans, Birmingham Steel Mill and Workers’ Houses, 1936
Lee Friedlander, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1980
As photographers we need not feel enslaved to curatorial constructs like New Topographics. What Williams Jenkins came up with was a timely recognition of the way in which photographers were becoming attentive to the accelerating encroachment of urban development in the late 20th century. That attention and the formal rigor of the images ran counter to the prevailing aesthetics of fine art photography, which had already been challenged by Winogrand, Frank, and other small camera practitioners. In my view, the whole uproar around New Topographics had less to do with an aesthetic or conceptual break than it had to do with a reconfiguration of the photography world including the growing importance of museums, curators, art schools, and galleries.
Eugène Atget, Porte de Bercy, 1910
Let’s not get distracted by all this. In my view, the critical observation of the landscape by photographers remains an important if not essential practice. With the explosion of new technologies, the increasingly inward gaze of virtual reality, and the lure of alternate notions of truth, the counter weight of objective observation keeps us attentive to the physical world we continue to inhabit with its ongoing environmental depredations, spasms of war and destruction – and beauty — wherever we may find it.
When the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, a small Greek Orthodox church, St. Nicholas, was obliterated by the falling debris. A replacement church designed by Santiago Calatrava is now under construction a short distance from the original structure. I snapped the picture above returning from an appointment at the 9/11 Museum offices. My book, WTC, will soon be available in the museum shop.
The original church served a small congregation just south of the WTC on Cedar Street. The building, converted from earlier use as a tavern, stood alone on a parking lot. Photographers were fond of tilting up at the cross with the Twin Tower rising above. It was a perspective that Edward Fausty and I avoided when we made our picture back in 1981.
There are hundreds of booths at AIPAD (The Photography Show) and thousands of people attending. Lots of different languages overheard while walking around, which is typical of New York.
But one booth is empty. The sign says:
Due to the recent travel ban and
the uncertainty of international
travel from countries identified
in the ban, Ag Galerie, Tehran,
is unable to participate in The
Photography Show this year.
Ran into several friends, Hans Knijnenburg from the Netherlands who is avid photo book collector, Art Presson and Eve Kessler, who have a wonderful photography collection, Joel Sternfeld, the photographer, and I met Hendrik Kerstens, the Dutch photographer who I wrote about in my blog a number of years ago.
DART, the newsletter for design professionals and photographers, is promoting the work of artists who are responding to the election of Donald Trump and the current political fallout from this national disaster. Today, my Atlantic City project is being featured. Thanks go out to Peggy Roalf for providing a showcase for this work and that of other artists.
The full project, Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction left by Donald Trump, can be viewed here.
Dillon + Lee booth at AIPAD
I am pleased to be in this year’s AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) show at Pier 94 on the westside of Manhattan. I’ve attended several times in the past, but this is the first time I’ve had a piece on display. AIPAD provides a great overview of what the galleries are showing in New York and beyond. My gallery, Dillon + Lee, is not exclusively a photography gallery, but they have assembled a diverse stable of artists that includes a significant number who work with photography. I hold down the landscape view camera department.
AIPAD show — East 4th Street 1980 (Rose/Fausty)
I am showing a 4×5 foot print of one of the Lower East Side photographs made in 1980 by me and Edward Fausty. It’s the cover image of Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and it was taken in front of the building I lived in at the time. It is, perhaps, the most iconic of the Lower East Side images, and although shown a lot, it’s still one of my favorites.
Dillon + Lee booth at AIPAD
If you are serious about photography collecting — or want to see what is going on the photo gallery world — it is definitely worth the $30. There are more than 100 dealers and galleries represented, and they have added a section on photo book publishing this year, which I will be checking out. The show runs from March 30 – April 2.
Eons ago — about 10 years — when George Bush was president, I wrote with dismay about how reality was becoming more and more a relative concept, untethered from facts, infinitely malleable. I quoted a Bush administration aide who said:
”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
This was was from Time magazine, which still exists, despite the vast dispersion of the media across the internet in an information space that freely mixes social media and journalism, where rumor and fake news compete — and oftentimes win — over factually based reporting and observation.
Last week Time’s cover features only the text Is Truth Dead? This is where we are now. A dangerous con man was elected president on a wave of lies, disinformation, and willful ignorance. We are in big trouble.
There has been a lot of discussion over the years about photography and its relationship to truth and reality. You hear a lot about how Photoshop has undermined the credibility of the image. You hear terms like “post factual.” There are deeply mind numbing discussions about semiotics and the indeterminate nature of meaning — and truth. These themes make wonderful parlor discussions, and graduate school theses.
They are irrelevant right now. We are in an emergency. We need to employ words and images as we understand them — to drill down to what is essential and knowable in practical terms.
I’m sick to death of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
— John Lennon
Case in point. I just received an email from a photography organization in the Netherlands promoting their next exhibition, Simulacrum. The basic premise of the show is that reality and manufactured reality are becoming indistinguishable. This is hardly an original concept — a curatorial container for a bunch of artists using technology to create alternative realities. I am not interested in this. I am interested in what artists have to say concretely and coherently — including those who make use of new technology. When we get waylaid by aesthetic and philosophical strategies that purposely blur the difference between truth and untruth in images and language, we run the risk of becoming complicit with the shape shifters and charlatans who seek dominance of our institutions and who currently occupy the White House in Washington, D.C.
What is real, what is artificial? The border between the two is beginning to fade. In the visual language of the advertising industry, the border between real photography and digitally calculated models is almost indistinguishable… It’s becoming somewhat of a challenge to distinguish between images that represent reality and images that depict reality. This theme lies at the heart of the exhibition: a Simulacrum stands for a simulation that takes the place of the reality it stems from.