04 December 2012

From: Sean O'Hagan

Regular readers will know that I periodically write posts complaining about Sean O'Hagan who is photography critic at The Guardian. For my most resent criticism look here - it links to earlier iterations. The other day the following email from Sean appeared in my in box. I post it here without comment, not because there is nothing to discuss, but simply because his reply is - given my grumpiness - so embarrassingly decent and reasonable.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sean O'Hagan [mailto:sean.o'hagan@guardian.co.uk]
Sent: Mon 12/3/2012 5:30 PM
To: Johnson, James
Subject: here I go again...


 I tried to post on your blog, but the screening process defeated me! Glad you are keeping up with my columns even if we "nearly never" converge.

Some further thoughts on your response to my recurring Deutsche Borse complaint. Would you accept that there is a difference between photography and the photographic?  Not just a semantic difference. It would seem to me they are two distinct practices that sometimes lead to a similar end - interesting, illuminating work. How, though, one judges, say, Killip's work against, say, Henna's is beyond me . What are the shared criteria? One goes out into the world with his camera and reports back. One sits in front of a computer screen, trawls Google Street View, appropriates images that have something in common - places where sex workers gather - and then (re) presents the images as his own.   It seems misguided to assert that they are both "photographers". (Also, Henna, like Phil Collins, Thomas Demand and John Stezaker, all of whose work I also like,  could just as easily be up for the Turner prize. Killip would never be considered.)  This is not just a question of terminology, it raises questions about what photography is....what it is for....as well as the art world's late appropriation of photography, and the teaching of the same.

My second point is to do with the curatorial thrust towards work that could be called conceptual, that is work where the idea and/or the process predominates. I know you will say this is the market, but nevertheless it leaves me uneasy that one of the few photography prizes in Britain with any credibility - and the one emanating from the predominant gallery for photography in the UK - seems so uneasy about photography that is about going out into the world with a camera. Paul Graham is particularly good on this - see his essay The Unreasonable Apple.

Thirdly, the work itself. I like The Afronauts by Cristina Middel and a lot of Henna's work, but I cannot take seriously the notion that their two books are among those that "significantly contributed to the medium of photography in Europe betwen Oct 2010 and Sept 2011".  Off the top of my head, I could put forward Lise Safarti's She, Lucas Foglia's The Natural Order, Christian Patterson's Redheaded Peckerwood, and, if we are going to talk Google Stree View, Doug Rickard, for Christ's sake. But, hey, maybe that's just down to taste.

Anyway, enough from me. Glad to touch base and. for the record, we do converge quite a bit politically, so keep up the good work on that front. I will continue to read with interest and an ever-thickening skin!

all the best,
Sean O'hagan
ps will be checking out Maynard.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Good, decent people you strongly disagree with- the absolute worst!

06 December, 2012 13:15  

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