10 December 2010

Does Sean O'Hagan Really Get Photography?

It seems to have become an annual event. The short list for the Deutsche Börse Prize is announced. And then Sean O'Hagan promptly writes a column in The Guardian complaining that the jury seems obsessed with "conceptual" photography at the expense of ... well, of things that O'Hagan seems to like better. And, on that matter, O'Hagan seems remarkably self assured. What he prefers, he tells us, is "straight photography – photography without pretensions." No examples of what he means. No sense of which of the now canonical figures in the history of photography would be drummed out of any possible consideration for the Prize. Just a broad complaint. In any case, here is his column from this week. Here and here are two posts, with relevant links, I wrote in response to last year's installment.

Nothing much has changed in my assessment this year. But instead of simply repeating myself, I'd ask you to consider a hypothetical. According to the Prize web page, the Deutsche Börse Prize is awarded "a contemporary photographer of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution (exhibition or publication) to the medium of photography in Europe in the previous year." When, as will soon enough be the case, Sebastião Salgado completes his Genesis project (which, by the way, The Guardian has been previewing in installments) and publishes the planned for book and mounts the planned for exhibition, will he be eligible for the Deutsche Börse short list by O'Hagan's lights? It is not just that Salgado's work has "pretensions," but it arguably also calls into question in various ways naïve views of photography and its uses. I am not sure how, given his ongoing complaints, O'Hagan could not object if the jury included Salgado for the shortlist. But I am then not at all sure who he might deem worthy of consideration.

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Blogger bastinptc said...

It is my understanding that if one uses a photographic process, it is considered photography. After that, matters of taste play into it. Of course, the (conceptual) debate goes much deeper, and the naivete may very well come from how deep into the debate one chooses to go.

10 December, 2010 19:10  
Blogger Stan B. said...

My heart's leaning towards Sean- so damn you for pointing out the facts, Jim!

11 December, 2010 00:47  

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