Style Over Substance

February 13, 2011

Looking at who (among art photographers) is getting big gallery and museum shows it’s easy to see a common theme that’s left me at a sort of crossroads: most photographs that are very popular right now have no content whatsoever.  Nothing.  It might be a portrait or a picture of a pair of socks or an architectural view but what’s meaningful about any of these works by successful photographers is that style is the consideration over substance.  And though it’s too easy to break things down in simple terms like that it’s still true.  People want something to look at; they don’t want content.

The problem with me is that I’m all about content.  So this is why my art career is DOA.  One of the main reasons, at least.

But I can’t just make photos that aren’t idea-driven.  I did a test drive of that idea and the results are below and it’s easy to make compelling photographs of nothing but what’s the point?  So do I continue down this road in order to get my foot in the door and make a switcheroo or am I doomed to the non-profit ghetto for my whole career?  Am I being too simple and sweeping in my thinking?  Probably.  But it seems like in 2011 we’re not at a moment when people want photographs to be about anything, we’re at a moment of photo-as-abstract-painting.  Which I’m not sure what to do about.

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4 Responses to “Style Over Substance”

  1. Adam Feldmeth Says:

    stick to your [proverbial] guns

  2. Nicholas Says:

    That’s what I plan to do, but I’ve been told by various curators to package my work so it’s more “sexy”.

  3. Adam Feldmeth Says:

    You take “sexy” here to imply visually appealing, stimulating? To what extent is that request urging you and your presentation(s) to become campy and simply entertainment? They are asking you to package the work to a point in which the content becomes faint (effectively abstracted) through the wrapping?

  4. Nicholas Says:

    It means completely reducing my practice to things that are nice to look at but don’t challenge a prospective curator or collector etc. in any way. And I’m not having much luck doing that because that’s not how my work works. Some of the recent stuff I’ve posted here can be taken in a no-thinking way but the problem is mostly that I’m not really a photographer, I’m a conceptual artist who relies on photography frequently.


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