Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Photography Is a Joke.

TEDx Amsterdam was graced with a confident lecture delivered by Hans Aarsman in a playful tone and broken English to a selected sympathetic audience. He sets out to make a case for unpretentious photography, and lands in a proclamation of his own work, although maybe a reluctant and ironic one. Aarsman's photos end up in international magazines without him even trying, he says. And that is the core of his theory, one shouldn't. Authenticity derives from a laid back almost not giving a damn attitude: the importance of not being earnest.

Photography can't be pretty without looking like a painting, thus all pretty photography must be kitsch. In order to be interesting, it suffices to be a collection of data or information that an inquisitive eye can analyze intelligently in order to draw conclusions or some practical use. It is not about the image but about the subject, literally. Aesthetics usually get in the way of clarity, and should as such be abandoned or at least not knowingly pursued.

As theories go this one is scattered with contradictions and limitations, which is probably just as well for it would mean nothing short of a ravaging iconoclasm if it weren't. All fine photography up to this point goes in the bin; crude utilitaristic imagery takes its place on the walls of museums and collections.

Delivering it like a joke makes for a welcome distraction from more conventional possibly yawn inducing speakers, still some implications should be given thoughtful consideration. For if it is important not to take something too seriously, surely it should be the photographer who needs to be humbled and not the medium.

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