Kill your idols….is that OK or just a sign of not understanding?

15 Mar

I have the last few weeks after looking through a lot of photographic books started to think:

“Is it ok to not like one of the photographers despite everybody else praising them to the sky?”

At first I looked at a book about Edward Weston and then also his book “Nudes”. After that came Martins Parrs “Thinking of england”, then Henri Cartier-Bressons “Europeans” and Irving Penns “Still life”.

My first impression of Edward Westons work can be found in an earlier post and I still have to admire him for exploring photography with the possibilities that he had and especially when looking at the “values” that society and certainly art had. What had been done what was “ok” to do and not to do. But of all his pictures just a handful are


strong enough to have this “I would have liked to have taken that picture myself”-effect. One is of course the beautifully lit clams or some of his nudes.

From those books my journey went on to Martin Parr and I was shocked at first glance…..all those bubble-gum colours, not a single correctly focused picture, I apologize for my generalisation.0714844543

But looking through the book, leaving it lying around for a few days, picking it up and looking again it grow. I still would claim that if you take one of his pictures and show it to someone not familiar with art or the artist the person would not see him as one of Englands greatest photographers.
BUT, when looking at the book in his entirety you can not do anything else than admire him for his work. Not the single picture is brilliant but all of them are when looked at as a collection. Or are the pictures great and I am not understanding it? He probably chose the way he presented the pictures and subjects deliberately.
Maybe the view he has of England is so colourful that it is tasteless?
From my view as a European with both German and Catalan blood in me I found several of my prejudices confirmed regarding the “English soul” and the way of living. Maybe that was his intention?

While reading his book I also began looking through Cartier-Bressons book 050028122Xabout the Europeans and that finally push the question on….is it ok to not like an artist? When looking at his picture I did not find a single picture that I did not like. Technically, artistically and the whole collection of pictures are just brilliant. Maybe boring some can say? Not to me. He managed to capture the spirit and the feeling of each country with just a few pictures and with an intimacy that is not found often in photographers work. Steve McCurry might be one that also manages to get so close to the people.


Sune Jonsson
taken from homepage of Moderna museet in Stockholm.

Living in Sweden I think of course of  Sune Jonssons book “Byn med det blå huset” (Village with the blue house) where he travels to the remote parts in Northern Sweden in order to document life there. He took inspiration from the documentary project of “Farm Security Administration” in the 1930’s in the USA.

Finally came Irving Penns “Still life” book. Totally different to all the other 0821227025books. Technically brilliant, master of light you can call him and who would think of taking pictures of cigarettes next to a skull and frozen vegetables?

I cannot but admire him for the big variety of still life he has done during those years with the technicality and precision that he has. The spontaneous reaction of my father to the pictures was: “Horrible! He must like disgusting and ugly pictures and things to depict.”

So having now thought aloud and shared my thoughts with you I have to say that I am not really wiser about it.

You may have to look at Weston as a pioneer, looking at Parr as an ethnologue, Penn as an abstract prcise technician and Cartier-Bresson as the master of it all?

You are more than welcome to share your thoughts with me!

I think it is ok to not like photographers…but maybe not kill your idols!


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