A couple of weeks ago, I was blogging about the photographer Tim Davis and mentioned in passing his series of photographs of paintings in which the play of light on the varnish gives the original work new photographic meaning. Then yesterday I went to the Met to hear Scott Schuman speak on a panel about fashion and blogging. With a few minutes to spare I took a quick spin around the second floor and came across one of my favorite paintings that had unexpectedly been relocated. I pulled out my camera and took a picture not realizing that the flash was on (a big no-no as the Met guard was quick to tell me). However, in the instant I saw on the viewfinder what I had captured, I realized I had made a Tim Davis!
Does this picture have any validity? Based on a position I've taken many times, the answer is absolutely and unequivocally no. Which is frustrating - because as objectively as I can judge it I think it's a pretty good picture, but without context, history, background, etc., it has little meaning. Much of its meaning, in fact, comes from Davis's prior insight and work.
I recently saw a photographer as a favor to a friend and he came in to the gallery, young, confident, and with a totally mediocre portfolio. I made an effort to be as polite as possible. At the end of his presentation he pulled out a little envelope and with a flourish showed me a group of snapshots of sky, horizon, water. At this point I thought it would be doing him a favor to point out that this notion (the appreciation of the ever changing but always formal abstraction of horizons) had been ably expressed by Joel Meyerowitz and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Unless he had some radical new insight into how to re-imagine this kind of picture he was unlikely to end up with a one person show in New York. He looked at me incredulously and as though explaining it to some idiot said "But this is The Ganges."!
(FYI - my picture is on top and Davis's below.)