So which is better?
I have had some recent feedback from my tutor with regard an apel submission I'm putting together. He said something interesting that at first I swept over fleetingly and then later found myself questioning over and over.
It is something I am finding a lot with photography - I am introduced to a new concept either through the course, my tutor, fellow students or by independent research. The thought arrives in my conscious, I am initially a little uncomfortable by the new piece of knowledge. I dwell on it, research it, look at what other photographers do. I freeze temporarily in terms of taking my own photos, look introspectively and critically at my own work. It doesn't come right away, but ultimately I start to see the areas for improvement in my own photography. Then finally the idea feels like it is my own thought or cleverness and I recommence photographing with that new piece of knowledge embedded in my psyche.
But equally this bothers me as I can't differentiate between what I think I like and what I have learned. They become one and the same. For example I have learned that Diane Arbus was hugely influential in her photography (see more in this post), but I couldn't claim to have recognised this had it not been done so by many others in the past, even though I truly appreciate her work now after studying it. I think I lose sight of what appeals to me and what I now appreciate as good art and perhaps lose confidence that the former has any value.
Another example is Rineke Dijkstra and her 1994 pregnant women project. This touched me immediately and continues to do so. Whereas Nan Goldin's work is something that has definitely influenced my photography in terms of the levels of acceptance in honesty, openness and approach she adopted. But if I am honest, it doesn't reach me in the same way other artists do. Maybe it feels too far from my own existence and therefore more voyeuristic than appreciation. Dijkstra I like simply because I like it but equally understand why critically it is an important piece of work. Hmmm, going around in circles a bit!!
Anyway back to subjectivity versus objectivity, I have the greatest respect for my tutor. Every word in his reports is considered and as such, I read every word carefully and many times. My tutor wrote:
'. . . I think you could make much more from a close, personal reportage assignment where this kind of subject was handled objectively. And this is the interesting characteristic of your work: it has a subjective quality to it. . .'
He is absolutely right of course. Much of my photography is subjective and in some ways that is what I was aiming for but I can't say that I had considered how the photographs would have turned out had I taken an objective approach. Infact, I am not sure how I would have done it objectively or what exactly this means. And this unnerves me.
I am also a little concerned as I am learning I am photographing less and wonder at some point where the balance will lie.
So going forward, I will have to do a little bit of digging to find some objective and subjective photography, assess it and try and work out what techniques photographers adopt to achieve this. There is little theory I have found that has been particularly helpful so far. So this research in itself will be subjective.
The first recollection I have of objective photography was that of Bernd and Hilla Becher. This video explains in more detail their rationale. They photographed industrial structures examining the differences and similarities of structure and appearance. They expressly photographed with little subjective input or influence. I can understand why they would take objective images of buildings and structures. They are documenting a time in history and providing a factual account.
However, I have come to a grinding halt and am not sure where to look for further examples. I'll post this up for now and may come back to this when I know more!