Some of you may not know John Goldsmith, but if you dont then you should look him up. He can be found here.
John is also in some great company as a founding member of strange.rs collective.
But were here for a book right...
Drop Out of Art School was a shock to the system for me, and I will elaborate a little on why. I think it was due to the fact that I had this preconceived idea of the sort of images John would put in a book. This wasnt it. And to be honest, I recon John is smiling about that fact as he reads this.
Its for this reason that I decided to take my copy on a little excursion to make some snaps of the pages within the little book for this post. I have no idea if Picasso went to 'Art School' or not, but thats beside the point really. I have no doubt that in any reputable art school there would be reference to him in the curriculum.
The same holds true for some of the great photographers that were hung at the National Gallery when I went. I had forgotten this small set of images from the likes of ManRay and Walker Evans was on display at the moment. The black and white images really are masterpieces. I dont know if this has rubbed off on the images in Johns book. I dont know if its possible for images in a book to be improved by a visit to see some of their ancestors, but I thought that since these images were dropped out of art school they might be in the market for some education.
All jokes aside, the images in the book make a statement about what photography is becoming. John himself admits in the forward that we ourselves dont have any idea where the still image art form is destined for as it travels through the ever changing modifications that are being forced on it by the growing beast that is technology. I always chuckle at the fact that in this age of technology where camera sales are based on more megapixels and better pixel density, there is this 'subsale' culture that are driven to buy just the opposite in some ways.
Instagram with their square format and filters to give any image that vintage look. Fuji Films digital push with the included film emulsion filters that help your brand new digital camera with all its focus peaking low light performance uber sharpness techno tools into exactly what you want in a camera, one that mimics the look and feel of a 40 year old film shooter. Its a very strange marketing situation.
So more and more we see film return. We see film companies that went out of business returning to make new stock. We see prices of film cameras on the second hand market climb. People want to make images, and they want to make them tangible. John alludes to this as well. Its with this uncertain eye to the future that we need to view the images in Drop Out of Art School. Uncertain what the art world that were are building and fostering with the digital age will want to see in the future.
The classics will always be the classics. At no point in time will we lose faith in the forefathers of the still image. They have had their chance to mature and be discarded, and they have stood the test of time. As with the technological developments that influence the direction of our beloved genre, there is no saying where it will end. What will the development of wearable cameras bring for example? My assumption is the answer is a horde of crap that is generated by the ease by which people are already able to 'make' a photo, but also a small amount of amazing. Amazing that will be developed by the few who are creative enough to use the new technology in their own way to do something that hasnt been done before.
Just as an aside, the painting above is one of my favourite permanent installations at the National Gallery. Nothing to do with the book, but we all know how I like to get a little side tracked. I dont know what it is about the image, I think its the weirdness of the scene. Whatever it is, I just thought I would digress a little to explain why I chose to use it as a background. As stated above however, we cant be certain what will become the next big thing in art, in photography. At the time this image was painted (c1878) August Friedrich Albrecht SCHENCK wouldnt have known it would become a permanent hanging on the wall of one of the biggest art institutions in the country.
I would almost bet people of the time who saw the work would likely not have thought a lot for the subject matter. The technical side of things may have impressed, but the choice of subject would have been controversial for 1878. Who is anyone to say that a photo of a tomato found on a road is not to become the next contemporary piece to be hung on the wall of a famous art institution in years to come.
Below is an example of what I think I am trying to say. Why is this painting worthy of hanging on the wall of the National Gallery 5 meters from a Picasso. For that matter, why is a Picasso worthy? They both likely represent an important shift in the genre of painting. I dont have to like them. You dont have to understand them. You dont have to have gone to art school to appreciate them. Just like in this day and age of available photographic methods, you dont have to go to art school to be a photographer.
I saw a good friend talk the other night. She is a runner. Ran and cycled 13,500km around Australia in 8 months. Her name is Clare Weatherly, and she made an interesting statement about time. The quote from Clare was centered on the ever present complaint from people that they have not enough time in the day to do what they want to do. Clare clearly pointed out that time is actually the one thing in this world that is distributed equally to us all, its priorities that we all need to look at. This statement of time and its equality in the present may not be as true when applied to great works of art. Although the duration of time passing will be equal, the impact on the work will not. Only the great work will stand the test of time, but its what this test will be that we need to come to grips with not knowing at the moment.
The next great works of photographic art may not even come from someone that would consider themselves a photographer. It may come from some person who has slowly been capturing moments on a smart phone that one day will be uncovered and disclosed to the world. The best part of the journey is not knowing...