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Bullshit To Impress

Sharing this little “list in development” from John Perivolaris who has been posting it on his Twitter stream recently.

I know I’m guilty of at least one of these, yet I also groan in the inward sense whenever I (frequently) read or hear other photographers talking in this glorified manner about work photographs that leave me feeling totally blank.

Bullshit to impress #1: `Make work’ rather than photograph.

Bullshit to impress #2: Be `an artist who uses photography’ rather than a photographer.

Bullshit to impress #3: Talk about one’s `practice’ rather than one’s photographs.

Bullshit to impress #4: Always `explore’ or `question’ a theme rather than photographing something.

Bullshit to impress #5: Photograph empty places. Add long text about the immanent memory of an absent human presence. Job done. Punctum.

Bullshit to impress #6: Any suggestions?

Update: Added by duckrabbit…
In the spirit of the duckrabbit from reading these tweets Perivolaris comes across as anti art and anti artists.

1: nothing bullshitty talking about your work is there? (is is that for some of us)
2: some artists do work with photos. That’s just a fact. Seems daft to call them bullshitters just because they want to be known as artists?
3: As we’ve often said at duckrabbit, it’s all about ‘practise’ (darling).
4: Its narrow mind that doesn’t accept you can both photograph something and explore it, or question it.
5: This is a cliche.

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    8 comments to Bullshit To Impress

    • In the spirit of the duckrabbit from reading these tweets Perivolaris comes across as anti art and anti artists.

      1: nothing bullshitty talking about your work is there? (is is that for some of us)
      2: some artists do work with photos. That’s just a fact. Seems daft to call them bullshitters just because they want to be known as artists?
      3: As we’ve often said at duckrabbit, it’s all about ‘practise’ (darling).
      4: Its narrow mind that doesn’t accept you can both photograph something and explore it, or question it.
      5: This is a cliche.

    • Good counter-points, which I’l add to the main entry. I’m inclined to fence-sit on this one, and not simply because it makes for a very cheap tripod…

    • In my rush to update the main point, and guffawing at the mental image (if not the strange sensations) my last induced, I ought to have added this…

      There’s something incredibly easy about talking about the talking about of work. See Parr’s recent Cliches list as simple second example. Yet, there is something about the trends in expression (both written and photographic) and I think Perivolaris is pointing towards one such trend that I wouldn’t like to overwhelm the actual business of making good content. The snide comment as bulwark perhaps? Maybe it is too simplistic. But I don’t see any problem with making work that is also art and that is also comprised of photographs. So I don’t see any need to avoid mentioning the dirty P-word when talking about either work or art. Seems like some do; that I would question.

      If anything, the ‘need’ to find a new vocabulary (linguistic) says more about the paucity of the received discussions on the nature of photographs than it does the limitations of words that have pretty wide semantic content. Take Barthes, for example. An entire book supposedly about the phenomenology of photography, but it gives us nothing of the sort. What it does manage is a hastily concocted extrapolation of personal feelings about photographs, predicated on very personal feelings about some specific personal photographs. Which is neither phenomenology, nor particularly interesting beyond the limited sense of understanding pictures where we feel a sense of personal attachment (often not the case at all in photographs we view).

    • Well most aren’t really bullshit, are they? Or anyway not as this philosophy term is understood. Rather, they’re the art world’s equivalent of pentagonese. We know that “collateral damage” means “death of innocent civilians”, and we know that “photographic practice” means “photography”. The extra syllables are just designed to lull: in this case, I suppose to lull the reader into a state of mind where it’s all Art, whose value will appreciate, so that if one buys a print or three, or at least a book, one’s friends will be suitably impressed and one might end up rich or celebrated in one’s old age.

      you can both photograph something and explore it, or question it

      No, no, you can both (i) engage in a photographic practice and (ii) interrogate the nature, not of the something, but instead of the photographic practice, thereby disintermediating granular paradigms.

      Incidentally, if Perivolaris is this chap, he describes himself as an artist. (Good career move.)

    • Thank you for (in addition to contributing to our little debate here, for which I’m also grateful) reminding me I meant to read Frankfurt’s book – added back on my To Do list.

    • Bullshit to impress #6: Distract from the dubious quality and quantity of one’s work by discussing one’s `process’.

    • Bullshit to impress #7: Exhibition prints the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

    • Bullshit to impress #8: Always `locate’ one’s practice (though more worrying not to be able to locate one’s camera).