I think you can kill a series of pictures if you keep chipping away. I’m very aware of that when I’m editing pictures. I have these sort of set rules: firstly, I never edit on a computer screen, I always work with hand prints. I always have piles of edit A, edit B, edit C, and they sort of dance between each other. I work that way when sequencing and I look at them and live with them. I may come into the studio one morning and just remove a picture and suddenly you feel the series go up a notch. But then I’m aware that you can look at things too much and you can kill them, like listening to your favourite record too much or eating your favourite food. We can absolutely kill the things we love by too much exposure to them.
“Fashion photographers are the new painters,” Peter Lindbergh said as he prepared the show of his dramatic black-and-white images that opened last week at the Gagosian Gallery in Paris. Who would have guessed in the heady 1980s — when Mr. Lindbergh’s new, natural images of Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and others created the supermodel — that the art world would lose its disdain for fashion photography’s commercialism? Today, fashion photography is art’s rising star, drawing large crowds to exhibitions (which produce much-needed revenue from sponsorships, rentals and even merchandise) and enticing more collectors. Even the fashion industry itself is showing more respect for the form.
The very word street has a rough, dirty magic to it, summoning up the low, the common, the erotic, the dangerous, the revolutionary. A man of the streets is only a populist, but a woman of the streets is, like a streetwalker, a seller of her sexuality. Street kids are urchins, beggars, and runaways, and the new term street person describes those who have no other home. Street-smart means someone wise in the ways of the city and well able to survive in it, while “to the streets” is the classic cry of urban revolution, for the streets are where people become the public and where their power resides. The street means life in the heady currents of the urban river in which everyone and everything can mingle. It is exactly this social mobility, this lack of compartments and distinctions, that gives the street its danger and its magic, the danger and magic of water in which everything runs together.
Henceforth few photographers will become prominent in the field without making their way into the profession filtered through the photo-ed system, which will conform their early work to one or another version of what in the publishing world they call “house style” (underpinned by what I’ll call ‘house theory”). As the twig is bent, so grows the bough. Some will evade that indoctrination, or shake it off, but the occasional exception will only prove the rule.
In fact, the opposite of the conventional tale is the case: those who like any kind of art or media that has not been blessed to receive the bullshit, self-serving mantel of “pop culture” are subject to a never-ending stream of disdain, dismissal, and abuse. To believe that different types of cultural products should exist, and that some of these should create artistic pleasures based on work, ambiguity, or difficulty, is to be immediately and permanently labeled a snob, an empty signifier that exists simply to provide people with a convenient label to apply to those whose artistic tastes are different than their own. If you like any kind of artwork that does not leave its pleasures totally and utterly accessible at all times and to all people with no expectation that consuming art should involve effort, you will be lectured to by the aggrieved. You will get yelled at by the AV Club and Vulture and Slate, by Steve Hyden and Andy Greenwald and the rest of the crew at Bill Simmons’s Geographical Center of the American Middlebrow, in the New York Times and the New Yorker and every other sundry magazine, blog, site, app, Tumblr, Twittr, Tindr, Grindr, newsletter, listerv, forum, message board, image board, room & board, surfboard and broadsheet that humanity produces. They will deny that what you like is good, deny that you really like it, and invent all sorts of nefarious reasons that you say you like the thing you say you like. They will question not just your right to like what you like but undermine the very notion that someone else could have an aesthetic sense that is different from theirs.