John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art: John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971, lithograph, 22-7/16 x 30-1/16 inches (The Museum of Modern Art), images © John Baldessari, courtesy of the artist
Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker
I am a big fan of Brooks Jensen. I have read all his books and I am a subscriber to his premium service website. I think LensWork is a great artistic resource. But I disagree with Brooks on his rants about digital tools being “just as good” as film. While digital cameras certainly have their place, I don’t think they are better then analog tools (not for fine art photography anyway). Many large format photographers cringe when Brooks says that his Panasonic Lumix (which is a micro four thirds camera) renders equal resolution to large format film cameras. Thats just nonsense. I don’t care how small the print sizes are. There is no digital camera on earth that renders the same detail and resolution as large format film.
In a recent podcast titled “Tough Love” brooks states in so many words that digital shooters have surpassed old school film photographers in quality and artistic merit. He claims to make this assertion based upon the flow of submissions that LensWork receives. I cant testify to the quality of submissions that lands on Brooks desk from his audience. But I can say this; from my own personal observations, the museums I visited recently in NYC, Chicago and Boston as well as my regular visits to the major gallery openings in Chelsea, I am not seeing an overtaking of digital photographs. In fact, its quite the opposite. I am seeing a resurgence of old school film photography everywhere. I believe the mainstream galleries and museums (the folks who truly have their pulse on the art market) are still predominately selling silver gelatin prints, made from real negatives, created with real film.
Brooks goes on to say that digital shooters are making better photographs because they shoot more. I think thats a ridiculous position. For me personally as an artist, I am after quality not quantity. In fact, given the option of creating a large volume of mediocre work every week or one masterpiece a year, I would chose the one masterpiece per year and be very content.
While I respect Brooks opinion, I believe its a biased one. I tend to agree with Stephen Shore who made the following comment about the digital proliferation of imagery on the internet: “I went on to Flickr and it was just thousands of pieces of shit, and I just couldn’t believe it. And it’s just all conventional, it’s all cliches, it’s just one visual convention after another.”