Conceptual photography

For its latest issue (#71), Source magazine is asking the question, “What is conceptual photography?” To go along with the mag they have produced three short talking-head videos exploring this question with a handful of artists and critics. The importance of the “concept” in contemporary photography has always interested me. In the photo-world, the question regularly pops up about why “straight” photography isn’t taken seriously by the art world. Those in the straight photography corner often appear to see conceptual photography as impure in some way, as if it were not what photography is really about. Without wanting to spark off another one of these debates, it seems to me that concept is indeed considered paramount in Western art photography today (in my experience, this is not at all the case in Japan, where “serious” photography can still very much be about wandering around with a camera and taking pictures). For example, I’m often struck by young photographers struggling to hang an ill-fitting artist statement with some big ideas in it over the shoulders of work that is clearly not conceptual in the slightest… presumably because they have been taught to do so in art school. Wherever you stand on this question (or however delightfully far away you stand from it) these videos provide an interesting look at how photography became so excited about concepts and what the hell “conceptual photography” is even supposed to mean in the first place.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted 14 September 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I believe that Concept was introduced in Photography more as a need of the art market to expand its business. The image itself is quite strong to elevate photography to a status of an autonomous art. The problem today is that “C” seems more important and dominant than “P”.

  2. Posted 19 September 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Concept is great, but isn’t the photograph itself more important. If I take one photograph, then take the exact same one standing on my head is there any difference. Maybe I’ll put that in my artist statement ;)

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