civilized ku # 5065-67 ~ inbred preciosities

kids queue at the cow jumping fest ~ Jay, NY (embiggenable)

landscape / cityscape ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY / Ottawa, ONT. CA (embiggenable)

What makes a good/better/best landscape picture? Most - both picture makers and picture viewers - would think it to be a picture which has "... good technique, compelling composition, perfect light at the right time of day and a subject that sings..." although "... finding good light is the secret to successful landscapes, even more so than interesting subject matter" (both quotes taken from an online discussion, re: good landscape photography).

iMo, those prescriptions (aka: rules) are a good recipe for making really good, albethey formulaic, decorative/calender fodder landscape pictures. Nothing wrong with that but its just not my cup of tea. I want a little (or alot) more spice in my cup of photogratea.

What do I mean "spice"? Let's start with this from a 1953 amateur photography magazine in which the author wrote that picture makers must ...

"... learn to SEE ... we have come to look at things like everybody else does, or as outside influences have taught us to look." He urged picture makers to depend more on their "inner vision ... to see as nobody else does."

iMo, re: that idea, most landscape picture makers see as everybody else does. While their subject matter may differ - albeit always within the prescibed list of "good" subjects - to my eye and sensibilities their pictures all look the same. That is, the landscape as a well ordered - aka: "good" composition - and romantized - by means of "good" light - and idealized look at the (mostly) natural world. That's not spice, it's pablum.

Now, to be sure, every picture making genre has its "rules" and conventions. That includes the genre to which I subscribe, the snapshot aesthetic which typically features apparently banal everyday subject matter pictured in a haphazard manner - tilted horizons, cluttered "composition", no apparent regard for precise framing, and in many cases "flawed" techique and the like.

Robert Frank, with his 1958 book The American, is generally regarded as the originator of this aesthetic. However, in fact, true amateur snapshooters had been using the aesthetic for decades prior, they just didn't know that it was an aesthetic.

FYi, John Szarkowski, director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, was an early and enthusiastic promoter of the aesthetic, much to the chagrin, consternation and criticism of photography critics of that era. After all, who would want their pictures to look like the lowly snapshot?

Prior to Szarkowski, MOMA, in 1944, mounted an exhibition, The American Snapshot, in which 350 snapshots, culled from competitions and exhibitions sponsored by Eastman Kodak, were exhibited. Most reviewers of the exhibit asserted that the pictures "constituted the most vital, most dynamic, most interesting and worth-while photographic exhibition ever assembled by MOMA." The pictures were praised as being "without artistic pretensions ... coming nearer to achieving the stature of true art than any of the inbred preciosities in the museums's permanent collection..." and that the pictures were "honest, realistic, human and articulate."

And therein you have my idea of "spice" - pictures that are without artistic pretensions, that are honest, realistic, human and articulate; attributes which can be inexorably linked to any referent - everything in the world is picture worthy.