HOW I SEE IT
I don’t remember who said it but a mother sitting on the beach takes a snap of her child, this could be called the purest form of photography, recording a moment in time that can be looked back on, not only by her but anybody else concerned. War Correspondents did and do the same thing now.
Camera clubs must have started with a few keen ‘chemist types’saying “ let’s get together and share our knowledge and look at each other’s work”. A good place for anyone to learn the skills of making a photograph. Not so bad!! Until fast film interchangeable lens cameras and J B Turner hit the scene! Now we had John’s PhotoForum showing us the American greats who had developed still photography as an art form that could be sold for hard cash (how American). I bought a $70 Edward Weston print. We were made to rethink how to take our photos with more soul, meaning and quality. These were great times and John did show a lot of us a sense and purpose to our photography. No more Bank window displays, but target Art galleries and sell prints when we could (most of us swapped). I, to my embarrassment, wrote to Imogen Cunningham asking her to swap six of my prints for one of hers??
I believe this period perhaps ended with The Active Eye Exhibition. I must relate attending an Auckland workshop and seeing one new photographer arrive wearing a black beret, ‘ doctor who’ scarf and a very long coat, straight from Monmarte Paris but the next day dressing as the rest of us in jeans and T shirt. Had the beginning of the ‘art set’ photographer just arrived in Auckland NZ ?
I stopped taking photos for 20 years and started again in a completely new world of photography. A lot of things we used to dream of had happened. Digital cameras meant endless shots , colour, sharpness, instant review and no exposure meters and the computer gave us Photoshop, Wow! Forget all the old ways we had learned, this is space age stuff. The art set would surely go mad with the chance to make up anything and not even have to print it, but no, black and white stayed the thing, purposely out of focus, badly framed with explanations of why it was taken printed alongside. This is what I discovered when my wife Babs and I took the trouble to go to see the new update of The Active Eye Exhibition in Palmerston North. I expected some brilliant new Photoshop creations but no, same old or worse. A blurred black and white photograph doesn’t make it art.
I can’t lay claim to any greatness or originality in my love of this medium but if I took a photo of one of my kids on the beach it would just have to be something with an edge of humour involved, that’s me coming through in my photograph. I am not against artists, I do understand how the real ones push us all into new understanding, it’s the pseudo wannabe’s that grate with me.
New Zealand’s own Dennis Waugh says in the PhotoForum at 40 book “Photography at best is a specialised craft, not art”. Dorothea Lange has also made similar comments. I know the argument has been going for over a century but l enjoy photography for being the skilled craft it is.
Well, that’s how I see it, so rip into me!
I’m just out of focus
dreaming black on white
memories long forgotten
passing through the night
Editor’s note: Our thanks to Mac Miller for inviting further discussion on photography. Mac’s involvement with PhotoForum goes back to the beginnings of the society. In fact, one of his images featured on the cover of the first issue of Photo-Forum magazine (issue 18 – February/March 1974). You can view a portfolio of his more recent work via the PhotoForum Members online gallery here