The notion of ‘photography’s heroes’ was brought up indirectly in a recent lecture at the NY Public Library with the photographers Paul Graham, Tod Papageorge, Katy Grannan, Danny Lyon and Mitch Epstein attempting to discuss ‘truth’ in photography. The conversation started off with Papageorge and Graham discussing their views of the medium and stressing the importance of Winogrand and Szarkowski as attributable influences on themselves and the course of the history of the medium since the sixties. The discussion quickly sidetracked off topic and fireworks erupted when loose cannon provocateur Danny Lyon, sitting grimacing and wincing at the mention of praise towards these two legendary individuals, spewed forth with an interruption of incoherent self-congratulatory bitterness with the intent to discredit and de-mystify.
Now generally I like to hear from people who do not naturally tow the same line of thinking as everyone else as it offers at least the possibility of further enlightenment, I just wish it hadn’t come from
Anyway, this opinionated battle over these two photographic heroes proved to be the most entertaining part of the lecture. It also leads me to a new book from Harry
In this book, Gilles Mora explores the well trodden subject of how photography in
The first problem is that the history of this period has been recounted so many times that its telling in this new book may ultimately be pointless. This book’s failure is that it adds little, if anything new, to the subject. It is the same cast delivering the same lines etc…etc.
Secondly, although the design is functional, the reproductions are terrible. Terrible in a…the photographers or the estates of the photographers should sue, kind of way. It really looks like a major technical screw up took place like the pages didn’t make enough passes through the press. Very few of our heroes escape with their dignity intact. For a book that starts as a celebration, this does its best to disgrace and, for some viewers, may be tantamount to sacrilege.
Tina Cameron is credited as the production manager on this book. She was also the production manager on the Books of Nudes that I just featured and with that title she did a fantastic job. There she proved herself capable of taking the helm but here with The Last Photographic Heroes, something went terribly wrong. The production crew is the same, the only difference I can see is that the nudes book was printed in
The only value I could have seen in this book is for photographers or students who do not know the importance of this time period in American photography, but due to the poor production work, that seems pointless as well.
The notion of ‘hero’ is a curious one. No doubt hero-worship occurs and I have not escaped such feeling when considering those who have caused me to think in more complex ways. (When my own work is crap I often light a candle in honor of the ‘photo-gods,’ Timothy O’Sullivan and others who had to jump through hoops just to take a single photo). The biggest ‘hero’ for many was Winogrand, who probably would have shunned the title for didn’t he say that, ‘once the work exists then the artist is irrelevant’? I tend to think that Winogrand’s thought, as truthful and ego sacrificing as it may have been, is not viable for many photography enthusiasts. The separation of artist from the art is exceedingly difficult to do when the myths are reaffirmed and disseminated to the point of being equal to, or a justification of, the work itself.Book Available Here (Last Photographic Heroes)