Call it Art. Or, Don’t!

Call it Art.  Or, Don’t!
 (photograph by Doug Rickard, sort of… I mean.. KIND of by Doug Rickard.)
Things to do during the hurricane Sandy:

Check out Doug Rickard’s amazing appropriated images on Yossi Milo’s gallery site: 
  Oh, the changes that art brings in how we view our world.  I’m sure Doug is a nice guy (and hey, he never has to leave his desk to actually TAKE a photograph, lucky guy) but the lauding of this kind of work leaves me worse than cold. (Yes, I was on the World Press Jury which “took note” of the value of Google Street.)

I love the image, but I’m wishing I knew who was driving the car that afternoon. That’s who I’d like to congratulate. And honestly, when serious galleries decide that this kind of “appropriation” is the “art du jour” it denigrates all who think of themselves as artists.  Does his work  “evoke a connection to the tradition of American street photography, with knowing references to Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Stephen Shore.”   Absolutely NOT.  Anything that requires nothing more than a LOT of looking at images online, and then photographing them to make prints, is just NOT where any of those actual photographers ever were.  If Doug had made his own car ( a Toyota sedan like the Google car?) with his own cameras, and driven around for days, making images like this, I would at least have to say “yeah, interesting way of seeing the world… ”  A few of these images are not uninteresting, yet merely plucking those views out of a cavalcade of anonymous camera car images is not art. It’s image mining. It’s dreary, I’m sure. But you cannot be in a position where you never have to miss lunch at your office desktop, and think for a second you are doubling up Frank or Evans.  Even as our lives are more and more defined by the anonymous digital camera, whether on a car or a phone pole, I  take exception to treating the work of secondary “appropriators” as ART.  I know Art is supposed to challenge us, make us think, make us uncomfy.  Well, I’m challenged, I’m thinking, and I’m uncomfy, but not necessarily for the reasons that Doug might have hoped for when he started out.  I’m sorry we don’t know the name of the driver of the Google Street car.  That’s the guy who should have a major show at a major gallery, though your mileage may vary.

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  1. I coincide with your opinions. But you put the finger in the sore. Why do you legitimate that honorable mention gave to Michael Wolf in the World Press Photo? the same can be told about the photojournalist vision of Wolf. And in this case we are not talking about art, we are talking about photojournalism.

  2. Rob says:

    I hate it when people define photography as transporting a camera to a spot and pushing the button. And, whats wrong with art that challenges this. Such a narrow view you have.

  3. Geoff says:

    Ok so I was all set to label David Burnett a conservative stick-in-the-mud, until I visited Doug Rickard’s website. I totally agree with you David, these are NOT Doug’s photos – he has “appropriated” Google’s images, retouched them, and called them his own! And the oleaginous art speak on his website is so thick it’s nauseating…
    Doug certainly did “take advantage of Google’s massive image archive” for this project!

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