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Sometimes people ask, when learning that I am a photographer,  what kind of photography I do. Most often I tell them I’m a “Fine Art” photographer, always verbally capitalized by emphasis or inflection when spoken to make it sound more mysterious, the reason being that I don’t want them to ask me what it means because I’m powerless to provide a satisfactory answer. I’m not trying to be pretentious. I’m just as baffled as anyone else.

This is not to say that I don’t have at least a vague understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish photographically because I do. Often I am keenly aware of what I want, other times the idea floats just below some opaque intellectual or creative surface in my mind, but the efforts are never random. Unsuccessful perhaps, but not random.

Towel Bar (©2012 by Richard X. Moore)

I spent some time this afternoon looking at the bountiful multitude of positively befuddling and often contradictory  ways one might go about categorizing a photographer, or any visual artist for that matter. I had hoped I might be empowered to offer a better answer next time someone asks me what kind of photography I do. Hoping that, as it happens, was stupid because like Diane Arbus’ secret about a secret, the more I learned the less I knew about anything. I am not modernist, post-modernist, contemporary, retro, anti- or pro- or proto anything at all. I couldn’t deconstruct something if I wanted to. I don’t see any Marxist or Feminist threads running through my work and would worry about myself if I did.

Or, alternatively, I am all of these things, in varying degrees of magnitude, in an endless array of combinations. It really depends on who is applying the yardstick and to what image or body of images I might offer. Or what day it is, or who the last critic or philosopher I read had to say. Is my work really that misguided or is something else afoot?

Master Bedroom (©2012 by Richard X. Moore)

In my reading today, for example, I found it odd to see Jan Groover, about whom I wrote a while back, was a post-modernist photographer because she took pictures of silverware, re-contextualizing the everyday. This perplexes me because Edward Weston, one of the modernists against whom Groover is supposed to be rebelling, created pictures of all kinds of shit like peppers and urinals, re-contextualizing the everyday. Earlier “modernists” like Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand photographed industrial machinery and clockworks in much the same manner. Photographers have been deconstructing and re-contextualizing objects and people since the dawn of photography, yet some are pictorialists, some are modernists, some are documentarians, some are post-modernists, some are anti-post-modernists, still others are anti-just-about-everything.

At some level, these arguments have value because they give us, as individual artists, an opportunity to view our work through different lenses, if you’ll pardon the pun. They become tedious when we assume that any one school or movement or classification alone can accurately and completely describe the work of any visual artist,  be it at a single point in time or through the long arc of lifetime of creating images. I’m reassured now that next time someone asks me what kind of photographer I am, the answer is to pull out a portfolio of images and let people decide for themselves. The less said by me, the better.

I’m reminded of something that Edward Hopper once said when talking about his own work:

“If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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