And I suppose that is the mark of any great photography – it escapes the photography ghetto and becomes relevant to the wider world.
Colin Pantall: The New Ruins of Great Britain, John Davies, Jem Southam and Bristol’s collapsing luxury flats
I think it is a fallacy to think of great photography as the one that escapes the “photography ghetto” or that there even is a ghetto. It’s a fallacy created by scarcity of information.
Yes, there is photography that exceptionally many people find appealing, even to the degree that some photographs or photographers become accepted over cultural, religious or geographical boundaries. But then there’s also a lot of photography that many find appealing but that doesn’t break through on a global level, maybe not even on a national or local level either.
But fame and/or money does not great photography make. Nor does absence of fame or money turn photography into garbage. That model of thinking is based on either fame or business goals being the key issue in photography.
Fame is the fairy tale everyone wants live. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to by the professionally controlled medias. It’s the winning of the game, being the the king of the hill, having others looking up to you. It’s the way out of the gutter to glory and money. For a minimally few. The stars, the elite. The ones we celebrate and want to be like.
The thing is that to become famous you need to be on the radar and be liked by the right people, at the right time. For van Gogh (not a photographer, but a good example) this happened after he was dead. Now his works sell for huge sums, but when he was alive… well, the story wasn’t that great, was it. But did he paint bad images or did he paint great images? What happened after he died? Did his paintings suddenly get better? Or, did they suddenly become good for making money with?
I feel that the “photography ghetto” thinking is a world view based on the fact that one only sees an insignificant fraction of photographs published and bases one’s world view on that. And as a world view that is as unevolved and ignorant as thinking that the world is flat, or that bird masks protects against the plague.
For every famous photographer there’s certainly a couple or perhaps even thousands that are either as good or maybe better than the famous one, it’s just that they haven’t been noticed because they lack the right contacts, do not fit the current trends, live in the wrong part of the world, are still alive or do not have the same economical resources. Does that make their images less great? Does it really? I don’t think so.
I believe the internet does just not have the possibility to broaden the way we understand photography and what makes great photography but is the key to it. It’ll take time, and it will be antagonized by the ones that uphold the current system, and that’s natural, since we are human after all, but there will be a change.