Anti-pictorial?

I rarely take of what I think of as traditional, pictorial photographs of subjects that might generally be thought of as beautiful, charming or otherwise attractive.  I’m not immune to beauty and enjoy it in its many forms, but that’s not the same as feeling the urge to capture it on camera.  Very often it’s been the subject of countless photographs before and I don’t have a need to add to the pile.  If I want a nice picture of a place I’ve visited for the album I’d as soon buy a postcard. As a result I don’t care for the pictorialist tradition in photography stretching back to Henry Peach Robinson, the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring and the Photo Secession.

I’ve been critical of camera club photography – rounds of judging, exhibitions and competitions – previously on this blog.  The approach still seems to be rooted in pictorialism, as if modernism, ‘straight’ photography, New Objectivity, conceptual photography and the New Documents exhibition had never happened.  But perhaps I’ve gone too far.  At the U3AC Photo Forum last week I compared ‘camera club photography’ unfavourably to a photograph by Andre Kertesz, and was promptly asked, ‘Is “camera club photography” now a term of abuse?’  Point taken.  The camera club approach as a means to an end can be good; the challenge is to prevent it from becoming a personal dead end.

Photos: Botanic Garden, Cambridge, October 2017

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