<->(?)A Devils gallery of Muybridge, Galella, Serrano and Arbus. Red tint. Horns. Hell.<!*>
Photography has a knack for causing trouble. Throughout history photography has had a dark habit of emerging, showing us things we do not want to see, yet we cannot not look away. Wars, famines, the grotesque and prurient. Photographs have a way of going into our psyche and burrow into the same neuronal clusters as our fears and hungers.
It is early 21st century and Midjourney –An AI imaging application that creates works of art and photography by way of keyword requests has awakened many ghosts and fears in the Photography world. These are indeed troubled times. The primordial ooze of sponsored photo punditry will tell us we can kiss our cameras, paintbrushes and collective assi goodbye…let the computer do the work with its firmware aesthetic; give it up for the engineers of profit!
This alarm recalls the late 19th century when troublemaker Eadweard Muybridge dared photograph horses in a proper running sequence, you know, capturing how horses actually move in a run and gallop. Photography had revealed the fallacy of the “ventre á terre“ convention painters had used for years to depict horses in action –all legs fully extended forward and back, belly to the ground. French Salon painters and many others got all pissed, spitting nails about photography’s scientific, optical, and mechanical existence as being bereft of ‘Art”. A mere “handmaiden of industry”. Quite an insult for the 1860s. Our sweet Devils, dwelling in the details, found early refuge in the camera. And what a home it turned out to be.
We have seen photography and its devils cause waves of disturbance throughout its vaunted history. The French Postcard (porn born for the masses) 1900, Weegee (I shoot Dead People) 1940, Ron Galella (Paparazzi demigod) 1970, Diane Arbus (pre “spectrum” suicide girl), Joel Peter-Witkin (auteur of the bottom line grotesquery in Agfa Portriga Rapid RIP) 2011, and Andres Serrano (The Piss Christ/NEA grant fiasco. I needn’t explain this further) 1987, have all ridden roughshod on popular photography culture, PC morality police states and even U.S. Congress well beyond the close of the 20th century.
More popular than ever, photography is not resting its laurels; the devils abound. Photography is the Art of the Masses. More iPhone photography, from-the-hip-camerawork and her computerized alt.image progeny keep the soul of photography in a collective hot fash. Every “photographer” is now a YouTube Guru vying for tribal worshipers in collections of cliques. ISO, Aperture/Shutter, Bokeh, Technique, and creative admonition are fodder for this informational clusterfuck. This cognitive dissonance of the PhotoInfo “keen-insight into the obvious” movement has become a cottage industry. While AI photography is more rooted in making photo software easier for us to work cameras and processing and less rooted rooted in the fantasies of image creation, it is here to stay and run its course into the future. (In fact, the flames I used to create hell for my Devils above were synthesized with a little Pen Tool voodoo and the Render tool)
It the news of imaging-by-keyword has been resoundingly met with yawns. The key here is the word image, the root for imagination. We have yet to see if computational imaging will replace imagination. Mister Doubting Thomas here still believes the need and recognition of originality in the devil’s playground of camerawork will not be lost. We know what it looks like. Like it or not, the better Angels and Devils of Photography are alive and well and ARE more excited than ever to expose themselves.
An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy.