Photography has a knack for causing trouble. 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 Art and Photography world. (See what the NYTimes has to say after you read this blog) These are indeed troubled times. The primordial ooze of photo influencers and sponsored celebrities will tell us we can kiss our cameras and paintbrushes goodbye…let the computer do the work with it’s firmware esthetic; give it up for the engineers!
Reminds me of 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. French Salon painters and many others got all riled up. Yes, they were they pissed, spitting nails about photography and its scientific, optical, and mechanical existence as being bereft of ‘Art”. And only a mere “handmaiden of industry”. Quite an insult for the 1860s. Our Lady Devil, always dwelling in the details, found an early refuge in the camera. And what a home it is.
We have seen photography and her devils cause waves of disturbance through out photography’s vaunted history. The French Postcard (porn re-born for the masses) 1900, Weegee (I shoot Dead People) 1940, Ron Gallela (Paparazzi demi-god) 1970, Diane Arbus (pre “spectrum” suicide girl), Joel Peter-Witkin (auteur of the bottom-line grotesque in fine silver print) 2011, and Andres Serrano (Piss Christ and the NEA grant fiasco) 1987, have all ridden roughshod on popular photography culture and even U.S. Congress well beyond the close of the 20th century. Devils of photography abound. More now than ever, real or imagined, the practice of photography, camerawork and her alt.image-nation have always been in contention.
AI photography, rooted in the fantastic, may well be co-opted by the marketplace for better and worse, yet it seems to me that the news of photography creation-by-keyword it has been resoundingly met with yawns.
Nevertheless, I, Mister Doubting Thomas, do believe the need and recognition of originality in the devil’s playground of camerawork will not be lost. We know what it looks like. Thankfully the many tribal Devils and Angels of photography are alive and well and more excited than ever to expose themselves.
What do you think?
An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy.