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Library of Congress FSA/OWI set
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 7:12 pm    Post subject: Library of Congress FSA/OWI set Reply with quote

Some truly famous old photos, put into a mini online exhibition by the Library of Congres on flicr.


The slide show is fantastic.

Other LoC sets here:

PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fascinating exhibition, thank you Nesster.
The Bethlehem graveyard and steel mill shot / Pennsylvania is ingenious.

The 1930s-40s in color set is interesting too, spent more than two hours watching them. Nice find!

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting. In some of them I see the "art" - the pea pickers, the police in pools of sunlight etc., - but others strike me as being a simple record of the times which gains interest primarily because of its age, rather than through brilliant composition. I'd put the old violinist in that category, along with the snow on the street and the shop with two kids holding sacks outside it. I've got shots similar to all of those and I regard them as a simple record of events, not as great photography.

Perhaps I'm missing something

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's in the nature of photography to record things. We shouldn't consider that as a diminution I think. Nature seldom offer things in a way that compositions are allowed as beautiful as studio settings. Which is also possible to do with photography as with painting etc.
It's two different sides of photography and I don't think that one is better than the other. Like in literature, we have novels and diaries, so in photography we can have traditional art form and snapshot. Both have their "canons" (pun intended)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's fair enough. I can understand if the "oohs" and "aahs" are in some cases just fascination with the past (the same fascination exerted by "found" films from the 40s and 50s). It makes it something of a lottery as to which old photos end up in the Library of Congress and which don't - or maybe they just take all Americana from the early days of photography.

I was being serious about whether there was some artistic brilliance in these that was beyond my understanding. I trained in science and I've never regarded myself as being especially artistic but I am trying to make progress as a photographer.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, I think you're right about the photos - some are more documentary, others are more posed/setup/directed. This set is from photographers employed by the New Deal government during the depression.

There's always been the dichotomy Orio talks about. Someone like Eugene Atget, who is the prototype documentarian, became the patron saint of a group of photographers not into the 'arty' bits... But things do get complicated, as you note: even the documentarian will set up shots for arty or spectacular effects, or more sly, pose things in a subtle way to seem 'found'. (Disgustingly, Brady did this with bodies for some of his Civil War pics: he moved and posed them when they didn't die in a photographically interesting way.)

But in the end, this whole thing is a social hierarchy thing. No art critic or academic is going to talk about the subtle play in your and my photographs, unless we become famous and/or well respected in the industry. Then, art criticism is as much a part of the work as the work itself Wink

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To me it does rather seem that the "art world" is a scam perpetrated by those who want to be rich and famous. You ingratiate yourself with the right people by praising them and sticking to their rule book (claim to have a superior understanding which enables you to see brilliance where others only see cr*p) and if they accept you into the club you will be hailed as a "brilliant, young, emerging talent". You then become entitled to collect your share of the booty in the form of prizes (issued by the clicque), grants (from bodies which aren't spending their own money staffed by people desperate to have some of the artistic glamour rub off on them) and sales (to people with piles of cash, who want to be known as "patrons of the arts" and - knowing nothing - buy according to the advice of the art clique who pander to them).

Some people say I'm an old cynic.

However, that doesn't mean there are not people producing really marvellous pieces of art - just that we aren't likely to hear about them in the papers unless they also claw their way into the right social clique by toadying to the right people.

PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coming from a family who lived in the world of arts I can confirm what Paul says. Art today is a business (at least it is in Italy) and critics are ready to promote you if you are ready to share your incomes with them. Except for a few very successful ones, most art critics are like prostitute managers. Where artists, of course, are the prostitutes.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Orio, I'm glad it's not just cynicism which makes things look like that to me.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Getting back on topic, the late 19th colour views of Norway are fascinating. It would be interesting to find where some of the glacier views were taken from and see how the position of the Glacier compares today with where it was 110 years ago.