Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Does William Gedney Know About Mines?

In sitting down to write this essay I found myself dumbfounded; "none of the artists listed undertook projects even remotely similar to my current project," I said to myself. If I were to approach my final project for this class in the style of any of these artists I would end up with a bunch of portraits of Tucsonians, and I don't think that would be very interesting. My project is not documenting people at all. My subject is the southern half of Arizona, and the holes men and mines have created in it.

I am at a complete loss as to how I can relate these artist's projects to my own. Formally and technically I can of course relate to them, in that I aspire to the superb tonality and saturation they've achieved. But as far as approach or influence goes, I might as well be looking at any given family's collection of birthday Polaroids.  

Now, that being said, in the future I'm sure I will undertake a project similar to these, one that focusses on people and their situation. So for the sake of 1000 words I will discuss William Gedney's work about rural Kentucky in the late 1960's.

First off, I find it kind of disappointing that the aspects I like most about this set of images are not part of the artists intention, but are simply a sign of the times in which he took them. For instance, its the decrepit houses and beat-up, old automobiles that I find most compelling, these signifiers are what make the images strong for me. The simple and clean images that don't include these somewhat chaotic details and textures, but instead focus entirely on the subjects and their wardrobe are far less interesting, and in the end are worse documentary photographs in that they are less descriptive.

I think that in order to take pictures like these Gedney probably had to befriend and be entrusted by his subjects, which for me would be a struggle. Maybe he just fit in well with the people of rural Kentucky, but I know that as more or less a city boy, I would have some trouble assimilating. But this is a challenge that must be overcome in documenting anything outside of my comfort zone here in  Tucson, in Arizona, and in the U.S. Thankfully there are universal human emotions which hopefully can be exploited (for lack of a better word with better connotations) regardless of the situation, the nationality, and the race or class of my intended subjects.

In the end, I think Gedney succeeded in documenting the poverty and hardship of life in rural Kentucky at this time, if that was his intended subject. But after all his beautiful composition and tonality I find myself bored and disinterested in the series as a whole. The story he is telling, if there is one he's trying to tell, is boring and frankly doesn't really concern me, and out of all the projects and artists listed this is the one that caught my eye the most. Maybe I missed the point, maybe theres something more that makes them pertinent and interesting.

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