photography and art


Photography has had its own difficult relationship with fine art, one that hasn’t really been resolved to this day. Why take the time and expense to have a portrait, a picture of your house, or views of exotic lands painted when you can get a truer-to-reality depiction with a simple photograph? As this turf war took center stage, Modernists seized on photography for its inherent abstraction, its immediacy, and its very lack of historical baggage. This essentially oppositional position — combined with the medium’s scientific, journalistic and amateur documentary functions (i.e., snapshots) — kept it out of the inner circle of legitimate art media for most of the 20th century.

By the time photography finally started coming into its own in the early ’70s, the art establishment’s authority was under serious attack from a number of cultural forces — including the emergence of Outsider art as a legitimate parallel to the fine-art world, with its own star system, dealers, collectors and critics. Recent mainstream interest in “de-skilled” art-making, the exponential growth in available photographic technology (particularly digital), and the curatorial reclamation of “found” and amateur photography have further blurred the boundaries of what might be called Outsider photos — before the boundaries have even been established.

more from Doug Harvey at the LA Weekly here.