Joerg Colberg poses a very interesting stand-point about how to make our images ‘count’
What’s at stake here?
Does the artist risk something with this work?
When, for example, some photography essentially is little more than a feel-good exercise, showing us what we want to see, giving us a chance to feel good (just like, in the cinematic context, Spielberg’s hagiographic Lincoln), then there is nothing at stake. I call part of this photography “art-editorial photography”: Fine-art photography that illustrates well-known and widely-accepted concepts and ideas.
There are many ways how something could be at stake: You photograph something that makes you really uncomfortable. You challenge your assumptions to produce photographs. You photographs something to show that it is not what everybody thinks it is. The list goes on and on and on.
For the viewer, if there was something at stake for the artist, there is a good chance there might be something at stake for them as well. The end result will be an exchange, where both the photographer and the artist will end up as different people. It’s not always straightforward to describe or quantify this, and I do not intend to give prescriptions for how to do so. But everybody knows what that means if there’s something at stake. Everybody knows what it means not to be or feel completely safe.
Make no mistake, this does not mean that art should always make us feel uncomfortable. It does mean, though, that art should not leave us unaffected. Art needs to move is! If you don’t want to be moved, if you want to be comfortable, then don’t deal with art! And let me be clear: By “moved” I don’t mean moved to tears over something you expected to see that way after all. I mean genuinely moved, moved in ways that are beyond your control.
To ask what is at stake is by no means the only strategy one can use to make sense of the flood of photographs. There are many more. But I’ve recently come to appreciate asking what is at stake. Just like Occam’s Razor, it cuts through a lot of stuff easily.