While I readily admit that photography has expanded and progressed technically, I am not so sure about its sophistication, nuance and subtlety. I believe that with more photographs being made, and more photographs being made as art, there may be less to see, less to hold your attention and more pictures made for their shock value than for their true worth.
Case in point: look at contest winners, the photographs that win in photography competitions. Besides often being judged by people that seem to this observer unqualified, the top pictures are inevitably ones that judges haven't seen before. Substance? Intricacy? Commentary? Usually not so much.
Thompson Springs Utah
Let's face it, with more photographs being seen on screens rather than in print form and the attention span of someone looking at work online being seconds instead of minutes, a shocking image has got a far better chance of increased exposure than one that is a finely crafted and made to be a lasting experience. So here's the big problem. For if we switch from screen to a print on display a shocking image won't last, won't hold yours or anyone else's attention. Which one would you rather have on your wall as part of your art collection? Which one would you respect more over time, which one would you come back to again and again, marveling at its ability to keep on giving? Not the one that slapped you in the face, not the one that surprised you but that only that made that one point.
Raise the bar, go for depth in your work. Say something with it. The hell with the shock value photograph. Would you rather trade in Stravinskys, Rothkos and Picassos or McDonalds, Bob's Big Boy and Chinese sourced plastic goods at Walmart?
At my age I want to make pictures that convey my intention in intense, sublime, intricate and contemplative ways. I want to extend the range of things like landscape photography to new levels and unique approaches. Or to draw attention to the masks we make in our own image. After all, part of art is about looking at the world differently. I want to look at things that are both beautiful and abhorrent and seek to display both with subtlety, compassion and perhaps humor.
Many would say that my Mutter Museum work , or the pictures from Reggio Emilia are shocking. They may be, but I would counter that there is great value in understanding the commonality of the human and animal condition and to understand just how fortunate we may be. I would hope that is evident in the pictures. "Shocking " with those pictures is not front tier for me.
Reggio Emilia, Italy
Do not seek to impress, do not make the pictures because of a calculation of perceived effect. Do not aspire to something: a place, a show, an award, a book. Do not spend time wishing for, or hoping you can, or thinking that if this person just sees it, everything will change. Just make the work. The result will be truer to you and the work itself will ring true. Your confidence in the work you have made (no small point) that you carry under your arm as prints to show someone in a key position will be self evident and flow easily from you because the work is, yes, terrific.
So, shock ....or substance?