Now that I am on vacation, I’m going to try to finish a few musty blog posts that I’ve been meaning to get to.

The first is my commentary on a Salon article savaging Annie Liebowitz for publishing a very personal memoir of photos from her personal collection.

Karnasiewicz’s comments are a brilliant example of what often infuriates me about art–or rather about some artistic communities. We have all this knowledge about the history and progression of art. We now realize the genius of many artists who were scorned in their time for being too commercial, too personal, or too political. And yet many “artists” don’t hesitate to use the same judgements to declare some things “real art” and scorn any other production that doesn’t fit their narrow definition.

Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The value of a piece of art isn’t determined by its rarity, or the expense of making it, or its age. It’s a function of the enjoyment even one person takes from it. One man’s velvet Elvis is another’s Picasso.

And, speaking of Picasso–don’t people collect his sketchbook pages–his napkin-doodles–and call them art? I’d say those were easily the equivalent of Liebowitz candids. Regardless of one’s opinion of this particular show, it’s hard to argue that Liebowitz isn’t an artist of some reknown. She’s photographed presidents and movie stars, won countless awards, and shown her collections at many famous galleries and museums. It’s unfathomable to think that her personal work isn’t a fascinating story–her version of an autobiography in a way only she can tell it.

And I think that is part of the inherent value of the exhibit. Only Annie Liebowitz can tell her story through her pictures. Karnasiewicz, however, confuses content and production quality with presentation and skill, and assumes that anyone with a modern camera and a basic understanding of photography could–and would–produce a markedly simliar collection. Which makes Liebowitz’s collection merely common and not, by her definition, art.

The main problem with this assumption and conclusion is that photography, though more accessible to more people as technology improves, is still an art. Even if you don’t consider all art “art”… taking good pictures involves as much skill and effort as painting. Modern cameras may have automatic settings for every occasion, and photo editing software allows a large range of correction and manipulation that was once only possible in the darkroom. But none of those advances help photographers with composition. A good picture is not just a well-executed technically proficient shot. It’s about choosing the right frame, the right lighting, and often about pushing the boundaries. A good photographer knows when to push the film, to underexpose, or to leave the shutter open just a split-second longer. And a good photographer knows when a scene happening in front of their eyes should also be in front of the lens.

And Annie Liebowitz? Is a great photographer. And all the digital-camera wielding fans who post their Liebowitz-like candids to flickr have a lot to gain just from viewing her personal work. Though they may not get the chance to photograph Madonna or President Clinton as she has done, they can directly relate to the shots of rumpled sheets and laughing children. Her work becomes more accessible, not less.

And that, perhaps, is the entire issue in a nutshell. Snobbish artists (or art fans) like Karnasiewicz believe art should have limited reach, and only really be understood and accessible to those properly “trained” or incredibly “gifted.” But art is a gift that’s available to everyone. Or at least it should be.

3 responses to “Moron.”

  1. Bill Lee Says:

    First of all Ms.Annie Liebowitz is a great Photographer but, so am I. There is no way you could compare her to Picasso or any of the great Masters. She is overrated all the time (she has a good agent) she is selfish and arrogant to the bitter end. She beleives that people should allow her to photograph them in any position or self-degrading acts in order for her to think she acheive her goal. She blew her chance of ever photographing the Queen again. Who in the Hell does she think she is? The nerve to ask the queen to remove her crown. Most great photographers never pose anyone but allow the nature flow of an event. Most of her shots are staged. She acheived her fame from her PEOPLE!!!!!! I NO LONGER HAVE ANY RESPECT FOR THIS ARROGANT ##%$#.

  2. bascha Says:

    Give me a freaking break. She’s a photographer who specializes in portraits. It’s her job to turn a simple sitting into a stunning photograph–one that will be remembered for all time. Her photos are iconic, in part /because/ she dares to take people that most would only kow-tow to and treats them in unexpected and delightful ways.

    Though it seems that you view those lovely photos (perhaps the Yoko and John nude bothers you?) as “self-degrading.” Again–art is in the eye of the beholder. And you can think that porn if you want, but to millions of people (myself included) that photo is a snapshot of something important in history, an indeliable image.

    As to the Queen: How many people, when confronted by someone who is undoubtably an expert at what they do, would turn to that expert and demand to do it their own way? Plenty would, surely, (maybe especially a Royal) but that doesn’t make them in the right–it just means there’s a lot of rude people in this world. It’s like going to your doctor and demanding he prescribe a particular drug, without actually examining you. Why did you bother with the physician in the first place?

    And, as you may have read by now, the BBC has apologized for the comments it made regarding the Queen’s sitting with Leibowitz. Apparently, she didn’t storm out but merely balked at making changes to the difficult-to-endure outfit. (I bet that cape and crown is heavy.)

  3. Bill Lee Says:

    To Bascha:

    You are either an idiot of in love! I did not mention anything about porn or her ability to capture emotions. Most good photographers can do that. I will continue to say that she is overrated and arrogant! Great photographers (in my mind she ain’t) don’t have to pose their subjects they wait for the moment and sometimes they don’t utter a word. Fashion photographers give instructions and encouragement! As a professional she should have respected the queen and not treat her like a commoner! You don’t ask the queen to remove her hat!!! Annie would not dare go into certain counties and ask one of the women to remove her veil. The purist form of photography is when you photographed as natural as possible. When you photograph nature you don’t change it {unless you do with photoshop or filters}YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT A PHOTOGRAPHER OR A VERY BAD ONE!!!!!!!!

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