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Respect our Photographic Images


Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle

Respect is the word we hear on every street corner only to be told, in all areas, that it no longer represents anything. Respect is extinguished with the disappearance of values and their scale. More landmarks, more positioning, more respect, even minima.

This observation, whose impact we are beginning to see in societal behavior, produces the same effects in creation and in technologies.

Our Photography is not spared. But, did not you realize that we were primarily responsible for it. Our race for immediate recognition, our rush to ease, our ignorance of unavoidable steps, our neglect of sustainability, contribute to this leveling down that we suffer. We are all witnesses of this permanent degradation, we are also all conscious actors.

The cult of the ego as a fast goal, overdrive since the establishment of so-called social networks, leads all shooters – self-proclaimed photographers – to rush any image. The main thing is to send it into one of these data centers, composed of an indelible and permanent multitude of horrors. The fact that our memories are programmed for a slow self-destruction does not change the matter, digital memories swell to excess while human memory meticulously crumbles. Do not smile, fellow photographers who are cautiously distanced from social networks, you have often let yourself be carried away by this infernal ego. You let yourself be seduced by this system which create lot avatars of personalities (without knowing for whom!). Every opportunity to exhibit (frequently at your expense) or to produce a book (always with your wallet) is seized – greedily – without even knowing what? How and why also become neglected subsidiary questions. Everything is organized in a constant lack of preparation that leads our visitors to contemplate, in the best of cases, images so badly produced that their personal productions seem brilliant to them. This perhaps justifies this permanence of long litanies displayed in all the exhibitions (if possible before access to the artworks) to explain everything about the life of the author and the realization of the photographs, showed in exceptional conditions. Thus, we disrespect our own images for a temporal race for ephemeral recognition. So let’s not be surprised at the mediocrities hanging from the picture rails.

In haste is indeed the exact term, as the rhythm of time is accelerating under the uninterrupted pressures of technology, in particular that of digital technology. You will save time, you are told, (and no one disputes this nonsense) since a binary sequence will work for you. It’s typically what our ancestors called, with full of common sense, putting your finger into the eye. Action that is not recommended for a photographer, even if it is requested urgently. It is now accepted by its real users that computing saves nothing at all, and especially not time. This time that you hope to nibble on, with all your modern devices, literally devours the quality of your creations in their realization. Understanding the problem is simple, the machines – even very complex ones – made available to you (against a few substantial currencies) operate on binary paths. When still working normally, your brains interacted simultaneously in several multidimensional spaces. This is called freedom, hardly compatible with the series of obligatory choices imposed on you by your latest and marvelous acquisition. It is true that it is easy, in a design full of constraints, to let the choice be made by default, even if the final result replicates with its own faults. A true artwork requires the entirety of our imagination, our work, our concentration, it cannot exist in a push-button sphere.

We have also completely forgotten the essential role of the stages and their chronology, in the production of a photographic work, even an imaginary one. Our focus on our image of anything, displayed anyhow, anywhere, entirely obscures our concern for the patience that is essential to learning and mastering our know-how. For example, I was again challenged during all the exhibitions of this year by the mediocrity of very many prints, and not all inside famous “vintages”. Auto-all-inclusive digital printers (calibers, contrasts, cleaning, formatting, etc.) print alone. Training for six months or fewer makes an “elite” photographic printer. The laboratory takes care of everything for you, it is useless to move you (especially if it is in the depths of China). The prints, the shaping are guaranteed by … the most efficient equipment (more, I would not even mention the staff …). As one of our colleagues, with a justified reputation, reminded us at Arles 2023, to claim for a classification as a work of art, the photographer must ensure the entire production, including making the prints himself or ensuring a permanent control. Two years of analog laboratory and two years of digital laboratory, seemed to him a good basic learning to begin to claim some acceptable works. Of course, what is true for the laboratories is true for the shots, for the lighting, for the choice of suitable equipment. A photograph is not great because a photographic chamber takes it. No, it can be correct by choosing the right technology for capturing and the right optics for the subject. For genius, it’s another matter! Our images deserve that we do not skip the stages and that each of them is treated with all the respect it demands.

Finally, our photographs are not disposable tissues! There are enough of these images, certainly very often tasteless, which are pushed into anonymity by the next one, even before their first public presentation. The race after I don’t know what is so important that you have to be in the fashion streams, the same fashion, a day later, finds itself relegated to oblivion. It is understandable that press photographs are ephemeral, although history is an eternal beginning, isn’t it? We also understand that the photographic mirrors with psycho-narcissistic syndromes fade with the recovery of their author or with his age, which makes his undressed self-portraits much less enticing. But, for completed, constructed and moving works, is not it more essential to ensure their organized preservation? Rather than making too long indigestible texts at the entrance to an exhibition or next to the images of a book, a rigorous and protective classification seems more judicious. If you respect your work, these small 80% of perspiration which befits the creation of a beautiful work are never useless.

Our photographic world, like the others, provides us with holidays and leisure all year round, please excuse me for dragging you into the workspace during your holidays. For photographers, our work (even professional) was a hobby, let’s hope it stays that way.

Thierry Maindrault, July 14, 2023

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