Thierry Maindrault’s Monthly Chronicle
Every time I enter a gallery or an exhibition. Every time I open a photography book or a magazine’s portfolio. I put up with all these intermediaries who inform me that I am in the presence of marvelous images. The latter are necessarily extraordinary, since the photographs presented are pure masterpieces made by a marginalized drug addict, by a mediatized ecclesiastic, by a guru of nature or by a licensed activist. Consequently, a lot of instructions for use are necessary and indispensable to allow me to wonder in front of series of photographs, very often of poor quality, mediocre creativity and insignificant messages.
I understood that in our current times, it is essential to pull out all the stops to generate consideration and virtual money. But shouldn’t we stop for a few moments and reflect on our daily observations? Shouldn’t we stop believing in all these excuses and other adjectives to justify the unjustifiable?
A photograph is really good, or not tremendous when it is not frankly bad. It’s not more complicated than that ! All the parasitic cosmetics, of all kinds, are without any interest.
Whether the photographer climbed on a tree, sprawled face down on a pile of manure, hanged by his feet or put his head underwater is an anecdote to animate winter evenings. If the technique used delivers an image of consistent quality. If this same image guarantees readability in harmony with its reason for existing. If the indefinite proposed by the image enters our thoughts to generate emotions, feelings, rejections, analyses, happiness. So the photography is good. This principle on the quality and interest of the photographic image must be recalled once again. Unfortunately, it remains difficult to understand to these millions of new pseudo creator-photographers who persuaded themselves to take photographs without never taking any.
So why does our current cultural environment oblige us to certify that such and such a photograph would be great because it was taken by a woman? Worse still, this formidable word: “… it is a photograph of a Woman…”. How could a large part of our societies have reached such a terrible and counterproductive stage? No, the photographic image – like all other human creative expressions – has no gender, neither predetermined nor indeterminate. The so-called quota methods only exacerbate communitarianisms, as varied as they are multiple. The principle of equal opportunities must remain open to all, without any other distinction than the intellectual and spiritual value of the works produced. I will feel deeply humiliating to be told that I make a Man photograph and that they are exhibited only for this reason.
With mastery we all make photographs. One click, a lot of work, on to the next one, and we offer it to others to see. I meet handicapped people with motor and earring disabilities, women of African origin (hey, that’s the fashion of the moment), former adventurers who are still atheists, whimsical homosexuals and many others who introduce me to real absolutely wonderful photographs. I had the opportunity to voluntarily interchange the works of each other, without any noticeable reaction from the visitors. “If the picture is good than…” sang Barbara. Let’s stop having our works deposited in now digitized lockers and us with them, at the same time. In addition, should I remind you that the works produced do not always and necessarily reflect the personality, or the way of life, of their author? The creative germ remains so complex, – and that’s good -. The desire to constrain and limit a work to two or three parameters of its author’s life remains pure utopia when there are a multitude of interacting spaces for the birth of a single image. All these attempts at the excessive rationalization of our creations come from limited, even incompetent brains. It’s no better with the so-called “emotional” fashions, which currently reserve exhibitions only to the works of female origin or those from Ukrainian authors. It’s called opportunities that encourage all kinds of hordes to adapt to invade free space. Today, some very talented creators and some very good authors (women) are themselves caught up (in spite of themselves) by these surging waves and become guarantors of this system, with a guaranteed leveling down.
In the absence of “feminine” photographs, I would like, in passing, to re-establish some truths about all the women creators of photographic images to whom we owe sublime works. The techniques of photography, quite scientific in their effective use, are very recent on the scale of Humanity, first half of the 19th century. This is a time when female curiosity was successfully entering medicine, research, finance, and teaching. Thus, from the outset, women, despite the technical and above all logistical constraints, have made a real place for themselves in the photographic universe. Often, it is said that too few female surnames are known by the public. But, it is the same for men, how many last names of great photographers (between the arrival of photography and 1950) are known? It was not until the second half of the 20th century that the excessive personalization of authors led to the emergence of names. From 1950, the few prestigious photography schools already had almost as many women as men, with options in all specialties. My renowned professors included as many women as men. Today, the overabundance of various training courses claiming to teach photography is overwhelmingly filled by women.
By the way, it is good to note that if an educational circuit brought a certainty of talent at the end of its course, one would know about it. Girls have become, in the younger generations, more numerous to take photographs. They show me, in my reviews, less often bad photographs than boys.
No, this object which is a photographic image has no sex, any more than it has religion or ethics. Which absolutely does not prevent it from conveying sex, dogma, ideas, confrontations, discoveries, pleadings in all directions. Because if our photographic works have no gender, they certainly have a soul. Moreover, this is how the photographs of our predecessors were able to gain acceptance in the Art space … and that’s perfect.
Since we are ending on Art! Art is precisely Universal. So let’s stop claiming to be part of a community, a caste or a gender to demand a right to show our works. Projecting oneself into evolution – through a lot of work – seems to me more objectively to contribute to the origin of talent.
Thierry Maindrault, March 10, 2023
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