While recently in Northern California for meetings, we were able to break away and spend some time walking the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Of note was the striking exhibition we were highly recommended to visit, called Photography in Mexico. And as so often happens when spending any time in a museum, I was left with multitudes more questions than answers that spun in my head for days, well after I’d left.
Photography in Mexico Exhibition, SFMoMA
We may wonder where we fit in the world, and within it’s context, via our art, our service, our impact, or in contributions that come from a career or vocation we’ve selected or fallen into. It’s probably a healthy thing to question ourselves when it comes to gauging where we are headed as individuals and as a whole culture/society. In the case of photography, I’ve noticed how easy it’s become to slip into the rush of technological dragon-chasing. What’s the dynamic range of that camera? What’s the signal to noise ratio? How many megapixels? Instant uploading/apps/sharing. How sharp and in focus can an image be made with the “right” lens/sensor/post-production combination? What about Lytro technology and video? Et cetera, ad nauseam.
Viewing the work displayed in this exhibition brought the relevance of these common concerns into question for me; images, ranging in their initial creation from the late 1800s through the 1980′s, taken with cameras that “lacked” any of the modern technologies and conveniences found in today’s photography world. No GPS mapping capabilities, no touch-screens, and no built-in HDR here. Yet they far surpassed most photographs seen today in pure content, alone. And isn’t that the real dragon we should be chasing?
Pedro Meyer, "The Lady of the Mole and Her Friends", Ecuador, 1982
Images like those by Pedro Meyer, Enrique Metinides, and Susan Meiselas, evoke emotion and drama and a desire to further examine our world of beauty and tragedy. They remind us of our own fragile mortality and a fleeting sense of the present, and not so much about how close we can examine a photograph for pixel-detail and proper exposure. The power to inspire an introspection on any given level, for any given amount of time, is something that seems all too forgotten about and all too neglected in much of today’s canned-beauty, compositionally empty, and over saturated, app-modified, Instagram world.
In my humble opinion, whether the subject matter is journalistic, fashion, sports or architecture, Content is still King.
Enrique Metinides, "Traffic Accident", 1971
Susan Meiselas, "2:00pm Holding cell for undocumented female detainees, El Cajon, CA", 1989