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Etching from Goya’s series “The Disasters of War:”

Lebbeus Woods posted some interesting thoughts today about Francisco Goya’s meditations on war.

My reading and interpretation of Woods’ words is based on the presumption that photography is the visual “raw material” of a war and art can be something distinctly different – as Woods argues something more transformative and powerful. I am knowingly playing devil’s advocate.

Woods:

“Instead of creating propagandistic art, extolling glorious military heroism, Goya focused on the atrocities of the armies, committed against ordinary people. He knew that when soldiers get into a killing craze, they murder and rape indiscriminately, often just for the hell of it.

If there were an Iraqi or Afghan Goya working today, he or she would not make journalistic photos of the slaughter of people who just happen to be there, but would draw and paint it, becoming selective, ‘aestheticizing’ the atrocities, in order to elevate them to a serious level of reflection.

The artist does not merely present us with raw material, which is always difficult to confront and understand—indeed, it is easier to dismiss it with only a shudder—but instead creates indelible images, which cannot be gotten out of the mind.”

It seems to me that Woods’ may have a point – that general publics may be turned off to the photojournalist product and more shocked when the depicted horror has come from the end of paint brush or lithography set, and thus by the way of a fellow human’s imagination.

What says you?

Jake and Dinos Chapman, 'Disasters of War' (1993)

Incidentally, a couple of friends and I went to see Goya’s Disasters of War etchings exhibited alongside Jake and Dinos Chapman’s sculptures of homage of the same title. It was simple … and singularly the best art exhibit I’ve seen in a long time.

Mikhael Subotzky is an infrequent contributor for the Magnum blog. In fact, it happened only once; in response to the Magnum blog competition, for which, members of the public drew visual similarities between the works of Magnum photographers and the works of art historical cannon.

If a convergence is presented by the artist himself does it make it indisputable? Or at least 50% indisputable?

"May 3, 1808: Shooting at Montana del Principe Pio", 1814. Francisco Jose de Goya (1745-1828) Collection of the Prado, Museum, Mardid.

"May 3, 1808: Shooting at Montana del Principe Pio", 1814. Francisco Jose de Goya (1745-1828) Collection of the Prado, Museum, Mardid.

Beaufort West Police Station, South Africa,  2006. © Michael Subotzky

Beaufort West Police Station, South Africa, 2006. © Michael Subotzky

Subotzky warns against referencing for referencing’s sake. (I’ll be vigilant). And, I’ll leave you with the most succinct of Subotzky’s comments:

I don’t think anybody [in photography] has more intelligently related to philosophy or the history of painting then Jeff Wall.

The Subotzky Trajectory has been steep. His photographic conscience and works warrant the worldwide attention they have. He is with Magnum. See his website. And read this and this. Book here. There is an interview over at Conscientious.

Oh, and by the way, no wikipedia page on Mikhael Subotzky, which surprises me.

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