Friday, January 06, 2006

Publish and be Dumbed

I recently cancelled the direct debit mandate that paid, on a quarterly basis, for my subscription to Amateur Photographer magazine. My cancellation stemmed from a minor fit of pique at the magazine's treatment of the 2005 Schweppes Photographic Portrait Prize.

In an article entitled In need of a grin and tonic (he's as much of a wit with wordplay as I) Bob Aylott states that the work turned in by the SPPP winner and runners up was "dated and the stuff of clueless first-year art students". Despite the fact that I found the top ranked entries thought provoking and challenging in the most positive sense of those terms, my ire was in no way piqued by this statement of Ayllott's. I've said as much of the later films of David Lynch in the full knowledge that some might be offended.

What I did find offensive however was the journmalistic imbalance inherent in a piece where a couple of supposed doyens of the photographic establishment were wheeled out to pour scorn on the nature of the competition and the efforts of its winning entrants without any effort being made to secure an alternative point of view from the SPPP organisers or entrants themselves. Even this wasn't sufficent however to get me on the 'phone to my bank to cancel my payments.

In concluding the article Aylott invited readers to "Send us your pictures - If you have a picture that you think deserves to be a Schweppes winner, we would love to see it" backed up by a threat to publish a selection at a future date.

In the face of this concluding request I couldn't help but envisage an admitedly feeble echo of the worst excesses of the tabloid media and my mind was flooded with images of an angry mob of torch wielding chocolate box photographers backed up by a militia of optical techno fetishists and 'perfection' masochists marching upon the aesthetic Sodom and Gomorrah of image making debauchery that is the Schweppes Photographic Portrait Prize.

Once they're finished with this minor titilation parading as a campaign for what is right and good in photography, Bob Aylott and AP might like to turn their attentions to dealing with the cult know as Lomography. I couldn't help but think of this latter broad 'school' of aesthetic approach to photography as the SPPP entries suggested to me notions of 'this is what Lomographers would do when they turn pro' and Aylott's manner of attack on the SPPP is nothing less than a broad and heavy handed dismissal of all manner of aesthetic approaches to photography that don't fit what I presume must be his ideal.

There's little one can't pick up on the Web these days in the way of aesthetic inspiration or examination of technical process so I shan't feel that great a loss at no longer receiving AP on my doormat every Saturday morning. I am however still a great fan of the printed form so I've switched my pennies to a subscription for National Geographic magazine.

Now if I can't learn something about photography from that publication I shouldn't have been bothering with the photographic press in the first place.

Opening image copyright of Steve Harper.
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