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Photographic Gems of Our Times From The Web Moshe Katvan visit to Berlin 2012

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I just received notice of this collection of recent pictures by a wonderful NY artist. Both he and his wife Rivka are so talented.


Source

"About Us. Moshe and Rivka Katvan met while attending the School of Visual Arts and have been partners in life and photography ever since. They are yin and yang of the studio, with each one’s unique skills combining to create a whole greater than sum of its parts. Moshe shoots all still life projects, while they collaborate on people shoots.Rivka is well-known for her photographic studies of the Broadway theatre, as seen in her recent Abrams’ book, “Backstage: Broadway Behind the Curtain.” Moshe’s years of still life experience has helped him hone his classic technique, yet he is always one of the first to adopt new creative trends and digital technologies. The studio is equipped with state-of-the-art digital capture, and offers full post-production services; scanning, retouching, compositing and calibrated outputs.
Above all, Moshe and Rivka are client-friendly. They always go the extra mile to fulfill an art director’s needs and vision,whatever the size of the project. And their clients always leave satisfied — with the work and the fabulous spread Rivka always provides. It’s this kind of personal warmth and professional excellence that has led to many long-lasting relationships with most of the people they work with."
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
What's interesting to me is the pictures seem to reflect a nostalgia of the WWII sacrifices of the USA and Allies, but not being a Berliner or having visited, I can't really tell if this is true or not.

Pick your own favorite of this series and your impressions.

Asher

BTW, is it coherent visually or otherwise or well structured?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I think I like this one very much:






If you say that "they are so talented", then you must believe that the pictures are visually coherent and well structured, don't you?
Yes, I do. However, I'm not putting myself forward as an expert on the subject. however, I'd love to know, why, if at all, such picture might fail the coherence or structural integrity test others might apply.

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
I'd love to know, why, if at all, such picture might fail the coherence or structural integrity test others might apply.
So the question is not whether the series is coherent as a whole, but rather whether this picture below fails the "coherence test"?


That is a hard question to answer. I find the picture a bit messy with the junk pictured on the left side, the pot cut by the frame and the gutter on top. The camera looked down which distorts the perspective, while it would have been easy to lower the point of view 30 centimeters to have everything square. However, it would seem that the "mess" or "incoherence" is there on purpose, to support the idea that we are looking at a place typical of Berlin's "laisser-faire". Don't you think so? Or else, how do you explain that someone highly educated in visual arts presents us with a picture which, at first sight, could pass for a snapshot?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
So the question is not whether the series is coherent as a whole, but rather whether this picture below fails the "coherence test"?


That is a hard question to answer. I find the picture a bit messy with the junk pictured on the left side, the pot cut by the frame and the gutter on top. The camera looked down which distorts the perspective, while it would have been easy to lower the point of view 30 centimeters to have everything square. However, it would seem that the "mess" or "incoherence" is there on purpose, to support the idea that we are looking at a place typical of . Don't you think so? Or else, how do you explain that someone highly educated in visual arts presents us with a picture which, at first sight, could pass for a snapshot?
Exactly! It's so disturbing. Moshe Katvan's style here fits the motif of the work, Berlin's "laissez-faire". When Picasso made people in his graphic styles, it was not for want of skill in painting a person to look as if it was a photograph.

Jerome, it takes a higher level of thinking to purposely use the camera like this. A perfectly leveled and orthogonal picture might lose much of the feeling this image imparts.

Asher
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
May I take a different (I hope not too harsh) stance here? I have spent quite some time looking through the collection, and I have come to the conclusion that the environment - and moments - that have been photographed are very intricate, interesting, and often precious.

I however see no evidence here of skilful composition and camera work. I know it can easily be perceived (as per the discussion above) but I have come to the conclusion that this is mostly a set of well-spotted, haphazard snapshots, most of which contains at least one compositional non-decision (such as the continuous skewed or asymmetrically-converging vertical lines) that really bother me.

You guys might be reading too much into the compositional decisions, they do not seem deliberate to me. Or, if they are - they are to my eyes indistinguishable from operator error.

I honestly can't appreciate this (for example) as having some sort of deeper compositional insight:

 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
May I take a different (I hope not too harsh) stance here? I have spent quite some time looking through the collection, and I have come to the conclusion that the environment - and moments - that have been photographed are very intricate, interesting, and often precious.

I however see no evidence here of skilful composition and camera work......................................

I honestly can't appreciate this (for example) as having some sort of deeper compositional insight:


Dawid,

Yes, this is very different from the stance of our guest artists, Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, but it's one that is accepted more and more in exhibitions and galleries.

These are all cases of structure and composition versus content and theme. I see nothing wrong with serial snapshots made fast, but sequenced carefully, to build a meaning in one collection, as this one.


Asher
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
These are all cases of structure and composition versus content and theme. I see nothing wrong with serial snapshots made fast, but sequenced carefully, to build a meaning in one collection, as this one.
Nor do I, Asher - but in such cases, it is the subject matter (and not the photograph) which must then be analysed. Otherwise one takes the risk of attributing wonderful qualities to the photograph, when to be honest it is all about the subject (instead of being mostly about the subject in carefully produced works - where the works themselves become a strong "filter" through which to see the subject, and the subject becomes simply a prop for the photographic artist's work)

Any work that could be produced by anybody else standing in the same spot and randomly taking a snapshot, really should not merit discussion as a photographic work itself. Now, I am not saying all of Moshe and Rivka Katvan's works are like this - there are a couple of brilliant pieces in there. I just want to exercise caution against attributing too much to the individual work as a piece of photographic craftsmanship on its own, when the real value is either:

  • The effect of the entire sequence of photographs, or
  • the subject matter alone (the true "art", that being the graffiti, and the disorder and decay produced by the cumulative disorganising forces in the city over time). The snapshot is just a quick record of this, and not worthy of much discussion IMHO.
We've been here before - We have even discussed one of my works, where I purposefully slanted the Horizon to make the image symmetrical with another element in the image, so I am not trying to by hypocritical. But with this body of work, I was bothered by comments earlier in the thread insinuating that the chaotic composition was through some level of higher understanding / craftsmanship, when the series of images plainly say something different to me - that these are snapshots.

The artistic regard given to such (mis)compositions in specific photographs, when the artist has not anywhere specifically indicated this as being of deliberate intent - is a bit of an assault on all carefully produced photographic work out there.

Kind of like a rapid, non-sensical fashion fad which becomes prevalent anyway because people think it is so nice and artsy, so "different"... Of course, I may be all wrong, and their work simply just does not speak to me. I don't even like the post-processing (sloppy dodging / burning in many places, etc).

Maybe I'm just cranky for spending 10+ minutes per photograph composing, LOL.
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Nor do I, Asher - but in such cases, it is the subject matter (and not the photograph) which must then be analysed. Otherwise one takes the risk of attributing wonderful qualities to the photograph, when to be honest it is all about the subject (instead of being mostly about the subject in carefully produced works - where the works themselves become a strong "filter" through which to see the subject, and the subject becomes simply a prop for the photographic artist's work)

Any work that could be produced by anybody else standing in the same spot and randomly taking a snapshot, really should not merit discussion as a photographic work itself. Now, I am not saying all of Moshe and Rivka Katvan's works are like this - there are a couple of brilliant pieces in there. I just want to exercise caution against attributing too much to the individual work as a piece of photographic craftsmanship on its own, when the real value is either:

  • The effect of the entire sequence of photographs, or
  • the subject matter alone (the true "art", that being the graffiti, and the disorder and decay produced by the cumulative disorganising forces in the city over time). The snapshot is just a quick record of this, and not worthy of much discussion IMHO.
We've been here before - We have even discussed one of my works, where I purposefully slanted the Horizon to make the image symmetrical with another element in the image, so I am not trying to by hypocritical. But with this body of work, I was bothered by comments earlier in the thread insinuating that the chaotic composition was through some level of higher understanding / craftsmanship, when the series of images plainly say something different to me - that these are snapshots.

The artistic regard given to such (mis)compositions in specific photographs, when the artist has not anywhere specifically indicated this as being of deliberate intent - is a bit of an assault on all carefully produced photographic work out there.

Kind of like a rapid, non-sensical fashion fad which becomes prevalent anyway because people think it is so nice and artsy, so "different"... Of course, I may be all wrong, and their work simply just does not speak to me. I don't even like the post-processing (sloppy dodging / burning in many places, etc).

Maybe I'm just cranky for spending 10+ minutes per photograph composing, LOL.
ok i'll bite.

David you dont compose. you edit. unless you are making work like calum colvin when he builds a set. you find a set and edit an image from it.

how long or short that takes has more to do with how you choose to work than someone elses skill. length of time does not confer quality onto something - even sex can be laboured :)

others work in different ways. the manner in which you render the image again is how you choose it to be rendered - that does not excluded others who work in different ways from making work that for want of a better word works.

in relation to the work on the site - i enjoyed some of it very much - i enjoy looking at some of your work and can appreciate different styles and ways of creating.

cheers !
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
I actually agree on all fronts. I just wanted to differentiate between artistry and skilled image-making (craft). Never the two shall meet, of course :)
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
The best that I can answer is "maybe". Certainly not all art exhibits good craftsmanship, and good craftsmanship does not imply art. So, at least in many cases, art and craft are mutually exclusive.
Dawid,

Interestingly, we have limits of patience with art. For example, if a movie has poorly focussed images and half the set unlit, it may be considered, "artistic". However if the sound is poor, crackles, spatters and is too soft or squeaky, the theatre will empty in 5 minutes or less! So I wonder what are the limits for visual art that make us simply walk away?

Asher
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Art is really weird: There are some people that really enjoy and value minimalist paintings such as Russian suprematist paintings from early 20th centry:



We cannot really make any statements about this as "art", because we will fall back into the trap of various previous discussions (on this forum, and elsewhere) - to me art is so deeply personal, it defies general description or comparison.

However, we can discuss the merits of craft. More than 90% of the currently-alive population will be able to create, with no problems, the above "artwork" (which is in the Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg).

I believe we can thus assert that there is truly nothing special about the craftsmanship of the above painting, because it's so easily achievable without any effort. I consider most careless snapshots in the same regard as the above painting - unless they depict extraordinary timing or subject matter. But then it is not the picture that is great, it is the slice of life that has been captured that is great. Furthermore, the above artist has produced a whole series of these simplistic art works. Do they inherently get any better if we view them together, as a set, in sequence? Or to apply Marks' (somewhat disagreeable, to me) explanation that the single carefully-made image is edited - whereas the sequence is composed - let's view the composition:


In my opinion, no. As individual artworks, they are still utterly uninteresting from a craftsmanship perspective.

I don't wish to draw too-strong an analogy (the paintings are merely an example), but perhaps the above sums up my thoughts with regards to considering poorly-composed (yes, composed) pictures as valuable pieces of art. I cringe every time that the bad snapshots of some mid-west photographer that discovered 35mm slide film in the 1950s are sold as valuable art. The art-critic community always seems to exhibit a desperate need to invent all manner of deeper metaphors, and assign special talents of deeper insight, relating to the artist's brilliance, when they simply do not know, and have a desperate need to point out things that aren't there (perhaps to retain their standing in the a community starved for new discoveries or insights?).

Everybody is afraid to simply say "they're just snapshots, what's the big deal?". There doesn't have to be deeper meaning in the craftsmanship mistakes made by the artist. They might just be mistakes. And sometimes, they "work". In my experience, there usually isn't deeper meaning unless the artist has proven his mastery of a particular craft previously. It's as if artists expect to reach the "I can be careless, because I have proven myself to be a master" phase much too soon. This is a rare phase, not achieved by everybody. Until then, it's probably a good idea for everybody to admit their mistakes, and always be open to learn about their craft. I certainly feel it's a long, steady journey for myself - I have yet exhibited my prints once, despite continued friendly badgering by my friends and family to do so. I'm not "there" yet. It's been ten years. And I am very far away from the "I am proven, thus I can be reckless" phase.

But then again, many people that often make the same arguments as I suffer from the "I am never good enough" or "I should suffer for my art by making the crafting process as difficult as possible" syndrome, and that's also no good. As I said, Art is really weird. Nobody can even define it. That is why

art = love (made visible)

Is the best they could have come up with so far. But my argument remains: Sometimes acclaimed artists simply produce mediocre or hurried craft. And people try to read far too much into it. But if it adds to their enjoyment of the work, who am I to object?

I, however, am first trying to master the craft. While doing so, I will continue to hold "famous, fashionable, over-regarded" random snapshots in contempt, when considering them from a perspective of craft.

So Asher - to respond to your analogy - it's not a matter of my patience running out like it would with a Movie. Perhaps because there is no time-based "release" of the work? (the photograph can be taken in all at once.)

No, it's just because I am not arrested by a picture I've seen a hundred times before. And very often crafted better. But this doesn't stop me from producing similarly unarresting work myself all the time - we all have to dabble until inspiration leaps out at us!
 

Dawid Loubser

New member
Interestingly, we have limits of patience with art.
Strangely, when it comes to the audible arts (Music) I have been considered extremely patient (or crazy). Anybody who considers Biosphere (Geir Jenssen)'s Autour de la Lune album as great (or even tolerable) has to be :)

The same goes for films - I always have to spend a lot of effort convincing others of the greatness of some pretty "slow" films that you really only start appreciating about an hour into it.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Art is really weird..............


So Asher - to respond to your analogy - it's not a matter of my patience running out like it would with a Movie. Perhaps because there is no time-based "release" of the work? (the photograph can be taken in all at once.)''

No, it's just because I am not arrested by a picture I've seen a hundred times before. And very often crafted better. But this doesn't stop me from producing similarly unarresting work myself all the time - we all have to dabble until inspiration leaps out at us!
Dawid,

Yes art is weird. I'd ask you to allow more credit to your own work and so called-snaps, irrespective of craft, for art that stands to be enjoyed for more than a moment or too. Be open!

Here's another way of looking, beyond love and beauty, which honestly don't matter in art. What counts, I believe, is that ART that is collected in museums and stored for future generations is considered original, interesting and worth sharing with those that follow. These works generally should have a hook to get us to notice the work and then some magnetic attraction to draw us in and interest sufficient to have us bond with the work. When it's the kind of work that the museum feels will sustain interest, the museum is willing to spend it's limited money for its purchase and even more limited space for its display, when there's so much competing for attention. Of course, a lot of work will be hoarded that have really no long term interest for humanity, except that at some time there was great enthusiasm for the work. However, over time, a collection of select works will be recognized by that culture as treasure to conserve for humanity.

This idea of art having a magnetic bond with us may be related to the birth of a child or the iconic story of Jesus with billions accepting the entire story as epic and a guide. On a smaller scale, the creations of man's musing are collected by "museums, dealers and "collectors" and gain monetary value as they are rare. OTOH, the crucifix is freely exchanged, but is still a work of art in its effect on us. The museums built around it are called churches. :)

Asher
 
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