Tag: Gunnar Smoliansky

Glenn Sloggett – Crap Factor 10

Glenn Sloggett – Crap Factor 10

All images copyright Glenn Sloggett.

Oddly renowned Australian photographer Glenn Sloggett bears the distinction of being the first snapper to take away my ultimate accolade: Crap Factor 10.

Whereas other photographers I have covered can rightly point to any number of excellent images to offset the poor ones I have critiqued, Sloggett’s work really is rubbish from beginning to end. It is an insufferable, poorly-executed exploration of banality, a spindly imitation of Eggleston perhaps, and Australian to boot. The horror!

That said, he has enjoyed a certain degree of success in his country, so there must be something I don’t get. Perhaps there is latent artistic merit in a straight shot of a red brick suburban building in shadow, for example, or in any of the innumerable other suburban facades he has photographed. Perhaps there are arguments of a deeper social commentary underlying the images, observations on dreary, mundane environments very occasionally coupled with a sniff of a quirky juxtaposition. Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

Then again, maybe what we are really seeing is a lazy photographer so bereft of ideas that all he can do is walk around and photograph slightly decrepit scenes in somewhat down-at-heel neighbourhoods. Because that’s the feeling we get: he walks, he snaps, he goes home again. Martin Parr does this too, but that’s where the similarity ends. With Sloggett there’s never a sign of real thought, consideration or patience. No waiting for the light to work, no extra elements, no decisive moment. Occasionally he’ll reach for a flash, but there’s a sense this is just so he won’t have to come back when the light is better. Then again, maybe I just don’t get it. Then again…

Thus we turn to the first image:

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With all the respect I can muster, which is actually quite a lot, what is this shit? I don’t for one moment deny Sloggett’s right to take this photograph. But to offer it as ‘art’ is an insult. It is an image bereft of a single redeeming feature, revealing no talent, no brain, nothing. Yet somewhere out there are people who have purchased this. What does that say about them? I would actually prefer to hang Gunnar Smoliansky’s concrete wall in my home, which is really saying something.

The second image is hardly an improvement:

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This may well have been taken around the corner from the first image. Or maybe it wasn’t. But who actually cares? All I see is a corner on ‘Hope Street’. Does the tenuous, shall we even say ironic, nexus between this drab setting and the notion of ‘hope’ really compensate for this nothing image so as to elevate it to ‘art’ or ‘social commentary’? Apparently some would maintain it does, but for me it’s rubbish. Too obvious, too little, too didactic. The only thing missing from the image is a bin to symbolise the garbage the viewer is being forced to meditate.

A final image to round out today’s diatribe:

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Oooh, the number of the Beast! Well observed, Glenn, you really nailed that one. Is the hand of the Devil involved in the car crashes that keep the neighbouring business running? I bet it is, and it took the all-seeing eye of Sloggett to decipher this suburban Da Vinci Code and maybe save Rosemary’s baby as well. The one really good thing about this image is that it does have a garbage bin, so let’s open it and drop in this photo.

As you might have guessed by now, Sloggett for me represents a nadir in photographic practice and it actually makes me a little angry. His images are lazy, desperately short on wit and underwritten by juvenile ideas at best. I see these pictures and feel a strong urge never to meet the person behind them.

That said, he is fully entitled to be this way, especially if he has an audience stupid enough to buy into it. No one forced the market to embrace him or the critics to croon. So perhaps the real concern is that there are galleries and clients who connect with this material. At the end of the day, they are the real idiots, they are the ones admiring the Emperor’s new clothes.

Sloggett as Emperor, now there’s a thought.

Conclusion? I don’t know whether I will get another opportunity to critique work as godawful as this, so it would be remiss of me not give Glenn full marks. Crap Factor 10/10.

 

Gunning for Gunnar – Gunnar Smoliansky’s Emperor’s New Clothes

All images copyright Gunnar Smoliansky.

Today’s photographer is a Swede, which is not to criticise him in the least. Some remarkable work has emerged from Sweden, not least Anders Petersen and Christer Strömholm. Indeed today’s subject, Gunnar Smoliansky, was a student of Strömholm’s, not that you would know it from the first image below. Or from the second or third.

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Gunnar. It’s not fault his name is Gunnar. That was his parents’ decision and surely taken after only great thought and deliberation. While Gunnar would not be the first choice for my male offspring, one can at least say he dodged a bullet when Mum and Dad didn’t opt for Stig or Knut, which would both have been distinct contenders since he came to this world when older-style names were well in fashion in 1933.

As mentioned, Gunnar studied under Strömholm and one can indeed see this influence in Gunnar’s humanistic images. And three cheers for those, nothing wrong with them, in fact many are really great. But at some point — the 1980s to be precise — Gunnar decided to try something different.

Now there’s nothing wrong at all with trying something different. Indeed it is to be encouraged. Artists should push themselves, experiment, test their limits and their audience. But if the result is shite, then they should put the failed work away and not try to pull the wool over our eyes with it for decades to come.

So the reason I’m picking on Gunnar today is because I received a newsletter a couple of months ago drawing my attention to his exhibition at Galerie Vu’ in Paris. A selection of the images being shown accompanied the newsletter and it would be no exaggeration to say that my immediate and unequivocal response upon seeing them was, ‘I crap on these photos’.

Let us start with the image of the wall above. I don’t want to be rude, but why the fuck would anyone take this picture? And why the fuck would anyone hang it in a gallery? And why, for Christ’s sake, would anyone actually pay money to hang it in their home? This photo is rubbish.

I could meditate on this concrete wall for a year or more, and I still do not believe it would reveal itself to me. I’m not interested in its texture. I’m not interested in the plant jutting up from the ground either. Is it because I’m stupid? Or is it because this image is a photographic emperor’s new clothes and needs to be called as such?

No doubt someone out there will tell me that I’m the one at fault and I simply don’t get it. Well you know what? You’re right—I don’t get it at all. If you know the answers, do tell me what I’m missing, because I think a monkey could have taken that picture.

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The second image is no different. It is nothing. I have taken my time and looked at it closely, but my emotional response is zero. There is no depth, no intelligence, no strength, no message, no story. In its favour, I don’t think a monkey could have taken this one, yet even so the shadows say nothing interesting to me. It is a poor photo, in no way satisfying. Yet there it is, hanging in a significant gallery.

Do I have anything better to say about the third image?

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Sadly not. Perhaps some very minor redemption can be found in the symmetry of the three bushes or the stubble of the wall. But it’s very, very minor. In truth there’s nothing there, no vision of note. It’s rubbish. In fact, the entire series is rubbish. Rubbish, I tell you! Or maybe I just don’t get it.

Conclusion? Hej Gunnar, you have done some lovely work back in the day, but you seriously jumped the shark with this stuff. Spare us once and for all your empty ‘conceptual’ offerings (if that’s what one would call them), since they sadly leave me with no choice but to crap on your photos. Crap Factor 9.5/10.