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:
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:
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:
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.