It’s been a while since I wanted to write something about Tod Papageorge Rome photographs, a project that was exhibited in 2009, and I believe most pictures (25 out of 31) can be seen here
I don’t like to question others’ work, when I don’t like it, or don’t get it I just don’t comment. But coming from a renowned photographer, who has directed the prestigious photography department at Yale, and who can be considered as a street photography guru, I just wanted to say…
… I just don’t get these photographs.
I like Papageorge views very much. What he says about photography is smart, very inspired and inspiring. Also I like the Passing through Eden photographs, as well as American Sports, 1970, or How We Spent the War in Vietnam, both works from the early 70’s that have been published recently. I do not have those books but enjoyed the photographs I saw on the web from those two projects. I think they were promising.
But the Rome project…. WTF ?
Well… even not WTF… I dig the WTF syndrom, when pictures reaches that degree of elusiveness that makes them interesting. But in the case of these Rome photographs, I see nothing, I feel nothing. They are decent street shots at best, but there is nothing outstanding I can figure out and that I would expect from such a respected and renowned figure. It looks to me like the average-Joe-streetshooter Flickr photostream. Frankly I believe that in that style he was surpassed by the guys from In-Public… and by far (remember that the project was exhibited in 2009) – not even to mention Joel Meyerowitz color street work.
But maybe I just miss something…?
I have some bits of a “theory” though, for what is worth… Papageorge street photography is obviously hugely influenced by Winogrand (with whom he used to shoot in the 60’s), which he acknowledges himself to a certain extent. But sometimes I think the Winogrand legacy leads to nowhere. Winogrand was Winogrand. His pictures was him. And Papageorge is overwhelmed by that, maybe obsessed in finding a way to sustain and stretch that legacy, which is a noble cause, but in my opinion he just fails in that. I believe Papageorge is a sort of Icarus.
Is Papageorge like Icarus ?
… or maybe that is just me.