There is a great interview of British photographer Paul Graham – EDIT – the interview can be found here
I applaud these people for going to the ends of the earth, but they should think more carefully about the visual language that they use. On the other hand, the opposite example of successful outsider is (Robert) Frank.
I would argue that, like Abstract Expressionism or PopArt, the bloom of American photography in the 1960s and 70s was one of the greatest post-war American art movements, which still goes unrecognized today by the greater art world. Shore, Eggleston, Adams, Winogrand, Arbus – from ‘New Documents’ to ‘New Topographics’ – that’s a great artistic movement there, very much of and for its times. And you’re right, they were alienated by the greater art world; they were forced to make their own little system with a few little photo-galleries, small print sales, teaching, workshops, and they egged each other on. That’s they way movements work.
At the end of the day, I’m walking around with a dSLR, which has exactly the same problems as a film SLR – focus, aperture, shutter speed, and the biggest problem of all, what the hell you point the camera at. I’m sorry, but the fact that it’s a piece of silicon recording the light rather than a piece of gelatin doesn’t make such a big difference.
Someone I know, who’s working on the Cartier-Bresson retrospective at MoMA, was looking at his contact sheets and said to me, ‘The “decisive moment” is nonsense!’ There are ten pictures before and ten pictures after every one of them – he actually took a dozen pictures of people leaping over that puddle!
You know, sometimes I think that there is something at photography’s core that, alas, many in the art world don’t get. For example, when someone comes at it from the classic art world perspective they think there’s something missing from what Winogrand did. He simply walked down the street, and took this picture of a demonstration, and it seems just like a lucky snapshot. You know the one where all of the gestures line up in Public Relations; where, if you drew a line with a ruler across the four hand gestures, it would be perfectly straight? Whereas… if Jeff Wall recreated that with ten models, a huge photographic team and lots of postproduction, everyone would accept that – there’s no problem and it’s seen as legitimate, because the artistic and creative process is clear. So there’s a big gap between the synthetic and the analytic. That said, I’m admirer of the best of Jeff Wall. But what I have problems with is that Wall is very influenced by Winogrand – you can see that in his work; he loves that kind of photography – but the same people who love and admire and promote Jeff Wall have never heard of Garry Winogrand, and they should have.