Andres Serrano **NOT WORK SAFE - may offend some people**

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by gypsyIX, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. gypsyIX

    gypsyIX TPF Noob!

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    friday night i had the privilege of attending a lecture and slideshow by andres serrano.

    he is, as you well know, a highly controversial artist, mainly because of his most famous work which he titled "piss christ." but do not ignore the rest of his 20+ years of working with photography, the rest of it is just as beautiful and disturbing as the one piece which is synonymous with his name.

    through the years he has photographed everything from bodily fluids to the ku klux klan (mr. serrano is of mixed race) to corpses in a morgue to a post-9/11 series entitled "america" in which he did portraits of americans to be shown in europe.

    he discussed with us his process, his technique, a bit about his history and personal life. one of the most fascinating things was that he (unlike most of us) does not shoot when he's not "working." he does mostly studio work (although that studio may be anywhere, indoors or out) but he sets up his lighting and backdrops very carefully and shoots with purpose. he is more like an artist (or painter) that way rather than a "photographer" in the traditional sense. he does not walk the streets with a camera, he does not take photos of things he sees. he plans out what he wants to see, sets it up and then makes his photos. he works with the same deliberation if he is shooting for himself or if he is doing commercial assignments.

    another thing i found interesting is that rather than shooting and shooting and shooting, then editing and coming up with a title for the collection, he first comes up with the title. that gives him parameters to work within. then under that title, he will plan out what images need to be made, then he makes them. (i myself, like many of you i suppose, do exactly the opposite. i shoot as much as i can, i determine the theme, then edit down and maybe continue shooting with that theme until i have a cohesive body of work. incidentally, doing it my way ensures that i'm making no money with all these photos, and i still have to work full-time to pay my rent. but anyway...)

    but the thing that i admire most about this artist is his ability to make the most dreadful things look beautiful. "piss christ" is a beautiful image, despite one's feelings about the subject matter. (i believe he did not intend to offend anyone, he is a christian himself, but i do believe he knew that it would offend and did it anyway. woo-hoo!) the portraits from the morgue are beautiful in terms of lighting and composition, despite the fact that the portraits are of dead humans, with the titles explaining the manner of death. (that was, in fact, the only information he had about these people. he was not allowed to know their names or any other info.) and the portraits of the ku klux klan, perhaps the most reviled group of people in america, are just as gorgeous as the rest. the fabric of the robes and hoods are illuminated in such a way that the wearers seem like important people, so that they are viewed with a mixture of awe and disgust.

    i tried to find some of his work online, but i can only find the morgue images (which are not for the faint of heart). but if you have a chance, look for his books. although his art may not appeal to all, i believe all the artists on this forum will find something to learn from his style.
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    I have some books of Serrano's work. I find them interesting in that he deals with normally taboo subjects - but I have just about decided that his work isn't very good in Photographic terms. Once you get over the shock factor the pictures are pretty pedestrian and nothing special - and some aren't much good at all. The photographs take second place to the subject. It reminds me a bit of the 60's when people produced naughty pictures but got away with it by calling it 'Art'. Serrano's work isn't even voyeuristic so you don't get the feeling you are seeing something you shouldn't*. I much prefer Witkin who manages to amalgamate subject and photograph so that they depend on each other.


    *If you want to see an example of what I mean - and what Serrano lacks - check out the wonderful kitsch work of Elmer Batters (again not worksafe - some nudity).

    ****************
    I have put the warning in the thread title because Serrano produces images that a great many people would consider obscene.
    If anyone goes searching for this Artist do be aware of this fact.
     
  3. gypsyIX

    gypsyIX TPF Noob!

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    i suppose i should have mentioned that his work can be highly offensive.

    i don't agree that his work is entirely about shock value. his "shocking" images get the most press, and that is, of course, why he is so well-known, but many of his series are not shocking at all. for example, his portraits of the homeless. not that is hasn't been done before, it's been done to death, but he did it in a way made those portraits his own. and his more recent series entitled "americans" which is a series of portraits of american people from all backgrounds and all walks of life is not the least bit offensive. it's his tribute to the country that he grew up in and still lives in. he is a new yorker and was touched, as we all were, by the events of 9-11 and "americans" was his reaction.

    i'm not in love with all of his work. i was disappointed by his sex culture photos... they seem to lack something. they're a bit too rolling stone-y for my taste, i guess. maybe just too much of everything... putting it all out in the open with no room for interpretation.

    but on the whole, i feel that his technique, especially his lighting, is very good. and i admire the fact that he's old fashioned film-and-paper... just as i am.

    thanks for your opinions, hertz... i've been starved for conversations like this since i left school! art is the only thing i like to argue about. :)
     

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