Rochester N.Y., by Roger Mertin
My post on Denis Cameron and mention of Bill Burke brings up the subject of underappreciated photographers. In the current issue of American Photo, a dozen folks in the photo world were asked the question, “Whom do you classify as an underrated photographer, and why?”
I can understand Elliot Erwitt’s reluctance to single out just one. He wrote:
There are so many fine photographers who are underrated that it would be unfair to name just one. Look at the New York Times, where the quality of photography has so leaped forward – these are not known photographers, they’re just workaday photographers who take wonderful pictures. Recognition comes as a result of luck, timing and the situation at large.
Sam Abell mentioned a specific newspaper photographer I’d never heard of but am eager to learn more about: Pam Spaulding of the The Courier Journal in Louisville, KY. Does anyone know of images online from her thirty year project photographing a mom and her three kids?
Duane Michals only likes underrated photographers: “People who are ‘rated’ are people in the loop – trendy, hip,” He writes, “the truly original people, like Arthur Tress and Chema Madoz, are underrated.” He goes on to stir things up by saying, “Unless one brings imagination to observation, photography is simply reproducing reality. I like people who challenge reality, who don’t reinforce banality.”
I suspect Michals would hate my choice of Roger Mertin.
Mark Klett seems to be saying that all fine-art photography is underrated relative to the culture at large:
Fine-art photography is a very small world associated with galleries, museums, and university art programs. It’s not like rock music; the products of this world have never been widely seen because the artists are often exploring things that are not already coded in general consciousness. It’s not that photographers don’t want to be famous, it’s just that very few of the views from the edges of culture make the mainstream. Ansel Adams was an exception.