"Nonstop imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite....
In an era of information overload, the photograph..is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb."
(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others 2003)

17 November, 2008

Leibovitz, Capa & Flickr.com. The vexed Question of Celebrity Photographer vs. Photographer Celebrity

This image: copyright Daniel Griffin.
To see more of Dan's extraordinary work, click here:

If my mantelpiece is anything to go by, London galleries are not feeling the dread crunch quite yet. Every day brings a fresh crop of heavy envelopes, full of lavishly designed private view & Christmas party invitations, complimentary 2009 diaries plus the inevitable hyperbolic letter: about important new work from established artists and “thought provoking” pieces from major new talents.

The Vernissage itself is certainly not what it used to be. Even if I were still a famished art student, I am not sure I would be rushing off to Cork Street or to Hoxton on the now well-established First Thursdays for a beaker full of tannic Shiraz or tepid Viognier and a fistful of impossible-to-identify canap├ęs.

I am, however, off to the National Portrait Gallery for the private view of Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005. If you don’t know who Leibovitz is, I’m not entirely sure why you are reading this blog. There is even a school of thought which holds Anna-Lou (b.1949) responsible for the creation of celebrity culture. She certainly does not need any more hype from me - although I am interested to take a look at some of her more personal projects, including the last pictures of her partner Susan Sontag (1933-2004).

I’m actually more enthusiastic about catching up with the Barbican’s latest tripartite show, a Robert Capa (1913-1954) retrospective and a reappraisal of the life and work of his partner Gerda Taro (1910-1937). Taro was the subject of a fascinating presentation at the Frontline Club given recently by the show’s curator, Irme Schaber. You can also read Sean O’Hagan’s measured review here:

This image: copyright Daniel Griffin.
To see more of Dan's extraordinary work, click here:

Fortunately, we have the perspective of history with which to judge Capa and Taro. Evaluating the work of contemporary, living & working, photojournalists has become increasingly fraught in our camera phone/citizen journalist/Flickr.com age.

So many questions. Which begat which? The Celebrity or the Celebrity Photographer? If the Photographer becomes a “Celebrity”, what happens to their work? What is the precise distinction between the work of Annie Leibovitz & self styled “Australian paparazzo & media personality” Darren Lyons? Perhaps, after I have been to the NPG show, I may be just that little bit clearer. Watch this space.

In the meantime, take another look at the work of a talented young photojournalist who is not yet a celebrity but who is well on the way to becoming rather celebrated by the cognoscenti.