Here we go again.
As the Ryan McGinlies of the world– those masters of de-jading beautiful, deadpan twenty-somethings– get more and more popular, the photography world keeps getting watered down with more and more of the same. Call it Sensitive Hipster Sentimentalism: Nostalgic little Polaroids, quiet inklings of quirkiness, Moments with Friends (*cough* American Apparel models *cough*), and compositions that treasure the peculiarities of life and the things gone “unnoticed.” Without any artist statement to go by, that’s the most I can assume out of Robert Johnson’s grab bag of odds-and-ends (which is “mainly” dominated by the aforementioned aesthetic). But I guess there wouldn’t be any thematic explanation when you throw together personal work with commission stuff, spontaneous snapshots, fashion portraiture, still lives, and landscapes. So beyond your work-for-hire, what exactly are you trying to say?
All I can gather is a sheepish, “I don’t know, I just thought [it] was kinda nice.” Sometimes, it kind of is. A cloud, some cool clothes, a daydreamer. They’d make charming finds in an old photo album. They could even stir up envy in an outsider or two that might look in and think, “Your day-to-day life is so beautiful.” And isn’t that art’s simplest objective? To remind us of life’s magic and whimsy? It sure can be. And it sure can work– or rather– has worked (and much better) from Johnson’s countless forebears.
Terry Gilliam worked because he offered a glimpse into the vacuous and filthy absurdity of celebrity.
Ryan McGinley worked because his many series’ offered narrative potential, cohesive aesthetic tones, and universally poignant scenes of freedom.
Dash-Snow worked because he was just way too fucking ridiculous not to.
Elevating the snapshot to Fine Art status may not be “just a trend.” It’s probably a genre by now. But what’s the difference between the two if the artist in question isn’t doing a thing to evolve the worldview at hand?
Maybe it’s too early to tell. Maybe we just have to wait until Johnson clues us in on his artistic goals.
If modest? Say, to entertain his friends?
Nice job. These are pretty.
I’m sure you’ll live comfortably.
Take off the fucking frames.