As a bit of a point/counterpoint to Photography Is Magic, let’s take a look at NEOPRIME: Fine Art Photography, issue 2.
So if Photography is Magic surveys Contemporary Art Photography, what is it that NEOPRIME shows? Its subtitle suggests “Contemporary Fine Art Photography,” yet the pictures inside bear little to no resemblance to anything in the Cotton book.
The first issue of NEOPRIME Contemporary Fine Art Photography appeared in November 2015 to some acclaim, and its limited run of 250 copies sold out in days. It got some good press from Adobe and others, and somehow I got alerted (via Tumblr, I expect) to its second issue shortly after launch and ordered a copy.
So what does NEOPRIME offer? Well, it’s a survey of the editor’s picks from “thousands of submissions,” plus some stuff they sought out, so its going to be a bit different than what Charlotte Cotton would select to represent Contemporary Art photography. In general, the pictures are glossy and colorful… even the stuff in black & white is luscious and contrasty. The production and print quality is high, especially considering how inexpensive the magazine is, though the tall, narrow format sometimes makes horizontal pictures feel a bit cramped.
There are a slew of single shots from various photographers, and a couple of series from some others. Alessandro Rodrigues‘ series “Dynamics of Stillness” caught my eye straight away, and sorta reminds me of Sugimoto’s seascapes, if they were colorful and full of movement. Cedric Delannoy‘s “Psar” series of market stalls in Phenom Pehn look like pictures taken through a kaleidoscope, with all the repeated colors and forms: those little market stalls are absolutely packed with a variety of goods, and human figures emerge from these masses of consumer goods. Alessia Trerotoli‘s “Urban Melodies” are multiple exposures, superimposed to create pictures that are reminiscent of stuff that comes out of that Average Camera Pro app that I didn’t name a couple of years ago, only a bit sharper and a bit more composed. And Alan Schaller has a nice black & white street photography series.
All of that is easily identified as photography, some slightly manipulated, but mostly straight ahead with simple tweaks to saturation and contrast in Lightroom or something. There is an aspect of craft and mechanical competence in all of these that is missing from much of the work in Photography is Magic, but of course, the editors—Charlotte Cotton on the one hand, and Martin Dietrich & Marius Niklas Vieth on the other—have completely different aims, intents, and interests (I think).
Where Cotton surveys high concept gallery art that she finds conceptually interesting and/or important, Dietrich & Vieth present stuff that they find to “combine technical excellence with [the photographer’s] eye, heart and soul into an exceptional photograph….”* And while Cotton is an independent curator and theorist, Dietrich and Vieth run or are otherwise involved in NEOPRIME Fine Arts, an online art gallery. So they have completely different aims. While the photographs in NEOPRIME are of a very high technical competence and show clear attention to classical rules of color and composition, they’re not really pushing the boundaries of what photography can be said to contain. And while the selections in Photography Is Magic are undeniably pushing the conceptual envelope, some of the aspects of craft and technique are (purposefully) missing. I’m not coming down on the side of one or the other: both have their place. Photography is, indeed, a “fabulously broad church”** and there’s plenty of room for both (and even more).
NEOPRIME Contemporary Fine Art Photography, Issue 2 is still available at time of writing for $25, shipped direct from Deutschland. If you’re interested, grab a copy while you can. Issue 2 is limited to 500 copies, and I got #256, so if you’re interested, go and order one quickly.
*Vieth & Dietrich. “Editorial,” in NEOPRIME Contemporary Fine Art Photography, issue 2. NEOPRIME Fine Arts OHG, Frankfurt, 2016. p 4.
***Cotton, Charlotte. “Nine Years, A Million Conceptual Miles.” Aperture. Accessed 14 February, 2016. http://aperture.org/magazine-2013/nine-years-a-million-conceptual-miles-by-charlotte-cotton/