“Another outstanding lecture – I’ll look at photographs so differently from now on,” said one of the large audience as they left Thursday’s lecture at The Arts Society Wokingham.
Brian Stater set out to show in his talk Photography as Fine Art that the very best photographs can equal and indeed exceed other media. Using some of the best photos in the world, beautifully illustrated on the cinema quality projection at Newbold Church, he took up the challenge to show why a recent newspaper series on art was wrong not to have included a single photographic image and to counter the accusation that “successful painting is successful technique – photographers just press a button”.
An obvious genre to start was Portraits and using examples from Arnold Newman to Robert Doisneau he illustrated how great photographs can show not just what someone looks like but who they are; succeeding sometimes where a conventional painted portrait can’t.
In Landscapes the detailed and perfect work of Ansel Adams was compared to the simplified and relaxed views of Bill Brandt who would wait months to get the right image. “A good photo starts in the heart and mind of a photographer. Then he persuades the camera to show it”
After Still Life, Brian moved on to The Human Condition including the English photographer Martin Parr whose works, rich in understanding and passion, were perfectly illustrated by an image of a man in his Sunday best, repairing a window, perched on a ladder. It begged the question, “what happens next….”
At this point Brian took some time out to look at the superb black and white images from Henri Cartier-Bresson, the man who championed 35mm photography. Trained as a painter, fascinated by geometry, his genius was to use his skills to give an in-depth interpretation to his photos.
And finally to Narrative photos. From the wartime image of St. Pauls in the blitz to a distressing Vietnam picture from Life photographer Larry Burrows, Brian had definitely made his argument that great pictures are also great art. A superb lecture.
Our next lecture, A Decorative Art: The History of Wallpaper by Jo Banham, will be held on Thursday, June 27 at The Newbold Church, St Mark’s Road, Binfield, RG42 4AN, commencing at 7.45pm. Do come and join us. Visitor Fee: £6.
Robin Cops is Chair of The Arts Society Wokingham
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