1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What do you consider as Contemporary Photography?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Catriona, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    For me, it could be anywhere between a rubbish colour-cast phone pic to a computer generated cartoon. Don't get me wrong. I like creativity, but am genuinely wondering if there is a specific genre of Contemporary Photography and what it is?

    Please tell me if you know - and examples if possible.

  2. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member


    The Royal Photographic Society does, indeed, have such a category.

    Unlike categories such as Visual Art (which has now been split into Pictorial and Creative - to suit folk like you and me and also folk who object to folk like you and me), Contemporary photographs have to tell a story.

    Not sure that I really appreciate such a definition - but there you have it, straight from the nag's mouth.

  3. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Here you are:

    The RPS Contemporary Group is about photography which can and often does cross all conventional genres. At the 2013 AGM the group commitee as listed below adopted the following statement and believes that it is an accurate description of its objectives :-

    "Photography that conveys ideas, stimulates thought and encourages interpretation; photographs "about" rather than "of".

    The Group provides a forum for presentation and encouragement of its members in pursuing production of coherent bodies of work with a specific role.

    Emphasis is put on photography based on expressing ideas; on meaning and purpose, with sets of images to a theme rather than individual stand-alone photographs.

    It is about the “why” rather that the “what” of the photography. The Group will appeal to amateur members who look to achieve a longer standing value in their work, as an alternative to the well-trodden route of photographic salons, and to professionals pursuing work on personal projects to a theme.

    Examples of role models who we see for these types of photography are contemporary Magnum members Martin Parr HonFRPS and Alec Soth, noting that Magnum now believe that much of their member’s personal projects no longer comfortably conform to the original Magnum documentary genre. An earlier role model would be Robert Frank with The Americans. Another example would be the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken.

    Group activities:

    Quarterly full colour Group Journal, Contemporary Photography
    Monthly on-line e-newsletter, RPS Contemporary Times
    Member postal portfolios circulating in UK and Europe
    Sub-Groups holding local meetings, currently established in the South West Region, the North
    West and North East England
    Major Group conference with professional speakers, normally annually
    Active Facebook Group RPS Contemporary
    Advice on submissions for Contemporary RPS Distinctions.

    - See more at: http://www.rps.org/special-interest-groups/contemporary/about#sthash.4xhyvu33.dpuf
  4. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much for explaining it. I do get the message and am quite attracted by it. :)

  5. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I admit to being a cynic about "photographic genres" or whatever they're called this week. Isn't it enough just to produce something and let the viewer make up their mind about it?

    Why should anyone need to say that this is "commercial photography", that is "documentary photography" and the other is "street photography"? Feel free to substitute the tags you prefer/dislike more.

  6. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I certainly would not want to impose categories upon you, Sejanus, or anyone else for that matter.

    But organisations like RPS, PAGB, camera clubs, et al do find it aids their organisation of our wonderful hobby. Similarly, journals like AP in editorially ensuring a fair spread of topics or in arranging their competitions (e.g. APOY) do find categorisation a useful construct.

    Of course, some do not like being categorised or classified. Some are positively anarchistic. And why not?

    But, for example, if Kate or I are entering some photographs for an international salon (as we do), then it sometimes helps if there are a number of categories and we can decide where best to place our efforts.

    Not for everyone. But useful for some.

  7. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Nicely put, Eric.
    If anyone has a moment, these are a few which I hope fit the bill. I'd be interested to hear if any of you agree - and maybe why or why not? :)

  8. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Yes, a very sensible answer

  9. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    By the way, the particular brief associated with the album I linked above, was The Use of Colour in Contemporary Photography.
  10. Ffolrord

    Ffolrord Well-Known Member

    It's the iphone selfie isn't it?
  11. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    No, it isn't. If it's not your scene? That's OK.
  12. Ffolrord

    Ffolrord Well-Known Member

    Why not? That strikes me as a more uniquely contemporary genre than anything else I've seen that purports to be contemporary.
  13. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    I think you may have a point there. It's certainly a form of photography that's almost unique to the current period.
  14. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

    Surely people have been taking photographs of themselves or in a group of friends with a camera held at arms length for a long time. This is essentially a 'selfie'; it's just that it has only acquired that name recently. The iPhone bit is unimortant as it's just a camera (of sorts).
  15. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I think it is more than that. The ability to frame yourself on the screen transforms it and appeals to a vastly wider audience than would ever want to lug a camera around. The ability to post it, send it etc directly also taps into a very modern exhibitionistic / experiential trend.

    Much as I like the RPS definition, if it excludes the humble selfie, it is missing a big point, or being a bit too elitist with its definition of photography.
  16. Derek_R

    Derek_R Well-Known Member

    The RPS category sounds very interesting to me. I must explore further.
  17. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Ah well, in this instance, as it happens, I did submit a selfie - albeit a reflection in a bus window. :)
  18. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Aye, weel, not contemporary at all. People have been doing those since the 'thirties.

    Isn't there a Bill Brandt shot of himself with a dummy staring back, shot in Oxford Street? Of course, there's Cecil Beaton's shot in a mirror fixed to his ceiling, that dates from a similar period, if I recall correctly.

    If those are classed as selfies, I withdraw my previous statement about their contemporaneity.
  19. IvorCamera

    IvorCamera Well-Known Member

    Hi just come across this thread and its quite of interest to me, I have never quite understood what contemporary is and neither do I understand what fine art photography is, I have been into photography for a long time and in the beginning when I first got interested in photography contemporary and fine art was never mentioned in my circles, I was a member of a camera club for over 45 years and it was only in the later years that these two types of photography entered my circles as to speak, I do have a friend who is much younger than me he is a professional fine art photographer who's work I admire and he sells most of it and often when we are talking he says this is what I do and this is what sells but I still can't put my finger on the difference, am I making sense here? If I decided to go out tomorrow with my camera to take fine art pictures or contemporary pictures I have an idea I would come home with similar pictures that I have always taken, which would be a complete mix of anything that attracts my attention........and which I enjoy taking!
  20. Trannifan

    Trannifan Well-Known Member

    It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has no idea of what 'fine-art photography' is. Having said that, one of my abstracts is on display at the moment at Rhubarb and Custard'(!), a 'Fine-art Photography' gallery in Eton! (As a reaction to the other abstracts on show, the picture is appropriately titled "....and now for something completely different......).
    As for 'Contemporary', it's a term which covers a multitude of sins and which, for acceptance, depends upon the way salon juries interpret it in the course of their 7 (?) seconds per picture acceptance selection marathons. I could classify my abstract and impressionist photos as 'contemporary', not least because they're taken in the here and now and I'm not really aware of anybody else producing similar pictures either. However, having scrolled through the acceptances under 'Contemporary/Modern/Experimental' for various salons, I've come to the conclusion that, for me, participating in them is a waste of time and money.

Share This Page