reGeneration might have been more aptly named regurgitation. If this is the future of photography, take me somewhere else.

In this highly subjective collection arrogantly titled 50 Photographers of Tomorrow, it seems like there is nothing new under the sun, it’s all be done, it is all derivative. Page after page we are treated to technically proficient photographs (crisp, colorful, evenly lit) that are completely lacking in soul and ideas.

To be fair, it’s an idea that was set up to fail: trying to predict 50 photographer-artists who will be the new visionaries of the 21st century. But these seem all culled from the same crop of kids just out of graduate school. This catalog is more like a yearbook from an average upper-middle class art school where everybody was trying to please the same teachers to get good grades.

To be fair (again), we only see a few images from each of the 50 photographers, and there is only a short paragraph to provide any background or context about each. The catalog would have been much more useful, say, as a website, with links to dig deeper into the handful of photographers that do show promise: Like Mieke van de Voort, who photographed the rooms where people had died alone, all of their belongings left exactly as they were…; Pétur Thomsen, whose man-altered landscapes are like wonderful abstract paintings; and Idris Khan who created multi layered photographs that “play” with photography, time and memory in a most delightful way.

Well, maybe the rest will do better work “tomorrow”, but for now the stuff is boring. Were the curators too lazy or too eager to fill up the idea of “50”? Ultimately, the selection is uninspiring. Which, to my mind, is the opposite of what a photo book (or an exhibition) should be.

For another point of view, here is some "praise" from the press release, verbatim:

What are young photographers up to at the outset of the twenty-first century? How much do they respect, build on, or reject tradition? This stunning group show sets out to discover answers to these intriguing questions, by presenting the work of fifty extraordinary young photographers from around the world who are already making their mark. An Aperture publication of the same title accompanies the exhibition.

The broadest and most enterprising survey of its kind, reGeneration showcases the creativity, ingenuity, and inspiration of fifty up-and-coming artists from around the world all chosen by curators at the world-renowned Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne. Selected from hundreds of candidates submitted by more than sixty of the world’s top photography schools, the panel’s choice was made with one key question in mind: are these images likely to be known in twenty years’ time? The results show that, as the new century builds momentum, the art of photography is alive and well, and that photographers of extraordinary talent are already making their mark...

To counter that PR-hype and spin, I prefer what Roberta Smith wrote about the exhibition in the New York Times:

“...Confirming the fail-safe eye candy of large size, color and expert printing, the show suggests that all photography is essentially surreal: beautiful, disturbing, invasive and more or less contrived. The forms of modern architecture continue to fascinate. Digitalization is here to stay whether in portraiture or nearly abstract images. The distinction between real and manipulated, more staged and less staged is ever more blurred...”

I say, look elsewhere and you will find that photography is alive and flourishing in many new directions.

— Jim Casper


 


reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow
Essays by William A. Ewing, Nathalie Herschdorfer, Jean-Christophe Blaserd
Paperback, 224 pages
210 four-color and 8 duotone images
8.75 x 10.37 inches
ISBN: 978-1931788984
Aperture 2006

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