'Modern Art' in Primitive Patterns Series: LENS AND LIGHT. 'Lens and Light' Is a Series Showcasing the Work of Monitor Staff Photographers. Part of a Series

Article excerpt

I experimented. I showed this photograph to someone who had not seen it before and knew nothing about it. What is it? I asked.

"A garden path? A pie crust?" she hazarded.

"Not exactly." I said. Did she think it was a painting or a photograph?

"A painting?" she guessed. Wrong again.

"A crocodile? A lizard? Some sort of reptile?"

She edged closer. But finally I had to give the game away. "Shell Game" is what the photographer has named her picture. (She has added a little more information: "Tank for injured turtles, Padre Island, Texas.")

This is not a documentary or journalistic photograph. It belongs to the tradition of "art photography."

Edward Weston, an American photographer whose work sometimes came close to paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and Stuart Davis, or to sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, strongly felt that photography was not a poor relation of painting and sculpture. "Painters have no copyright on modern art!" he observed in his daybook.

Weston himself made photographs from shells (empty ones, however). Very direct, and without pretentious claims to be "artistic," they still transform the shell into an abstract essence. …