Today’s post has nothing to do with sports. That said, I started off my weekday morning typically enough, with coffee and ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning show.
Hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic discussed and debated breaking sports news, including the latest hirings, firings and trades. Then, on the Subway Fresh Take Hotline (some day I want to say that about a MappingtheEdge.com call-in guest!), they had as their guest, Monday Night Football analyst and former quarterback, Ron “Jaws” Jaworski.
Jaws was asked his thoughts on Penn State’s hiring of a new head football coach to replace coaching legend, Joe Paterno. The school hired someone with no background or connection to Penn State University, NFL’s New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator, Bill O’Brien.
The hiring is getting strong negative feedback from some former Penn State players who expected (and practically demanded) that the vacancy be filled by someone who “got” Penn State football, not someone who had not graduated from or even attended the university. I assume at least part of the plan was to hire someone who can recruit high school athletes and win over parents without the stigma of possible links to those who are part of Penn State’s current controversy.
Jaws was surprised at the negative backlash to the hiring, believing that the best thing for Penn State is to start a new chapter. To those who preferred someone with a history at the school, Ron had what I think is a candidate for quote of the year, and it’s only early January.
Ron Jaworski said, “We have enough historians. We need some pioneers.”
Greenie loved the quote so much that he said he was going to write it down and use it later, and claim that he invented it. Jaworski’s statement goes well beyond sports.
Art has a lot of “historians” in it, on both sides of the creative process. Sometimes we say we celebrate artistic risk, when we really mean the only risks that we take in our art are the risks that others have successfully taken before us.
The birth of photography came with strong stinging criticism from the day’s most influential art critics, including French poet, Charles Baudelaire. In 1859, Baudelaire said of the birth of this new media:
“The photographic industry was the refuge of all the painters who couldn’t make it, either because they had no talent or because they were too lazy to finish their studies. Hence this universal infatuation was not only characterized by blindness and stupidity, but also by vindictiveness.”
“Photographers, you will never become artists. All you are is mere copiers.”
I’m not dismissing Baudelaire’s comments as wrong or outdated. In fact, I think find truth in much of them. Some painters did quit traditional painting for the new medium of photography, forsaking historical art making art for the unknown. Some of them were bad painters, and some of them became great pioneers of photography.
Truthfully, there is an element of copying innate to photography. It’s up to the photographer to make work that transcends a simple two-dimensional copy of what already exists in three dimensions. When I am lazy, sometimes it is easier to pick up a camera than a pencil or brush. I can say that I rarely meet a lazy photographer, but I’ve met a lot of lazy people…
If kept in context, Baudelaire’s 150-year-old comments hold some truth for their day. In fact, his comments are surprisingly similar to what I find myself thinking about some of today’s exhibitions of cell phone images. I don’t get some of today’s fine art, but that’s OK – it may even be good that I don’t.
Maybe I don’t get it because I’m more of a historian than a pioneer. Maybe I prefer to keep things a certain way, because, well, it should just be that way, like the availability and use of film. The recent headline, “Eastman Kodak Preparing to Seek Bankruptcy Protection,” saddened me in ways it doesn’t today’s younger photographers who probably know Kodak as a company that makes digital printers.
I hope at least some of today’s artwork that I don’t get, I’m not getting because the artists are striving to be pioneers.
We need some pioneers.