Claude Iverné exhibit, “Bilad es Sudan,” at the Aperture Gallery

The exhibit opened on September 15 and is closing on November 9. I know, I’m late in reviewing it. But it’s not too late to see it. There are only a few pictures available online, if you want to see the whole thing you have to go there in person and look at the prints. (The Aperture Foundation is heavily invested in the concept that real fine-art photography has to have a physical non-digital manifestation.)

Claude Iverné, a middle-aged French guy takes a bunch of pictures of people in Sudan. Why is it considered Great Art worthy of an exhibit at the prestigious Aperture Gallery?

1. Mr. Iverné had access to exotic and photogenic people, in this case poor people from Sudan. Remember that no one is interested in pictures of regular people and regular places in Western countries, there are countless zillions of photographs like that. Art curators want to see something different and unique.

2. Real photographers are never supposed to talk about their gear, it’s considered uncouth, and there’s no mention of it anywhere at the exhibit, but there’s evidence that Iverné used large format film cameras, and that had to have impressed the curators who probably know what gear was used even though us regular gallery visitors aren’t allowed to know. Any schmuck can grab a DSLR and take hundreds of thousands of pictures, but it takes real effort to travel around Sudan with large-format gear and film.

The prints have a very old-fashioned look to them. All of the prints are very dark, the black and white prints have low contrast. There’s no HDR stuff, no amped-up contrast and sharpening. It’s the opposite of what most photographers posting DSLR photos to Flickr are doing.

3. There’s a social justice angle involving the plight of Sudanese refugees. Liberal curators love that stuff.

Nothing written here should be taken as criticism of the exhibit, I’m just trying to deconstruct the difference between high-brow fine art and the typical dreck that gets posted on the internet.

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