Marc Prüst

Marc Prüst (*1975) ist als fotografischer Berater, Kurator und Dozent tätig. In dieser Funktion gibt er Bücher heraus, kuratiert Ausstellungen, hält und organisiert Workshops und Meisterklassen, lehrt und schreibt über Fotografie und entwickelt für Fotografen Konzepte zur Weiterentwicklung ihrer Arbeit und deren Marketing. Prüst unterrichtet zudem Visual Identity am Spéos Photographic Institute in Paris. Er ist derzeit künstlerischer Direktor des Internationalen Photoreporter Festivals in Saint-Brieuc, Frankreich. In Kooperation mit der Noorderlicht Gallery in Groningen rief Prüst im September 2010 erfolgreich die Northern Lights Masterclass ins Leben, eine einjährige Meisterklasse für Fotojournalismus und sozialdokumentarische Fotografie. Er war zwischen 2010 und 2012 einer von drei Kuratoren für das Fotofestival FotoGrafia in Rom sowie 2010 und 2011 Kreativdirektor der ersten beiden Ausgaben des einzigen Fotofestivals in Nigeria, LagosPhoto. Von 2001 bis 2007 arbeitete er für die World Press Photo Foundation, für die er weltweit Ausstellungen organisierte und ausrichtete. 2005 verantwortete er die Ausstellung und die ausgezeichnete Publikation Things As They Are. Photo Journalism in Context Since 1955, für die er eng mit dem Kurator Christian Caujolle und dem Herausgeber Chris Boot zusammenarbeitete.

Marc Prüst is active as photography consultant, curator, and teacher. In that capacity he edits books, creates exhibitions, teaches, and organizes workshops and master classes, lectures and writes on photography, and advises photographers on how to develop and market their work. Prüst is currently the Artistic Director of the Photoreporter Festival in Saint Brieuc, France. In cooperation with the Noorderlicht Gallery and Festival the Northern Lights, he has successfully launched Masterclass in September 2010, a one year master class for professional photojournalists and social documentary photographers. He was one of three curators for the FotoGrafia festival in Rome during the period 2010–2012 and the creative director of the only photo festival in Nigeria, LagosPhoto. Marc Prüst (1975) worked for the World Press Photo Foundation from 2001–2007, where he organized and installed exhibitions all over the world. In 2005 he was responsible for the exhibition and award winning publication Things As They Are, Photo Journalism in Context since 1955, for which he worked in close cooperation with curator Christian Caujolle and editor Chris Boot. In 2007 he moved on to Agence VU’ where he was mainly responsible for the international cultural activities of the agency. In 2009 he left the agency to launch his career as freelance curator, consultant, and teacher.

Towards a visual language?

Two significant and relevant people in the photographic scene have been contributing their lines of thought on ‘photography lately.  Even if they differ in nuance, their common starting point seems similar: in photography, the photograph is actually a by-product of the process called photography. Instead of a person, (the photographer) it is the camera (or seeing machine) that holds the power, as it is not the image that is defining, but the process itself.

I am talking about Paul Wombell who curated the Mois de la Photo in Montréal last year, and Trevor Paglen who is the current blogger at the influential blog of the photography museum in Winterthur (and whose work was exhibited by Wombell in Montréal).

Their approaches are relevant, interesting, and I cannot say I disagree to anything they say. But somehow, I feel I need to add something to the debate, and I want to thank the people at Hatje Cantz for giving me that opportunity, on this platform.

We, editors, curators, photographers, critics, writers, are trying to make sense of the situation we have found ourselves in since Sontag wrote ‘On Photography’; where everyone is taking, sharing, and liking pictures continuously. The numbers of pictures that is being taken, tweeted, uploaded, is mind-blowing. In that sense, it can surely be helpful to no longer look at the product of photography (the picture) but at the process, the instrument or seeing-machine that creates the picture. Because, as Paglen points out: it is not only us iPhone holders who photograph, satellites search for crashed airplanes using photography, traffic control photographs car’s number plates, etc etc.

I do propose however, we do not dismiss the end product of the process all that easily. For me, the picture is still at the center of the mass of photography: I realize I am leaving out a part of photography which is completely treated automatically and that my thoughts only apply to those pictures where somewhere in the process there is a human intervention.

For me, photography is primarily a medium, a way to communicate, to transfer information from one person to another. Just following this line of thought, I see photography as a visual language, an idea that is far from new or shocking, I realize all too well. However, in my practice as curator, consultant, and teacher, I hear many people paying lip service to this idea without accepting the full consequences. If photography is a language, its practitioners will have to learn and follow the rules and structure of that language. In communication, you cannot experiment, the risk of being misunderstood is just too great. Also, if you start with this idea of communication, what you have to say is in fact more important than how you say it. Practitioners in photography seem preoccupied by the format, and not by the contents of their message.

Photography is a visual art, but somehow I see much more similarities between photography and literature than between photography and other visual arts. And if I follow through this line of thought, we can perhaps start to make a better sense of all the photographs that surround us in this visual era. Instead of who of how they were made, or even how and by whom they are being seen, we should perhaps look primarily at what purpose the image serves in the context in which it is presented.

ImageBooks

This approach is not so different from how text is viewed, and understood. Shakespeare wrote the most beautiful verses, but the words were already available to him. Put those words in a different context like in alphabetical order for example, and you end with something else completely: a thesaurus. Use a few of right words and put them in on your facebook wall ‘To Be or Not to Be…’ and you’ll receive a bunch of likes, and remarks what a cliche that quote is.

Through this mechanism, we’ll be able to qualify most of the images on facebook for what they are: a way to share an event with other people. The family picture is of importance to the few people directly related to the family. But also, this might allow us to decide which image matter, and to whom. With what intention is the photgraph made, and with what intention is the photograph presented? This might relaunch the debate on intentionality, but now that it is easier to photograph than to write, the intention of the creator or the presentor can be a valuable tool in classifying and understanding the photographs in our world.

As I will be keeping this blog for a month, in coming pieces, I will try and apply this idea in different ways, and I welcome ideas and suggestions to challenge the approach.

This first post is in memory of Per Folkver, friend and photographer from Denmark, who sadly passed away unexpectedly last weekend.