Recently I clipped this Lewis Baltz photograph out of an art magazine and hung it on the wall in my apartment, and I am in love with it.
I am in love with it for a lot of reasons. First, while it is a photograph of something ugly (the east wall of the Western Carpet Mills in Tustin, California), it is very formally pretty. It has thick golden wheat, like a van Gogh, and stripes, like a Rothko that has calmed down its furious search for spiritual release and is just, now, hanging out.
But I feel like its main subject—what it takes for granted and what it is compassionate about—is my disappointment. This picture is a year older than I am, and it tells a whole story about places I'll be told are ugly and unimportant—certainly not worth photographing. This is not only the anti-Ansel Adams, it's the anti-Lee Friedlander, as Tyler Green describes so well in an eloquent post about photography's post-peopleism this morning.
Most of all this photograph does not promise me anything that it does not deliver. It does not even promise me a vanishing point—this building is in the way, blocking my view, throwing my view back on me. All I get is this wheat and this building and those little spindly power lines in the background. And it is not only enough, but it makes me feel somehow that all those other landscape photographs I've been looking at are too much, or too little—they promise too much and deliver too little. They make me come back to the world all disappointed. But not this.