I attended a wonderful lecture last night by Burk Uzzle at the Nasher Museum in Durham. It reminded me of a debate I have been having of late about established masters vs. contemporary photography and the work that falls in the middle ground. Uzzle’s amazing career arc seems to encompass both sides of the spectrum. I can’t help but wonder however if his history has given him the access, freedom and trust that many of the rest of us aren’t allowed. This extremely creative and energetic artist has continued to evolve, trying different themes, techniques, and subjects. Some of these forays, in my personal opinion, are wildly successful, while others less so. But as artists, aren’t we supposed to risk such failure in order to explore new ground? Most of his lecture was very inspirational, but if there was a single alarm bell that was raised for me, it had to do with his project with mimes in his new hometown of Wilson, NC. He admitted that his tech-guy in Seattle, did some post production on his scans of this work, most of it just fine, but when he admitted swapping a head off one photo to put on the body from another… I almost fell out of my chair. For an artist of such integrity to do this without batting an eye rather shocked me. I don’t want to belabor that point however, since it was a rare anomaly. Otherwise his work showed evidence of great mentorship from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his other fellow Magnum photographers, and the wealth of his iconic vintage images and his incredibly vital current work gave proof that one of North Carolina’s own is a verifiable master of his genre.
I have included that entertaining ladder of success in the arts to compare ourselves with someone who is already standing on the top rung.