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VAN DEREN COKE
[1921 – 2004] American photographer, scholar and museum professional
..throughout the history of art it has been art itself – in all its forms – that has inspired art… today’s photographs are so geared to life that one can learn more from them than from life itself. - Van Deren Coke - 1972 [cited in "Creative Camera International Year Book 1975", Coo Press Ltd., London 1974 p. 164] , The Painter and the Photograph: From Delacroix to Warhol by Van Deren Coke , ISBN: 0826303250
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That abstract photographs have an expressive quality is not denied. But the use of forms which have a superficial relationship to those used by painters does not result in favorable comparisons between the youngest of the graphic arts, photography, and the more traditional image makers. The found accident, the eroded wall, and the torn billboard are the raw material of much of abstract photography, which repeatedly echoes painted forms seen often in the paintings associated with the abstract expressionist school. The photographer must recognize that there is an essential difference between the additive process of painting with a liquid, coloured, and plastic material on a large blank surface, with its subsequent handmade identification, and making a mechanical, subtractive recording of a selected aspect of the visual world. The magical quality of sharpness, multiplicity of detail, and subtle tonal range must be used by photographers to create formal statements, divorced from those identified with painting. By isolating fragments of reality and lifting these records out of an original context, the photographer can rarely give enough life and validity to the same order of forms as those seen in the more prestigeous medium of oil painting. The attempts are only too often a faint voice, without conviction or aesthetic contribution. - Van Deren Coke

Artists are interested in pictures as sources of ideas for their work. Where the pictures come from and how they are made is of little concern to them. - Van Deren Coke

As the possibilities for straightforward photography seem to have become exhausted it has been the photographers who know about the history of art, not simply the history of photography, who have shaped important directions for the future. - Van Deren Coke

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