Blink was originally published as a hardback in 2002 and has recently been reissued as a paperback. Ten curators from around the world were asked to select 10 influential contemporary photographers, with contributions from 10 international writers. Fair enough. The trouble is, the 100 chosen few photographers are presented alphabetically, so the overall effect is of a confusing mish-mash of different styles, approaches and attitudes. It ends up as an exhausting roller coaster ride through some highly selective areas of contemporary practice.
It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when future generations come to assess the zeitgeist of the early years of the 21st century. Looking at this publication, there would certainly be some questions about the plasticisation of human beings. A significant proportion of humanity depicted here appear to be highly polished virtual people acting in stilted, robotic fashion, photographed in a deliberately stylised, anti-realistic way in hyper-real colour. Such images are placed randomly by force of alphabet against more conventional photographs, and the overall effect is highly disconcerting – and not in a creative sense, as, one suspects, the curators would have wished. Rather, it is more like walking through an endless exhibition, bombarded by a kind of “stop me and buy one” mentality. Instead of being persuaded to look at a wide variety of work in a reflective manner, we are drowned in the output of a rather smug, cosy coterie of knowing, in-group selectors who obviously feel they have their fingers on the pulse. These gurus have been done no favours by their publisher and editors, since, as with ParisPhoto, by the time we get to the end, we are just happy to get out unscathed and go to a bar. Blink is the ultimate tribute to a vacuous kind of postmodernism, its eclectic, freewheeling, kaleidoscopic approach undermining any desire we may have had to enter into constructive critical debate about the direction of modern photography.