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It's definitely homerish of me to say, but I really like the work of Clayton Hauck, regular Reader contributor and proprietor of Everyone Is Famous; I was pleased to figure out how to run his shots of Pitchfork at 800px wide, because they deserve it.
He's technically skilled, obviously, with a talent for getting great color in low-light situations and for on-the-fly composition (note the second pic on this page). And beyond his technical skills, he's got a knack for... how shall I put this... taking pictures of the sort of people who go to concerts, whose dress and manner, at least if you're drab and wallflowerish like me (I'm wearing a beige golf shirt today), can seem like kind of a lot, and the pictures are wry about their subjects without being at all condescending. Here's a good example: he shot the Deadmau5 concert for us a couple weeks ago, and Deadmau5 fans can be a lot of look. And he got good-looking, kind of bro-ish Deadmau5 fans, the sort of people who I could instinctively be maybe a dick about, looking silly (first picture) without any snideness.
He's got an affectionate eye, is the best way I can think of to put it. That's one of the things I like about photography—good photographers are consistently able to get certain effects and emotions through a technological medium. And one of the things I like about being a shitty photographer is that good photography still seems like a small miracle to me.
I thought of Clayton's work when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend. I'd been to the Frick the day before, a fine but world-historically stodgy old robber baron's art collection housed in his mansion, and between the two I'd seen more European paintings of landscapes, rich people, and martyrs than you can shake a stick at. And then I ran into Frans Hals's Shrovetide Revellers, a 1615 portrait of drunks (complete with the Flemish-painting equivalent of dick jokes). It was one of the highlights of my visit, along with William Orpen's Self Portrait, also known as Leading the Life in the West, perhaps best described as Dude Who Puts a Lot of Thought Into His Clothes Heading Out to Party.
It's not that I don't like pictures of landscapes, rich people, and martyrs, but Hals and Orpen broke the tension. One too many oversized portraits of noblemen and you start to get a distorted view of the world.