Photograph Magazine, a bi-monthly and online publication for photo curators, collectors, dealers and critics featured the Schoolyard image from my Blue Sky Days series in their Jan/Feb 2016 issue. Below is an excerpt from the article by Jordan G. Teicher, which is titled The Shifting Borders of Photojournalism and Fine Art Photography:
“Disturbed by the lack of a visual record of America’s drone warfare in the Middle East, Tomas van Houtryve mounted a camera to a drone in 2013 and began flying it over American schoolyards, playgrounds, and parks – the sorts of places that have been the subject of C.I.A. drone strikes in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
Conceptual in nature, grounded in metaphor, and presented in gorgeous black and white, his series Blue Sky Days sure looks like art. And indeed, in 2015, prints were acquired by Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, and work from the series is included in To See without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare at St. Louis’s Kemper Art Museum from January 29 to April 24.
Or is it photojournalism? Blue Sky Days was initially published in Harper’s Magazine in 2014 and was recognized with a World Press Photo award in 2015. Van Houtryve is a member of the renowned VII photojournalism agency, and describes himself, on his website, as both an artist and a “non-fiction photographer.” So, what does one call Blue Sky Days, exactly? Does it even matter? These are the questions facing dealers and curators as the lines between art and photojournalism increasingly blur.
Of course, photojournalism and art photography were never quite the clearly segregated undertakings they’re often made out to be. In fact, many of the art world’s favorite photographers of the 20th century worked as photojournalists. Walker Evans made the majority of his work on paid assignment. Gordon Parks, whose series Segregation Story was on view at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in 2014 and more recently at New York’s Salon 94 Freemans, photographed for Life. Prints by Weegee, who took his noir urban crime photographs for tabloid newspapers, often sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction today. Presenting vintage photographs like those as art today is common practice, according to New York dealer Steven Kasher…”