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Discovering art in plain sight

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Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, notes that "the vernacular world" is a continual source of inspiration. "It's rich and complex and unpredictable and pleasurable. Figuring out a way to apply your personal vision to what's out there - to carve out your own patterns - is the challenge of the street photographer."

The pantheon of past masters includes Eugene Atget, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. Despite such a rich heritage, newcomers to the tradition are ignored by, or unwelcome in, museums, galleries, and auction houses today.

In their place is a spectrum of Post-Modernists who shun the old school. From Cindy Sherman's costumed self-portraits to Andreas Gursky's minimalist, digitally-manipulated landscapes to the self-conscious, surreal tableaux of Gregory Crewdson, cutting-edge photography now casts the artist in the role of director, staging pictures for the camera or creating them inside the computer.

Contemporary photography has become hot in the art market. In 1996, a complete set of Sherman's Film Stills series was purchased by MoMA for $1 million. One of Gursky's mural-sized color prints sold for more than $600,000 in 2002.

Meanwhile, Bazan's dramatic, soulful images have yet to attract a dealer, and most of his income is earned teaching workshops.

"Obscurity is the price we need to pay," says Bazan of himself and other street shooters in the current climate. He is unmoved by the work of most Post-Modernists. "In galleries today there's almost nothing worth seeing, it's all appearance. The photography doesn't go deep enough. It stays on the surface."

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