When asking the question ‘What is Photography?’ the first result to appear on google search is exactly this as a noun: ‘The art or practice of taking and processing photographs’ which is extremely vague. During this blog post I will aim to broaden my knowledge of what is considered to be a Camera, what Photography is and also what is considered to be a Photograph.
During our first lecture of this module on November 14th 2016, we discussed as a whole year group what we think Photography is, we were asked to give definitions from our own personal points of view which included the following;
- Photography is painting by light
- Photography is used to replicate something.
- Photography is purely a visual medium, the decisive moment. Can it be virtual?
- Visual language/ form of communication.
- Photography is used to capture an instance of time.
- Photography involves Time, Shooting, Preserving, Framing (does this make it an illusion?)
- Photography can be used as proof – through forensics, the government, the military and also propadandaFrom the Photographers perspective (framing) a photograph is taken, does this then mean it could be seen as an illusion or a picturesque version of reality depending on how the photographer wants to portray his/her work? I think the answer to this question is yes, as the photographer tells their own story from what they see through the lens as communication through visual language.
Ansel Adams once quoted ‘A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being Photographed’A quote by David Hums “Photography is only a tool, a vehicle, for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else.”
Camera Lucida – Roman Barthes
The 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is believed to have used the camera obscura. Later artists, such as Ingres (1780-1867), most likely used the camera lucida, an optical artist’s aid invented by an English physician named William Wollaston in 1807
After reading the book ‘Camera Lucida’ written in 1980 by Roland Barthes which focuses on the ‘unclassifiable’ nature of Photography, below i have extracted and noted down the key points i think Barthes makes throughout this read.
During the introduction on page 3, Barthes comments that ‘It’s true that a photograph is a witness, but a witness is something that is no more’. ‘The photograph bears witness essentially to his own subjectivity’.
Page 9 – “Reality in a past state”
During the 2nd chapter on page 4 “Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated”.
Page 9 “Can be object to three practices – to do, to undergo, to look. Operator = The Photographer. Spectator = Ourselves. Target = Thing being photographed.
Page 13 – “In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one i think i am, the one i want others to think i am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”
Page 15 – “Death is the EIDOS of that photograph”
Page 28 – “The studium is a kind of education (knowledge and civility, ‘politeness’) which allows me to discover the operator, to experience the intentions which establish and animate his practices, but to experience them in reverse, according to my will as a spectator.”
“functions – to inform, to represent, to surprise, to cause to signify, to provoke desire – the spectator recognises them with more or less pleasure.”
Page 30 – ‘It has made painting, through its copies and constestations into the absolute, paternal reference.”
Page 31 – “At this point in my investigation, nothing eidetically distinguishes a photograph from Painting.”
Page 32 – “Photography is a kind of primitive theater, a tableau vivant figuration of motionless and made up face beneath which we see the dead.
Page 32 – A painting – A gesture apprehended at the point in its course where the normal eye cannot arrest it.
Exhibition by Jacob King – ‘What is a Photograph?’ at The International Centre of Photography in New York:
“Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organized the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.” https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/what-is-a-photograph
From discovering the review of the exhibition ‘What is a Photograph’ at the International Centre of Photography in New York by Jacob King. It left me with much more knowledge than before reading to the extent of just how far Photography has expanded and progressed from the 1970’s.The exhibition featured 21 artists whose work all fall under the umbrella of Photography. The work ranges from Gerhard Richter to present day artists who use photoshop such as Artie Vierkant what can be seen as two categories ‘Painting as Photography’ and ‘Photography as Sculpture’. At one time Photography was once only considered and defined to be ‘mechanical reproducibility’.
During the review King discusses the contrast between this very exhibition and the exhibition of Robert Capa’s colour work which show places he has been and what he has seen, which are held upstairs in the museum from this exhibition, King states that from the contrast this reminds him that “the photograph could be considered anything that had the potential to show us what is out there”. On the wall labels of the exhibition, King notices that each piece could be seen as different ‘objects’ and that there was “barely any ‘reference to what may have stood before a lens”.
Artist David Benjamin Sherry’s work with a quote from himself “The color acts as a vehicle to emotional response and intensity that is already in the landscape,” he said. “That’s my intention of it, a type of enhanced reality.”
Artist Travess Smalley makes collages and then scans them using a digital scanner.
Artist Alison Rossiter uses exposed Photo paper to reveal secrets of the past.