Art and photography are viewed in different ways because they are made in different ways. In photographs, Berger tells us that we can see a trace of the real world. The image that we gaze at actually happened at some time some place. Whether the image is of a woman centaur as shown in the video, we know that these images were real. Photographers must depict what is there, by finding, selecting and capturing images, often using Szarkowski’s five elements, the thing itself; the detail; the frame; the time and vantage point, whereas painters can paint whatever they wish.
The director of photography at MOMA insists that photography is a “Different kind of art” believing that they can produce “private visions” that Arnheim had assigned to traditional types of art work. The International Center for Photography (ICP) along with recent visits to Houston and Perth Centers for Photography (HCP & PCP) reinforce that this is a different kind of art.
Is it real? Lempert’s photograms of frogs are particularly interesting. They don’t particularly look like frogs, but the trace that they left proves that they existed. This trace element could be related to my work of migrant workers here in Houston, in their beautiful hand rendering of new construction.
Niepce’s eight hour exposure of “An automatic reproduction by the action of light” in 1839 was used to illustrate the ability to produce real images with only minimal intervention. However, they cannot be viewed as real because of the recording of how the light falls during such a long exposure. This leaves us with the notion that this would not have been what was actually seen at that place in one moment.
Synder and Allen point out that due to all the photographic variables, different lenses cameras and lighting that the image becomes a “characterization” fo what was there and that this “characterization” could be accurate or inaccurate. They also challenge the absurdity of the notion that this is what we would have seen had we been there at that moment in time. A photograph shows us “what we would have seen” at a certain moment of time, from a certain vantage point, if we kept our head immobile and closed one eye and if we saw with the equivalent of a 150mm or a 24mm lens and if we saw things in Agfacolor or in Tri-X developed in D-76 and printed on Kodabromide #3 paper.
With this mechanical element in mind and relating to the ‘real’ can we really be sure that with reference to the finish line in a photograph of a horse race really be real? As an extension to our visual experience photography becomes an eye, we believe the blurred vision of the horse; we believe it happened however, we are seeing what we are unable to see which could also be deemed a learned experience, since we do not doubt that it happened. Like the photofinish camera, where a motor pulls the film past the film plane. The result is a still image, regulated and corresponding to the speed of the race with an added finish line to provide the crowd an image that looks as real and as plausible as possible.
I think that finding the “Particularly photographic” thing about photography has been quite challenging. Reading the transcript about Snyder and Allen made that understanding much clearer, as I found their observations and writings easier to read, since they are both witty and concise.
My interest in documentary photography brought a new light via Rudolf Arnheim’s questions of authenticity, correctness, and truth. “Why we should ask what it means?” “Who it was made for?” and “Why it was made in the way it was made?” These questions have been really helpful in viewing my peers’ work as well as critiquing my own practice.
I am not sure that my ideas have changed by much, although I suspect that they have expanded and this is something that I will try to fully embrace. My ideas are definitely more informed, which will be very helpful going forward. The readings, webinars, forums and peer feedback has been valuable in strengthening my ideas.
Considering the question of how my practice could be considered a peculiar practice, I think that it is peculiar from the fact that what I photograph was physically there at that point. I have tried to ensure that my work has addressed Szarkowski’s five elements. The concrete walls were there, and even though the migrants are not in the frame, they were definitely there to render the buildings. Although I am interested in an interdisciplinary approach with this work, my images still require these walls and migrants to have been present at some point in time.