Joseph Nicéphore Niépce "View from the Window at Le Gras" (circa 1826) First Daguerreotype, 1837 Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre,
Inherited Theoretical Issues
Passivity of the camera device as “light writing”, transcription of a reality outside and in front of the camera lens.
Photographic image as an “index” (semiotic term), indexical sign, that points to or represents what it signifies. It’s value is grounded and justified in the represented thing or reality to which it is “true”.
Photography and reference (registers a “true” external world), representation, pre-existing reality, memory, record, evidence, documentation, truth.
No surprise that photography became one of the main tools of postmodernism in breaking the “reality” and “truth” codes of images, and in critiquing those codes.
Alfred Stieglitz and the “Art Photography” Debate
“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
“The arts equally have distinct departments, and unless photography has its own possibilities of expression, separate from those of the other arts, it is merely a process, not an art.” --Stieglitz
Periodical Camera Work and associated photographers were influential in establishing photography as an art form, not a mechanical or industrial trade.
A debate about institutions, social class ownership and identification with photography, representation and reality, hierarchy of professions, interpretive/active “artist” status of professional photographers.
“ The Steerage,” 1907
“Flatiron Building, NY,” 1903
“ Georgia O’Keeffe, Nude,” 1919
“ Winter on Fifth Ave., NY,” 1893
Exemplary Artist: Bresson and the “Decisive Moment” Concept
Model of the "street photographer", with a Leica 35mm camera and using existing light
“ Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare,” 1932
Cartier-Bresson as “theorist”
Strict adherence to “indexical” value of the photograph, assuming only the framing and interpretation of the photographer
Landmark book: Images à la Sauvette ("stolen images," "The Decisive Moment”)
Photographer as Recorder, Memorializer
Archive of images: Archive | Archive of images at Magnum Photos
The Berlin Wall, 1963
Postmodern photography cut the link to the moment and the index of reality
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, 21. 1978. Gelatin silver print.
Staged and shot in studio. No “there there” before or after the shot.
A photograph uses the codes of “the real” that we’ve learned from a long history of photographic mediation.