Week-2-Coursework: INDEX&ICON


Key ideas raised by Snyder, Allen and  the presentations:  Both critics and laypeople, have had their opinions about the photographic image and whether there are differences between it and other visual arts. Many questions are raised about the domain.  Is it superior or inferior, subjective or objective, do photographers create?

It is not Snyder nor Allen’s aim or intent to show that answers presented by different groups, as being correct or incorrect; or there is nothing to capitalize  from by the differentiation of the photographic and other forms of visual art, but to put forth an appreciation of what modern critics and laypeople believe about the medium in comparison to critics of the past. Snyder and Allen will do this by going back in time, to delve into a different era to see what the domain was appreciated or criticized for, back then.

Peter Henry Emerson [1889] believed that pictures served to inform, which he called  ‘scientific division’ and to provide aesthetic pleasure he called the ‘art division’ Emerson believed in naturalism. To give the photograph the same cognitive impression as a viewer would experience at the position the camera was placed to make the image. One of the principle differences, is that photography approached objectivity in a way painters could not. A machine produced the image for photography; the hand and the brush produced the image for painting. Photographs were not regarded as representations, but realizations or objectifications of the actual.

It is possible, individuals of the day, believed what they saw produced by the camera, because in the early days, line and form were machine made. No human hand interfered in the making of the image. This is of course different in today’s practice. The hand, has once again touched or interfered with the image making process, with programs like Lightroom, Photoshop. Some in collusion with tablets like Wacom, using the stylus as the interstellar-age paintbrush.  In essence going back, once again, into subjectivity of painting, which was overcome by Niepce and Daguerre, at the beginning of the photographic revolution.

If I may say, I am not against these advances, in fact, quite the opposite, I am an advocate. (just not in my practice) However, I am for it in other domains.  As we approach, this fringe of time, where the brain is no longer capable of processing fast enough (the computing power of the human mind is lagging) This advance by machine other, is the indication of this fact, because the mind is putting forth, and projecting realizations, through the hand and external machines, which it, of itself, is not capable of actualizing as yet, under it’s own cognitive power, but can predict it.  However this lagging, will not be for long, once liquid memory/or spongiform memory is perfected and integrated into us. These kinds of advances will be second nature, and creativity on this level, be available, by mere thought alone.

See image below: by a PhotoShop artist I know.  J. Withers. Ad for Volvo Before/After

See image below: by a Photo-Shop artist I know.  J. Withers. Ad for Volvo Before/After

Volvo Ad. Before. Courtesy of J. Withers ©
Volvo Ad. After. Courtesy of J. Withers ©

Task: Vision and Representation: The battle between photography and other forms of representation continues to rage in Photography,Vision and Representation.

Let me start off by saying by talking about creation and creative, because this word is used a lot, without being fully understood,  and thrown about, like dice, and hoping each throw will be a 7.   If the absolute definition of creating is adhered to, no-one is a creator, other than the Transcendental Divine Other, for at the absolute, the definition of creating is: The bringing into being or forming something out of nothing.” Therefore as creatures, are un-able to create, only transform, because, everything  made, is made from something. Anything and everything a human or animal makes, is made from something already in existence. All, is made from Prima Materia except the Primal Material itself, which is created by the Transcendental Divine Other. The closest one can come to creating, is to approach it, by obtaining the ‘essence’ of the Primal Material.

Is there anything that sets photography apart from other modes of picture making methods?  And, as such does photography need any special ways to evaluate what the image represented is?

One of the primary differences between photography and other representative art forms like painting and sculpture is: Sculpture and painted images are made in the light, and photographic images are made in the dark. From this standpoint alone, a photographer has to able to see in the dark. . .  the inside, where the true essence resides. The camera is very much like the human head. It has an eye, a brain and is able to register images in its memory, whether analogue or digital, which can be stored and retrieved immediately or at a later date. Paintings and photographs are made in different ways. Both require an instrument.  Paintings are created slowly over time whereas the photographic image is made almost instantaneously. The painting is built and the the photographic image is harnessed.  In the end, both disciplines produce an image which is a representation of what is seen by the eyes, or by the mind. Both mediums realize  internal and external cognitive experiences in the form of a tangible object, which can be touched, looked at and contemplated upon. Ideas and experiences, transformed into material. Alchemy at its best.  The result of it’s  actions are the same. A actualized  image or object to gaze and contemplate upon.  The methods of getting there, is the only difference.

When it comes to this question, “What is photography”  Here is my answer:  It is a mechanical medium for recording and reproducing images. Is it art? It can be. In the hands of an artist, out comes Rhein II. In the hands of a mechanic, out comes a passport photo, that has to be made again, because the first one was too dark. There! I have just answered two questions, that have been argued about since the inception of photography. I put those questions to bed at age 6, when I held my first camera, in a dusty mining town in Africa. Already I knew, with this machine, anything is possible, I also knew, long, long, would be the journey of discovery.

Here is the two most challenging questions: ‘What is art?” and ‘What is the purpose of art?’ (Photography, painting, music, sculpture, film, poetry, it does not matter, it applies to all.)  I have searched for these answers for over 4 decades and traveled to some of the farthest, highest and most exotic places on earth. Every person that wants to be an artist must search for this essential Primal Material themselves.  This, is what makes a Malevich, Kandinsky, Klee, Gursky, Bach, Blake, Siskind and the like.  They found ‘their’ Stone. What serves me as an answer will not serve you, you have to find your own.

Tasks: Question of Authenticity:

Response to the statement of Barthes:  ‘In the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation’. Camera Lucida (1980: 89)

My understanding is that Barthes regards a photograph as provenance of something’s existence. He may have been correct or at least understood back in 1980, but not to-day. Photography has changed. We all know photoshop can do anything, image manipulation is imperceptible.  Barthe says: “Painting can feign reality without having seen it. Contrary to these imitations, I can never deny that the thing has been there.”  In todays world an image can be created from digitally from 1’s and 0’s to look as real as any actual object or subject it represents. Dead actors are well on their way to being digitally revived.

Digital awareness has caused society not to accept a photograph as an authentication, without questioning it. By definition, authentication is proof; representation is portrayal. Therefore the former is in the realm of the actual and latter in the realm of the real. These signifiers are used interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing, when they do not.

As a practitioner,  I am interested (at present) in constructing images that convey an idea or a concept. My project “Fences” is used as a metaphor about control.  So, manipulation of the image comes into play on many levels.  However this type of image construction, is understood by the viewer as a means of expression and the means is accepted.

Compare this to a product shot:  A glass of Cola topped with ice. The ice you see, is not ice, but acrylic cubes made to look like ice. The Cola may be some other liquid made to look like Cola, but may be burnt transmission fluid or the like. This is what the average viewer/consumer is not aware of. This is one of the reasons I prefer creative over commercial photography.  Not that it’s innocent, but done for different reasons.