An evolving definition of photography in the digital era … from Newsweek
Film photography’s artistic cachet was always that no matter how much darkroom fiddling someone added to a photograph, the picture was, at its core, a record of something real that occurred in front of the camera. A digital photograph, on the other hand, can be a Photoshop fairy tale, containing only a tiny trace of a small fragment of reality. By now, we’ve witnessed all the magical morphing and seen all the clever tricks that have turned so many photographers—formerly bearers of truth—into conjurers of fiction. It’s hard to say “gee whiz” anymore.
Photography is finally escaping any dependence on what is in front of a lens, but it comes at the price of its special claim on a viewer’s attention as “evidence” rooted in reality. As gallery material, photographs are now essentially no different from paintings concocted entirely from an artist’s imagination, except that they lack painting’s manual touch and surface variation. As the great modern photographer Lisette Model once said, “Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest.” She had no idea how easy exotic effects would get, and just how hard that would make it to capture beauty and truth in the same photograph. The next great photographers—if there are to be any—will have to find a way to reclaim photography’s special link to reality. And they’ll have to do it in a brand-new way. -[essay at Newsweek by Peter Plagens]
And an interesting comment from Jeff Curto to the article:
Photographers have subverted the camera’s grasp of the real since the start of the medium. Moreover, the camera has always lied.
Plagens’ piece is confounding and, I think, misguided.
The more I think about it, I think that what transpired is this:
- Metropolitan Museum opens newly-renovated photo galleries
- Newsweek feels compelled to report on news story
- Assignment falls to Newsweek art critic
- Art critic can’t just “report on new photo galleries” but must also express his opinion on *what* he sees in the new galleries
- Art critic is a-skeet of photographs ’cause they’re getting bigger and tackling bigger ideas (“just like painting…. look out ma!”)
- If you can’t say something new, you might as well be controversial, and nothing says “controversial” more than a headline that trumpets the question, “Is Photography Dead?”
Plagens doesn’t say anything wrong… he just doesn’t say anything new or particularly interesting, either.
He ends with this: “The next great photographers–if there are to be any–will have to find a way to reclaim photography’s special link to reality. And they’ll have to do it in a brand-new way.”Sounds like a challenge to me.
Now where did I put that Photoshop license?