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Essay.szymon malicki. photography

Essay.szymon malicki. photography

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Published by Szymon Malicki

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Published by: Szymon Malicki on Mar 02, 2011
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In my work I will look at how photography was conceived and practiced  in modernism andpostmodernism and what were the ideas that shaped them.  In the third part I would look at fewexamples of my work trying to analyze it incorporating achievements of the past.Invention of Photography in mid 19
th
century coincided with wide industrialization and urbanization.Development of mass production, capitalistic need for new markets and the accumulation of capital,lead to significant economical and social changes. They have changed  or reshaped so many aspects of peoples life that it has begun entirely new era , a modern era.Although its origins and exact beginning is a subject of discussions some referring to, despite thementioned above, ideas of 18
th
century philosophy of Enlightenment, its belief in power of logic,Romanticisms appraisal of experience over knowledge, devaluation of the aristocratic orders in favor of bourgeoisie
,
a need for change seemed to be inevitable. (Strinati, Dominic  1995)Arts with all its disciplines - literature the first, as probably the most capable medium in terms of expression, with writings of E.A. Poe and Charles Baudelaire - were not an exemption from it and  weresoon marked by  abandonment of the courses that it was in for centuries. Visual artists soon started tolook for innovations.The Main development of invention of photography is that it could be reproduced mechanically in manycopies, separating and  confusing the act of creation, a ritual, that stands at its origins ,diminishing theidea, aura of authenticity that identifies original made by the artist, the singleness of an art work that isinherent for a painting or a sculpture . Another one is the that its capable of catching the instantmoment, due to the fact its been created  in a chemical process, that  doesnt involves time consumingmanual work and measurements, that are needed to be done to depict people or objects. Theseattributes: one that it could be multiplied in hundreds, thousands and millions, that it becomespopulated and present in our lives as none of the imagery objects in history, the second: its usurpation,impression that it gives, of being, capturing the real, made it probably the most influential andcontroversial tool in peoples hands (Benjamin 1935). 
Figure 1:
Käsebier G. (1902)
Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz
 
Figure 2:
Weston E. (1927)
Shell 
 
 
 
   Modernist photographers, were not fully aware or possibly didnt want acknowledge  the mediums truecharacter  and limitations. Nonetheless they  made loads of effort to establish photographys placeamongst fine arts. One of the most merited personae in this field was probably Alfred Stiglitz. Hedevoted an enormous amount of time, commitment  and money to put his ideas, or if you want hoax, tothe mainstream. Before that, in the 19
th
century photography was considered more as a documentary, asort of representation. The modern American photographers, who called themselves Pictorialists andlater Photo-Secessionists seen themselves as creative artists, as painters are, who through their originalwork put there subjective statements, showing the artists  interior, in - a as they believed what theybelieved - an act of creativity. They achieved it manipulating the print, blurring it, using variety of sophisticated techniques like  sepia toning, carbon printing or gum bichromate. Portraits by EdwardSteichen, Gertrude Käsebier  (Figure 1) are stylized as expressionist paintings. They were exhibited ingalleries that were designated to show exclusively pictures. Another movement also founded by Stieglitz,in 1920s, were those who insisted of practicing
s
traight photography,
amongst whom were members of Group f64. They claimed they are turning towards
real 
, that photography is competent at expressingobjective nature of a thing, as no other art is, and it is the photographer, an artist that reveals it (Figure2). Both the subjective Pictorialists and the latter approach put an author in the centre, defining himself as creator of the original work all tend finallyirrespective of intention, purpose, application orcontext (Solomon-Godeau 1994). This was based on and matched the claims of art critics Roger Fry andClive Bell  who, advancing visual aspects of art over narrative or relating an author to the world, laid atthe background of Formalism (Meecham/Sheldon 2000). I think that work of modernist photographerswas retrogrative and stopped its development and handicapped our way of seeing and interpretingworld around us for many years, if not permanently, in the way helped to establish what WalterBenjamin called the art theology, that occupies the mass media since then.It was only in postmodernism, when refreshed by its ideas when photographers started to realize andmake usage of all means of expression, that the discipline provide to reveal Zeitgeist, reflect on theconcerns of contemporaries truly becoming a work of art, which as a sister of all sciences , should not beseparated  from neither natural nor humanistic.The beginning of the second half of the twentieth century characterizes  flourishing consumerism andincreasing importance of mass media.  Changes  affected entire world, breaking the distinctions betweenalmost every area of the human culture.  High and low ranks of art, modern and conservative, differentstyles started to mix, flow between each other in a melting pot of: broadcasting, advertising, cinema,modern architecture, design and television. (Strinati 1995). Hardly any area remained, not colonizedunaffected by capitalists - always in a need for new markets to fulfill  their greed, never satisfied, notrestricted by anything or anyone. In fact photography was one the first taken over by the industry, whichsince its adolescence   late 19
th
century  - was practically populated  and in fact dominated by onecompany and monopolistic powers of Kodak.  The company took all advantages of controlling
 
technology, created the demand and applications for use of it in a very certain way, which aimed tomaximize profit. That shaped  a specific taste (Slater Don 1997).Some artists though decided to fight back. Appealing, like Situationists International and Fluxus did, tomake cultural production a part of everyday life, by showing that everyday life can be a culturalproduction. They stand against patronizing distinction between high and low art. Change introduced inthe 60s, could be recognized in works of Stephen Shore, who documented activities of artists connectedwith Andy Warhols
actory 
like in
Chuck, Andy, Edie
of 1965-67 (Figure 3.) or  the ones made when hetravelled through America documenting the boredom of suburbs with large view camera, using colourphotography that was at the time not present in artistic world, as reserved for advertising as in
Room125, We
s
tbank Motel, Idaho
all 
s
, Idaho July 18, 1973
of 
 
1973 (Figure 4.) from the series
UncommonPlace
s
).   
Figure 3: Shore S. (1965-67)
Chuck, Andy, Edie
Figure 4:
Shore S.(1973)
Room 125, We
s
tbank Motel, Idaho
all 
s
, Idaho July 18, 1973
 
Concept of an authorship, originality and style so important for Steichen and his colleagues, has beenundermined by works of Sherrie Levine. In 1979 she took a picture of Edward Weston portrait of his sonNeil (Figure. 6, Figure 7). Did she commit plagiarism or a theft using it? What is the original
Neil 
? AncientGreeks who invented certain canon of beauty? Phidias sculpture that the boy assumed? His flesh? Anegative? Limited number of copies produced by photographer? Are the ones made by his assistantsoriginals?(Solomon-Godeau 1994)

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