In my work I will look at how photography was conceived and practiced in modernism and postmodernism and what were

the ideas that shaped them. In the third part I would look at few examples of my work trying to analyze it incorporating achievements of the past. Invention of Photography in mid 19th 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 the mentioned above, ideas of 18th 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 were soon marked by abandonment of the courses that it was in for centuries. Visual artists soon started to look for innovations. The Main development of invention of photography is that it could be reproduced mechanically in many copies, separating and confusing the act of creation, a ritual, that stands at its origins ,diminishing the idea, aura of authenticity that identifies original made by the artist, the singleness of an art work that is inherent for a painting or a sculpture . Another one is the that it s capable of catching the instant moment, due to the fact it s been created in a chemical process, that doesn t involves time consuming manual work and measurements, that are needed to be done to depict people or objects. These attributes: one that it could be multiplied in hundreds, thousands and millions, that it becomes populated 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 and controversial 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 true character and limitations. Nonetheless they made loads of effort to establish photography s place amongst fine arts. One of the most merited personae in this field was probably Alfred Stiglitz. He devoted an enormous amount of time, commitment and money to put his ideas, or if you want hoax, to the mainstream. Before that, in the 19th century photography was considered more as a documentary, a sort of representation. The modern American photographers, who called themselves Pictorialists and later Photo-Secessionists seen themselves as creative artists, as painters are, who through their original work put there subjective statements, showing the artist s interior, in - a as they believed what they believed - 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 Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier (Figure 1) are stylized as expressionist paintings. They were exhibited in galleries that were designated to show exclusively pictures. Another movement also founded by Stieglitz, in 1920s, were those who insisted of practicing straight photography, amongst whom were members of Group f64. They claimed they are turning towards real, that photography is competent at expressing objective nature of a thing, as no other art is, and it is the photographer, an artist that reveals it (Figure 2). 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 or context (Solomon-Godeau 1994). This was based on and matched the claims of art critics Roger Fry and Clive Bell who, advancing visual aspects of art over narrative or relating an author to the world, laid at the background of Formalism (Meecham/Sheldon 2000). I think that work of modernist photographers was retrogrative and stopped it s development and handicapped our way of seeing and interpreting world around us for many years, if not permanently, in the way helped to establish what Walter Benjamin 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 and make usage of all means of expression, that the discipline provide to reveal Zeitgeist, reflect on the concerns of contemporaries truly becoming a work of art, which as a sister of all sciences , should not be separated from neither natural nor humanistic. The beginning of the second half of the twentieth century characterizes flourishing consumerism and increasing importance of mass media. Changes affected entire world, breaking the distinctions between almost every area of the human culture. High and low ranks of art, modern and conservative, different styles 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 colonized unaffected by capitalists - always in a need for new markets to fulfill their greed, never satisfied, not restricted by anything or anyone. In fact photography was one the first taken over by the industry, which since its adolescence late 19th century - was practically populated and in fact dominated by one company 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 to maximize profit. That shaped a specific taste (Slater Don 1997). Some artists though decided to fight back. Appealing, like Situationists International and Fluxus did, to make cultural production a part of everyday life, by showing that everyday life can be a cultural production. They stand against patronizing distinction between high and low art. Change introduced in the 60s, could be recognized in works of Stephen Shore, who documented activities of artists connected with Andy Warhol s Factory like in Chuck, Andy, Edie of 1965-67 (Figure 3.) or the ones made when he travelled through America documenting the boredom of suburbs with large view camera, using colour photography that was at the time not present in artistic world, as reserved for advertising as in Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho Falls, Idaho July 18, 1973 of 1973 (Figure 4.) from the series Uncommon Places).

Figure 3: Shore S. (1965-67) Chuck, Andy, Edie

Figure 4: Shore S.(1973) Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho

Falls, Idaho July 18, 1973

Concept of an authorship, originality and style so important for Steichen and his colleagues, has been undermined by works of Sherrie Levine. In 1979 she took a picture of Edward Weston portrait of his son Neil (Figure. 6, Figure 7). Did she commit plagiarism or a theft using it? What is the original Neil? Ancient Greeks who invented certain canon of beauty? Phidias sculpture that the boy assumed? His flesh? A negative? Limited number of copies produced by photographer? Are the ones made by his assistants originals?(Solomon-Godeau 1994)

Figure 6: Weston E. (1925) Neil

Figure 7: Levine S. (1981) After Edward Weston

(Neil) appropriated photograph

Dadaist and surrealists explored an idea, coming from psychoanalysis and studies by Siegmund Freud, that meaning of the art work lays far behind, outside the author. Conceptual artists, who influenced many photographers, affirmed that piece of art represents not only itself, but also the context in which exists or relates to. Image is a construct of viewers knowledge, political views, social roles that gender, class are associated to and artists experience. This issues are examined in - or maybe by it would be more appropriate to say by - works of Cindy Sherman like Untitled Film Still #37 of 1979 (Figure 5.). It is a part of series, in which she puts herself in roles defined by American cinematic imagery. Jo Spence puts on trial the power, woman s relation to an institution in Marked for Amputation of 1982 (Figure 6.). In many of her works she points out the limitations of photographic imagery, writing on her body to communicate more efficiently, a practice that came from conceptualists who realized weakness of Formalism (Jessica Evans, 1997)

Figure 8: Sherman S.(1979) Untitled Film Still #37

Figure 9: Spence J./Dennet T.(1982)Marked for Amputation

from Cancer project. Jo Spence/Terry Dennett

My studio experience, practice of photography is also more about looking for boundaries of the medium and visual expression .

In 2006 I worked on a project Playground. Szymon Malicki, Playground of 2006 (Figure 10,11,12,13) I approached it with an idea of making a documentary, about young people meeting every day in abandoned council housings area in Cork, co Cork, Ireland. Even though I spent three months working on it, with genuine commitment, the final results, are failing to show, describe the real. My experience, which was that hooded young men and women, who seem to be dangerous and only capable of anti social behaviors, are in fact gathering to satisfy their social needs, in any available way, that is available for them, they are generally positive, curious about others and world around them. My pictures express probably more of my worries about their future, as twenty percent of them would leave school early to support their lives, projecting my own memories from the past.

Figure 10: Malicki S. (2006) Playground

Figure 11: Malicki S. (2006) Playground

Figure 12: Malicki S. (2006) Playground

Figure 13: Malicki S. (2006) Playground

In diptych Homage for Maxwell Itoya of 2010 (Figure 14, 15) I reflected on, how we perceive ourself and how we perceive others, what is the role, meaning and power of visual representation. Maxwell Itoya was a migrant worker from Nigeria who was killed in a police raid in my home town, in Warsaw, Poland in May 2010. He was unarmed and innocent, his life was appreciated less just because of the color of his

skin. The work consists two pictures: one is an auto portrait of myself, directing a light source, a lamp on to my face, second one(which actually is the same as the first but digitally manipulated): with skin on my face covered with black paint, blanked. Light is considered to be helpful in providing us information about things. In fact as Plato explains using an Allegory of Cave, we see only reflection of light given by the object, though we sense neither the light, nor the object, the Form or Idea (Plato 360BC).

Figure 14: Malicki S. (2010) Hommage for Maxwell Itoya

Figure 15: Malicki S. (2010) Hommage for Maxwell Itoya

We live in times, that are replete with images to an unprecedented extent. Nothing would stop their ubiquity, but we should practice seeing consciously and doubtfully not to succumb the mirage. Mechanical and recent digital reproduction will continue to progress. The most powerful content of internet is the visual one - before the introduction of its graphic interface: www in the mid nineties, global network was merely known - used mostly by scientists to send documents and browse databases. Now being more aware and experienced, considering how we use image to communicate ideas, how powerful, exclusive or inclusive could be the message, and its value, we need to renegotiate images relations of production, reproduction and distribution considering Marx theories on production and distribution of any other goods. Liberate the Image!

Bibliography: Strinati D. (1995) An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. London, Routledge Benjamin W. (2008)The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. London, Penguin.

Solomon-Godeau (1994) Winning the Game When the Rules Have Been Changed. Art photography and postmodernism. In: Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institution and Practices .University of Minnesota. P. 157 Meecham P. Sheldon J. (2000). What is and When was Modernism? In: Modern Art: A Critical Introduction. London, New York, Routledge Slater D. (1997) Marketing the Medium: An Anti-Marketing Report. In: The Camerawork Essays. Context and Meaning of Photography. Ed. Evans J. London, Rivers Oram Press. Evans J. (1997) An Affront to Taste? The Disturbances of Jo Spence. In : The Camerawork Essays. Context and Meaning of Photography. Ed. Evans J. London, Rivers Oram Press. Burton J. Ed (2006) Cindy Sherman. Cambridge, Massachusets, MIT Press. Foster H. ( 1983) The Expressive Fallacy. Art in America (71) January pp. 80-83. Lange L. Fried M. Sternfield J. (2007) Stephen Shore. London, Phaidon Press Ltd Plato. The Republic (1998) Available from: Project Gutenberg

Figure 1: Käsebier G. (1902) Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 2 Weston E. (1927) Shell [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 3: Shore S. (1965-67) Chuck, Andy, Edie [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 4: Shore S.(1973) Room 125, Westbank Motel, IdahoFalls, Idaho, July 18, 1973 [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 6: Weston E. (1925) Neil [online image] Available on:,680,0,0,1,0 [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 7: Levine S. (1981) After Edward Weston (Neil) appropriated photograph [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 8: Sherman S.(1979) Untitled Film Still #37 [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010]

Figure 9: Spence J./Dennet T.(1982)Marked for Amputation from Cancer project. Jo Spence/Terry Dennett [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 10,11, 12, 13: Malicki S. (2006) Playground Dennett [online image] Available on: [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010] Figure 14: Malicki S. (2010) Hommage for Maxwell Itoya [online image] Available on:!/photo.php?fbid=1597478732291&set=a.1597478532286.2086 432.1095676928&pid=31687251&id=1095676928 [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010]

Figure 15: Malicki S. (2010) Hommage for Maxwell Itoya [online image] Available on:!/photo.php?fbid=1597478852294&set=a.1597478532286.2086 432.1095676928&pid=31687252&id=1095676928 [Accessed on: 14th Dec 2010]

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