Sunday, December 18, 2016

In the Age of Post-Photography - a few properties

I've written and rewritten this blog entry several times.  Nothing felt right.  Nothing expressed my thoughts clearly enough.  What I wanted was to expand on earlier thoughts of living in the Age of Post-Photography.

"... Post-Photography means having gone beyond traditional photographic image making.  It means the apparatus of photo creation has been subsumed and integrated into technologies in a way that the complexities of its use have been eliminated.  It means that the purpose of images in our lives has evolved to inhabit a new place.  We no longer see "cameras" as tools.  We see image making as part of a much broader, more highly integrated social experience.  We love to see ourselves..."

This description feels a little restrictive and more than a little negative.  Yes, a shocking number of photographs made these days are for narcissistic reasons.  But not all of us are in love with the image of ourselves, are we?  No, for many of us the exercise of image making remains a much broader experience.  I cast around for a way to organize my thoughts and tried to find words for my feelings on the topic.  

Casually reading Sally Mann's "Hold Still" I had to stop.  What was that I just read?  Did she really just say that?  Yes.  There it was.  The very things I failed to find words for.  There they were on page 151 of my hardbound copy.  It was a little over halfway down the page.  Written by someone I deeply admire.

"... How can a sentient person of the modern age mistake photography for reality?..."

Isn't this exactly what some critics of news and reporting photography are fighting over?  Isn't this exactly what has caused such a problem for some people when they learned that Magnum and AP photographers "improved" their images through modification?  Wasn't it exactly this mistake that some people made when they looked at my images of Catwoman?  The wailing and moaning, for what? 

"... All perception is selection, and all photographs - no matter how objectively journalistic the photographer's intent - exclude aspects of the moment's complexity..."

This brilliantly states the case against photography as reality.

If photography is not this, then what is it?  One might need to be careful as asking these kinds of questions feel like an all too slippery slope.  Some of us might end up in a place we didn't expect and certainly might not like.  Photography might no be what we want to believe.

Guy Tal wrote in Lenswork Magazine #127 "On Sacred Cows and Roosting Chickens" about how we have a basic understanding of the differences between fiction and nonfiction writing.  We understand when we read a novel that what we read is not real in the physical, historical sense.  We accept this and still find reading novels pleasurable.  We expect accuracy and truth when we read nonfiction.  We can learn things about reality, truth, and the world around us.  In writing we accept these different styles and are comfortable with various distinctions.  Yet we have no similar understanding for how to engage photographic images.  There is no way of sorting what we see into fiction and nonfiction in a way that we can be comfortable, enjoy, and appreciate both.

I find it easier to think in terms of image making than it is to think about photography.  It's such a "loaded" word, photography.  I find it nearly impossible to use the word without bumping against the wall of assumed reality.  

What if we could acknowledge that the field of image making is a continuum of experience and expression that spans a much greater space than previously agreed to?

What if there is space enough for those who choose "straight" image making?

What if there was room enough for those who modify things in a way that match their vision?

What if there was yet more than enough room to include those who choose to use image making technologies to electronically draw or paint?

What if image making could cast aside it's assumptions of reality and fully embrace photography's true nature as an expression of creativity?

I find the phrase Age of Post-Photography allows me to move beyond this wall of photographic tradition and the trap of thinking something represents reality when very clearly it does not and can not.

Catwoman ~ Paris, France

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