Unreal Nature

December 17, 2014

Two Kinds of Longing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:07 am

… Imagine a history of photography as an insistent practice, inserted into the very heart of the modern social order …

This is from The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories by John Tagg (1993):

… Photographs are not ideas. They are material items produced by a certain elaborate mode of production and distributed, circulated and consumed within a given set of social relations; images made meaningful and understood within the very relations of their production and sited within a wider ideological complex which must, in turn, be related to the practical and social problems which sustain and shape it.

What I am trying to stress here is the absolute continuity of the photograph’s ideological existence — its coalescence and codification of value-fulled meanings — with its existence as a material object whose ‘currency’ and ‘value’ arise in certain distinct and historically specific social practices. When we deal with photography as ideology, we are not dealing with something ‘outside’ reality — a looking-glass world related to the real world by laws of reflection and reversal.

[ … ]

… I look at an image and it is flooded with a half-forgotten dream, bulking out its figures with the forms of desire, opening up its vistas to a physically sensed space and presence. Now it can emerge, exciting my interest, inciting my curiosity for this very difficult object.

[ … ]

… Imagine a history of photography as an insistent practice, inserted into the very heart of the modern social order and characterized by a double momentum: an ever more intimate and exacting attention to bodies, dividing them, apportioning them, observing them, supervising them and in the same movement, exerting a control over them; and a diverse constitution of space as itself a realm of phantasy and control, submission and consent, a space of the Imaginary and the Ideological. On one side, time and motion studies, criminal records, sociological dossiers, humanist documentaries, medical photography, ethnographic records, reportage, sports pictures, pornography, identikit faces, all kinds of portraiture, and photographs in official documents, papers and files. On the other, the landscape tradition, aerial surveys, astronomical photography, micro-photography, topographical records, certain kinds of advertising images, and so on. Two kinds of longing. Two kinds of subjection. (The gaze has both passion and perspective.)

My most recent previous post from Tagg’s book is here.




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