Unreal Nature

July 12, 2017

The Conspicuous Role of Chance

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… the testing ground we call art, to the extent that it entails a commitment to critical reflection on means and ends, can foster awareness of how photography carries out its many functions, and how it might do better.

This is from the Introduction to Photography and the Art of Chance by Robin Kelsey (2015):

… The conspicuous role of chance in photography sets it apart from arts such as painting or literature. Whereas in a traditionally deliberate art form, such as the novel, chance comes across as something contrived, in photography it comes across as something encountered. What does it mean that photography so often entails a process of haphazard making and careful sorting?

These are questions that the art world has tended to muffle or ignore. Chance, one might say, lacks a constituency. Generally speaking, it valorizes neither the photograph nor the photographer. Most photographers, collectors, and curators would prefer to suggest that a picture speaks for itself and therefore the circumstances of its production are immaterial, or to presume that pictorial success reflects a mastery of the medium.

[line break added] But the notion of pictures speaking for themselves is problematic if not paradoxical, and inference of mastery from any particular photograph, due to the role of chance in the medium, is unwarranted. Photographs, to be meaningful, must be products of history, and that history is haunted by chance.

… Rather than impatiently dismiss the problem of chance in photography, some of the medium’s greatest practitioners have explored it with dogged brilliance. This book is devoted to the work of a handful. It interprets their photographs and texts in light of the entangled histories of photography, art, and chance to discover whatever insights this work may proffer.

[line break added] It does so from a conviction that these photographs and texts constitute a vital legacy for our times and remain promisingly open to the future. Underlying the effort is a belief that through the study of art we can know ourselves and our world more intimately and ardently, an engagement our humanity requires.

… There is one claim, it should be clear from the outset, that this book does not make. That claim is that art is the essence or sole fulfillment of photography. With respect to social value, photography as a means of knitting people together in rewarding associations, or of alerting them to atrocity, or of enabling them to convey the significance of their existence, or of amplifying their visual experience to encompass new scales or temporalities, takes no backseat to photography as art.

[line break added] The book claims only that the testing ground we call art, to the extent that it entails a commitment to critical reflection on means and ends, can foster awareness of how photography carries out its many functions, and how it might do better. Built into the argument is the belief that photography as art has been inextricably bound to its other operations.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: