Unreal Nature

October 17, 2018

Mixed Nature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… Is photography anything at all?

This is from Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes by Lyle Rexer (2002):

… What was photography? An impersonal inscription of nature? A manipulable medium of individual expression? A product of science and handmaiden of objective observation? Perhaps a wholly new form of art? Did photography interrupt the flux of time or eternalize the present? Did it look backward to things disappearing or forward to a new world?

[line break added] The relationship between human subject and photographic object, machine and nature, could not be unequivocally specified. It shifted like the contours of a “waking dream,” as the poet John Keats described his vision of a nightingale. This play of ambiguities defines photography’s identity and stamps it as quintessentially modern. Its mixed nature accounts for its peculiar evolution, its habit of continually calling itself into question. The questions never seem to be settled, only reinterpreted with each shift of society’s angle of vision.

Is photography anything at all? A minimum answer might be, it is the activity of light rendered on or in various media. A camera and lens are not required; nor are silver salts or developing chemicals or even a photographer. Photography has no specific content, province, or use, and so it has no meaning, as such.

[line break added] Its meaning is whatever the maker, user, or consumer, all operating within the culture, ascribes to it. Persistently, however, and because it was born into an artistically secular, self-conscious world, photography’s status has revolved around the question of whether or not it is an independent art and in what that art might consist.




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