Professor Martin Irvine
Photography to Post-Photography and the Hybrid
Overview of Important Directions in Photography Today
After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison,
Cibachrome transparency, aluminum lightbox. Edition
of 2. 76.25 x 106.25 x 10.25 inches. Courtesy Marian
Goodman Gallery, New York. Further
Photography is How We See,
and is Always Encoded in Specific Genre Frames
We never experience "photography" (in the abstract): we experience photographs, specific kinds of photographs (genres) framed by their uses and reception contexts (social and material). After around 150 years of being socialized into ways of seeing with photographs (and all lens based media, including film and video), and before that, becoming "optical" since the 15th century through paintings and drawings made with optical aids (lenses, camera obscura, mirrors), we arrive at an important social-technical intersection with digital photography. We have to learn how to look at photographs as social and cultural forms of representation to see how they work, and how we see and think "photographically".
The genres and functions of the photograph have continued through many technical shifts: the iPhone and inexpensive digital cameras have confirmed Bourdieu's view of "the middle brow art form" in the millions of family and personal snapshots taken everyday, records of highly ritualized events, poses, contexts, views that conform to learned beliefs about what's pictorial, a portrait, the camera-moment.
From optics to pixel grid:
Photography has always been developed from hybridizing/new combinations of technologies and methods:
the invention of photography involved optics (lenses) + chemistry + material support = photographic image.
Since the introduction of digital photography and the digital darkroom (Photoshop), we have seen a shift in thinking about/with photographic images:
the lens "sees" (principles of optics, focus, perspective, light sources), and metaphors of
capturing, registering, mechanical means
to what a screen
can display (digital
pixels, imitation of camera lens point-of-view, focus, and perspective).
Now many images are made to look photographic, and are still called "photographs," whether
no lenses or many lenses, were used in the making of the image.
The "photograph" is an idea, an image category, before it is instantiated in any material form.
Intersections of technologies and institutions:
has always been linked to developments in technology for the film medium and
cameras as optical light capturing devices. But the interesting history is found in
the many conceptual uses of photography, the institutions and social organization
of the medium, and the mass adoption of cameras in the middle class for "taking
family and domestic life.
What important ideas can we extrapolate from the social and technical history of photography, from
early cameras to digital cameras and camera phones (iPhone)?
The Era of Ubiquitous Photography and the Digital Object
Some observers and theorists of photography and film are talking about our current era being "post-photographic": we live in a culture trained to read photo-produced images (and images as judged or assumed to live up to photographic expectations), yet many of the images we experience every day imitate photographic features without being produced by (or solely by) a device with a lens and recording medium. What is the status of the photograph as a digital object?
What are the implications of living "post-photographic"? Is this an extension of the notion of the hyper-real? With photographic "realism" still providing the codes for "the real"?
|Recent Bibliography: Notable
100 photographers, 10 curators, 10 writers. Curated by
Shahidul Alam, et al. Phaidon Press, 2005.
Susan Bright, Art Photography Now,
Aperture Press, 2005. [Aperture
ed. Uta Grosenick, vols 1 and 2, Taschen Books, 2005, 2006.
Photographers included: (vol. 1) Matthew Barney, Thomas Demand,
Rineke Dijkstra, Douglas Gordon, Andreas Gursky, Shirin Neshat,
Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Wolfgang Tillmans,
Jeff Wall. (Vol. 2, additional) Vanessa Beecroft, Richard Prince,
Anna Gaskell, Candida Höfer, Pierre Huyghe, Cindy Sherman
Jonathan Lipkin, Photography Reborn:
Image Making in the Digital Era (Abrams Studio). NY: Abrams,
"The digital photography revolution may have taken place
somewhat secretively inside dark boxes--cameras and computers--but
the impact of digital photography, which is the subject of
photographer and educator Lipkin's thorough introduction to
the medium, has yet to be fully realized. Since its invention,
photography has been a tool to both authenticate and manipulate
experience. It is precisely this paradox that has made the
medium so intriguing for critics, historians, photographers
and viewers. But photography has never been as untrustworthy
as it is now, and, according to Lipkin, it has also never
been as creative.
Lipkin takes some provocative and challenging stances, such
as arguing that we have reverted to a 19th-century way of
seeing with this new technology, making for an intriguing
Examples by contemporary artists Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff,
Pedro Meyer, Nancy Burson, and Loretta Lux."
Fashioning Fiction in
Photography Since 1990.
This groundbreaking book, accompanying the spring 2004
exhibition at MoMA, explores the nature of fashion
photography in the last decade.
The 1990s witnessed a particularly vital and inventive
period when the reciprocal influences of artistic and commercial
photography effected a clear change in fashion photography.
Fashioning Fiction in Photography since 1990 tracks two of
the key routes taken by contemporary fashion photographers:
the application of cinematic techniques, as seen in the work
of Cedric Buchet and Cindy Sherman, among others, and the
snapshot aesthetic, as exemplified by the photographs of
Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller, and others. In order to address
the concerns, desires, and realities of youth culture, photographers
and editors expanded the narrative of fashion photography
to depict lifestyles, rather than the clothes themselves.
An interview of Dennis Freedman, Vice Chairman and Creative
Director of W magazine, by the curators, discusses the subject
from within the fashion industry and provides an intimate
view of the creation of the promotional campaigns and the
imagery of fashion.
Fashion, the Portrait, Fine Art
Face of Fashion
Photographs by Mert Alas and Marcus
Piggott, Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi, and Mario
By Susan Bright
Essay by Vince Aletti
Copublished with the National Portrait Gallery, London
NY: Aperture Press, 2007
This striking volume presents
the intensely unconventional, often unnervingly intimate portraiture
being made by some of today's most creative and original fashion
Each photographer is represented by a range of portraits, including several commissioned
especially for this book. Some of these portraits were produced as ads, others
were commissioned for editorial features. Many of the subjects are celebrities—Kate
Moss by Corinne Day, Madonna by Steven Klein and by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott,
Sting by Paolo Roversi; others are as anonymous as Mario Sorrenti's Woman
I. Essays by Susan Bright and Vince Aletti illuminate the collaborative nature
of this radically new approach to portraiture, as well as how it diverges from
earlier work by Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and others. In addition,
interviews and candid descriptions of the process by the photographers and subjects
themselves provide rare insight into the potent mix of fame, fashion, and photography
|Photography Resources: Organizations, Journals, Magazines
|Important Issues in Photography
Continuing Major Issues
See Key Issues in Modern Photograph: Making a Photograph
vs. Taking a Picture (link)
- Realism, Representation, and the Status of the Image in
a Post-Digital, Post-Photography Era
- Pictures and Movies that rely on the codes of photography
and cinema with using a camera and lens
- Point of view, perspective, lighting
- Post-photography photography: using photographic (photo-sensitive
media) without a camera
- Picture plane to pixel grid: metaphoric shift and photographic medium
Modern Photographers Contributing to Current Issues in Photography
(selected exemplary artists)
Contemporary Photographers: Photography
in Visual Art Since the 1980s
- The Photographic Image and Representation
- Cindy Sherman and Photographic Fiction
- Nan Goldin and the "Snapshot esthetic"
- Conceptual Composition: Jeff Wall
- Use of Scale and manipulation of photographic realism: Andreas
Gursky and Thomas Struth
- Hiroshi Sugimoto: Exhibition
at the Hirshhorn Museum [see the Online Interactive feature]
- Adam Fuss: "photography" without cameras: photograms
- Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick: Digital Photography and
|Visual Artists Who Use the Function of Photography
in Other Media
Using Painting, Representation,
and the Picture Plane to Question the Photographic Image