Thursday, May 01, 2008

Landscape photography and the post modern

There is something deeply suspect about this venture. To choose to make images in a tight geographical area, to a set of self imposed rules and using techniques and technologies which were if truth be known obsolete some time ago is an exercise of the utmost futility. The modernist concept of art reflecting its medium almost certainly died in the 1960s and since then the visual arts have given in to postmodern angst. If Baudrillard is right the postmodern state is one of dissatisfaction and a reaction to the superficial, marketing and mass media, and where does that leave photography. The rise of digital media, not perhaps the digital means of capture, but the ease of photorealistic manipulation has resurrected an argument which Emerson thought he had put to bed a hundred years ago. It seems that to be an art photographer today in early 21st century it is necessary to abandon the photographic element, that your pictures should be either manipulated to resemble images produced some other means or alternatively that all craft and technique be abandoned so that the mechanical nature of the process is shown up. Those found or casual images can then be used by someone who is an artist but emphatically not a photographer.

This leaves a photographer beginning his practice now in search of foundations. Baudrillard writes that the mass consciousness considers authenticity to be rooted in the primitive and in a way of life removed from the commercial grind. However he also notes that any authenticity thus found is almost certainly fake.

None the less I have chosen to face up to the artificial nature of this quest and to see if I can find something which can be considered authentic by revisiting that modernist past. It is of course an illusion, the pioneers used state of the art equipment. If Edward Weston had access to a digital Hassleblad and Photoshop I doubt he would have broken his back carrying a view camera and staining his hands in pyro. But by choosing to face some of the physical difficulties of that "Golden Age" will it be possible to produce a set of work addressing the issues of time and progress whilst adopting a physical medium rooted in the past


Tim Parkin said...

I'm unsure that Edward Weston would still be using a large format camera and film but would probably be post processing in photoshop (or at least his assistants would). He would probably still be using Pyro as well (I know a few people who do).

People who are after the best quality prints inevitably end up with medium format, and if they are looking for lens movements, large format. Great blog by the way :-)

Bob Singleton said...

Thanks for the comment Tim. I've had a look at your blog and there is a lot of good stuff to read.