Much more than I previously thought. It represents various forms of beauty and truth. Within beauty it can be beautiful, sublime, banal and or mundane. Within truth it can be utilitarian or absolutist (Franklin, The Documentary Impulse, p103). Since David McAlpin opened MOMA’s photography department in 1940 it has increasingly established itself within the ‘Art’ world.
Acceptance in the art world took over one hundred years from the birth of commercial photography in 1939. As a discipline photography is still in infant form. There appear to be many battles taking place as it matures. Is it a discipline of its own or does it get absorbed within the wider disciplines of visual and media studies? Is there a solid core of robust theories that can be used to describe it or is it currently a battle between hypotheses and subjective opinion? As someone with a BSc in Mathematics and an MA in Psychology my own opinion is it is not as rigorous as the former and not yet as mature as the latter.
Whatever form a photograph takes we can say the practice of critical analysis is sophisticated and comprehensive. Paul Martin Lesters’ Visual Analysis source offers 9 preliminary steps to understand the image which are factual and observational from which there are then 6 perspectives of analysis.
- Visual Cues
- Gestalt Laws. Similarity, proximity and continuation
- Semiotic Signs. Iconic, indexical and symbolic.
- Semiotic Codes. Metonymy, analogy, displaced or condensed.
- Cognitive Elements. Memory, projection, selectivity, habituation, salience, dissonance and culture.
- Purpose of work.
- Image Aesthetics.
What is the Queen of Photography?
This is the playing field of photography as I now understand it after 12 weeks of study at Falmouth. Language is used to try to establish a hierarchy in photography. Carl Friedrich Gauss claimed that “Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics.” Source . Few would dispute that today and paradoxically the misleadingly simple ‘arithmetic’ is the most important and most difficult discipline in mathematics and hence its queen. So what is the Queen of photography? Is it the pleasure given to so many by beauty or the meaning created within representation of truth? Photography will not be considered the Queen of Art but could it be the Queen of visual and media studies?
So far my sense is that academically greater weight is given to a photograph that represents a ‘truth’ than that which gives pleasure in the representation of beauty. I also sense that there is a strong political drive to counteract the puppet of capitalism school of landscape photography with a socialist message seeking to represent the inequalities inherent within the beautiful landscape. I use the word ‘sense’ as that is all it is at this stage formed by impressions from reading to date. These senses form good questions for further study as I develop my understanding of what a photograph is and what I want to do with it.
I am now comfortable that my own work to date can be considered beautiful and sublime but trivial. Personally I then have to put weight on the pleasure I get and give people with the beauty I produce versus the importance I give to its triviality within the discipline of photography. Similarly there will be photographers that produce work that is banal and mundane but is considered interesting and meaningful. Such photographers will consider interesting and meaningful outweighs the stigma of banal and mundane in the same way beauty photographers can discount the stigma of trivial.
Interesting. Can’t wait to learn more.
Categories: Positions and Practice