4. Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Selfie

My last two blog posts, entitled Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values, will each focus on the legacy and the importance of iconic photographic values. The first does so through a discussion of the selfie, while the second considers the installation shot. Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2. What I Talk about When I Talk about Photography

If one thinks about photography in medium-specific terms, digitization actually hasn’t introduced any significant challenges to the essence of the photographic moment. Cameras and iPhones that produce digital photographs still contain optical lenses that record light from which an image is generated.[1] What has changed, however, is the process of image creation that directly follows from this moment. Whereas analogue photography registered light on paper and in this way created an image, digital photography translates light into data out of which an image is calculated. Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1. Introduction

For this blog, I will address a number of ideas about the contemporary role of photography within digital culture and artistic practice. With the photographic image having become firmly established as the predominant form of online image, photography is now an increasingly pervasive mode of cultural production. As a result, it is important to explore the role of digital photography within the context of photography as both an artistic medium and a specialized field that has emerged over the course of the last two centuries.

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1926 Gelatin silver print; 4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.8 x 9.2 cm) Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.55.29) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.55.29

Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1926
Gelatin silver print; 4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.8 x 9.2 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.55.29)
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.55.29

Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

V. Beyond Paul Strand: What Can Radical Photography Be?

I started this blog by posing some questions about the arbitrariness of dividing Paul Strand’s career into a late period of political subject matter and activism and an early period that seemed devoted primarily to formal concerns. Certainly, this is something of a straw man, because most of us would agree that the visual arts are inherently about shaping matter, with all its inherent recalcitrance, into form, regardless of the desired or received “meaning” of that shaped form. The other problem is, of course, what we intend by the terms, “political subjects” or “political art.” The gathering together of any people into a governing unit begins to constitute the body politic, so that virtually all social life in some sense can be read as “political.” However, historically we distinguish “political art”—art that is intentionally made to express a political party line or promote a particular government or policy position—from art that can be read as confirming a location within conflicting ideologies (which may cut across formal party platforms or regimes).  This latter sense of art as functioning politically and representing certain values that can be decoded has driven much of the social history of art in the past fifty years and is what I was striving to uncover in Strand’s enigmatic urban views. Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Response

4. Rear Windows: Strand’s Backyards

In 1916, the same year that Paul Strand made his remarkable studies of lower-class types caught unawares by a disguised camera lens, he moved away from New York’s crowded streets to capture backyards visible from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Paul Strand, New York, 1916, Vintage photogravure from Camera Work 48

Paul Strand, New York, 1916, Vintage photogravure from Camera Work 48, 1916

Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3. The Politics of Urban Planning: Strand at Midtown

The same year that Strand shot City Hall Park he took another, somewhat similar picture in a second prominent location, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York. Still perched above his subject but physically closer than he was in the courthouse north of City Hall Park, Strand was shooting from the second-floor window of Marius de Zayas’s Modern Gallery at 500 Fifth Avenue. The building is now gone, but from photographs it seems that he had to be behind a window (was it opened?) using a lens that radically compressed the width of Fifth Avenue and brought him nearer street traffic while catching a bit of a unfocused cornice in the lower left. Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2. Reading Strand’s New York Photographs: City Hall Park

In my last post, I suggested that we should rethink how we might read “politics” into the works of Paul Strand.  I put “politics” advisedly into quotes, because few photographs can translate specific political tenets or party lines into form. Apart from a unique photograph called “Skeleton and Swastika, Connecticut” contrived in 1938-39, Strand was no John Heartfield and never directly attacked scowling financiers or aggrandized noble workers in the fields in his still photographs. He remained above all an artist with a distinct social point of view, who recognized that the power to shift the public’s attention by forcing it to visually engage with the overlooked was his greatest gift.

Paul Strand: City Hall Park, New York, 1915 Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, gift of the artist, 1972-147-1

Paul Strand: City Hall Park, New York, 1915
Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, gift of the artist, 1972-147-1

Read More »

Posted in Blogger Post | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses