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Category Archives: Truth?⸮
Friday Quote: Truth ?¿? “Photographers are always imposing…” ~Susan Sontag
“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates…In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture…While a painting or prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency…Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience…In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the work as paintings and drawings are.”
A recent editorial in The New York Times Sunday Review (my favorite section) previewed a Susan Sontag sampler, a taste of what is to come in a new book of Sontag’s journals (1964-1890) edited by David Reiff (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/a-sontag-sampler.html).
Within the sampler, you’ll find a list of things Sontag likes:
“Ivory, sweaters, architectural drawings, urinating, pizza (the Roman bread), staying in hotels, paper clips, the color blue, leather belts, making lists, wagon-lits, paying bills, caves, watching ice-skating, asking questions, taking taxis, Benin art, green apples, office furniture, Jews, eucalyptus trees, penknives, aphorisms, hands.”
The last item on her dislike list is “taking photographs.” Surprising? She was after all Annie Leibovitz’s partner for fifteen years, but once you read On Photography, I suspect you’ll understand. Her posthumous collection of letters will be published April 10, 2012. Click here to pre-order.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend,
“Photography never lies: or rather it can lie as to the meaning of the thing…never to its existence.”
Below Barthes remarks on his experience as subject:
“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself and because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire, the Photograph (the one I intend) represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I the experience a micro-version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter.”
I just saw the Cindy Sherman show at MOMA and her self portraits play on these philosophical “what is truth” probings. She constantly toys with herself, molding her image, grabbing a self out of her bag of costumes. I am a bit haunted by her later, larger than life size portraits of aging woman, who on the surface appear elegant. Juxtaposed on digitally imposed bucolic backgrounds, on close exam the aging details crack the heavily powdered foundation and reveal gravity, wrinkles pointing to masked time.
This week’s Friday Quote begins a mini series: Truth?⸮ Photography’s credibility aura will be explored.
“A failed attempt to photograph reality. How foolish of me to have believed that it would be that easy. I had confused the appearances of trees and automobiles and people with reality itself and believed that a photograph of these appearances to be a photograph of it. It is a melancholy truth that I will never be able to photograph it and can only fail. I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”
Contacts volume 2
Duane Michals, an American born contemporary photographer (1932 – ), often makes use of photo sequences and text.