Skip to main content

Photography as Art - dilemmas of desire

‘Autumn’, combination albumen print by Henry Peach Robinson,1863. 

According to Ian Jeffrey, Peach Robinson's works confront the dilemma of photography between activity and passivity, that is, between imagination, the artist's unique faculty of giving form to what is primarily an "inner" vision clothed by the figures of the visible world,  by the  forms of external reality, and the recording of appearances that is, something like a "self-presentation of nature" mediate by the photographic apparatus and process - a double challenge taking away the artist's control and his self-representation as a kind of "demiurge" of the visible world.  

 In the works of Robinson, Rejlander and others, photography assumes the "challenge" of art as a sort of competition for "aesthetic recognition" on the grounds of the established system of the arts, its recognized values and attributed functions. The very values and functions that the advent of photography will contribute to undermine and transform.  

Turning  mimesis into "mimetic desire", their works explored some of the inner capabilities of photography and, at the same time,  in their unresolved visual and conceptual tensions and contradictions, exposed the limitations of  their own  problematics, that is, of the field of questions, assumed values and purposes determining the theory and practice of the  contemporary "art" of photography.

Marcelo Guimarães Lima


Popular posts from this blog

Group f/64 Manifesto (1932)

Ansel Adams by Dorothea Lange

Group f/64 Manifesto
The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.
The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West; in addition to the showing of the work of its members, it will include prints from other photographers who evidence tendencies in their work similar to that of the Group.
Group f/64 is not pretending to cover the entire of photography or to indicate through its selection of members any deprecating opinion of the photographers who are not included in its shows. There are great number of serious workers in photography whose style and technique does not relate to the metier of the Group.
Group f/64 limits its members and invitational names to those workers who are strivin…

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)

Alexander Gardner
The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg

Alexander Gardner Dead Confederate sharpshooter at the foot of Round Top.  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863. Alexander Gardner.
Richmond, Virginia. "Ruins of Gallego Mills." April 1865

The Lincoln Conspirators, 1865

Alexander Gardner, Lincoln 1865

Paul Strand: method and vision

Portrait, Washington Square Park, 1917

Pears and Bowls, 1916

Wild Iris, Maine, 1927

Wall Street, 1915

Portrait of Georges Braque, 1957

The “full acceptance” of reality is the method and goal of the photographer, observed Paul Strand. However, full objectivity has to be something different from a passive receptivity but must emerge from an active and vigilant attitude that requires the photographer’s control of his subject. Or rather, it requires the coming together of subject and object in the intervening space of the photograph, synthesizing and perhaps transcending both, a mediating space, both familiar and unusual, made of masses and voids, light and shadows, made of the equivalence of presence and absence,  of correspondences of vision and forms in the world, of the coalescence of equivalent forms in a frame, of a spatialized time and a space of  gradually superposed temporalities.

Marcelo Guimarães Lima