Exercise:Transparent Pictures

Read the first three sections (pp.1-8) of the essay “Transparent Pictures: On theNature of Photographic Realism” by Kendall L Walton

The photographic image is the object itself
-Andre Bazin , “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”

Every photograph is a fake from start to finish.
-Edward Steichen , “Ye Fakers ”

Write a 200-word reflective commentary in your learning log outlining your views about Walton’s idea of photographic transparency.

Crime scenes , medical photography , police photographs of criminals are readily accepted as being accurate and truthful. A drawing  of a criminal, whilst it may be perfectly accurate , is only ever an artists’ representation.   Walton discusses the idea held by Bazin that photographs , unlike drawings and paintings etc , are realistic. The camera  records faithfully  what is in front of it , whilst a painting will always only ever be a portrayal , an impression , and hence subject to an individual artists’ interpretation. An illustrators’ visualisation of their subject is just an idea , an opinion , the subject within the picture or drawing never really existed.

Dissenters to this view argue that photographs too can be far removed from reality , but that is irrelevant .Regardless of whether an image has been manipulated , digitally , in the dark room , or by any other method , a photographic image is aways of something that actually existed. What was taken remains the same , regardless of how , accuracy is not the issue.

The You Tube clip below shows the work of Spanish artist Pedro Campos , its hard to believe the still life images are in fact oil paintings not photographs. One of the difficulties I found reading and understanding the essay was how do we actually know what is real and therefore transparent ? These certainly look real to me but the crux of the argument is that they never really existed and have been created by the artist. 

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ct8qgW0sE0

The reality of photographs makes them transparent , we see through them, and look at “literally the scene that was photographed”. We are able perceive beyond the frame , ‘”a special kind of seeing” distinct from simply looking. Photographs alone tell us little , and can deceive , but we literally see dead people , we see through the picture and are able to see , not the present , but into the past.

The prison photo below shows a rather glum Mary Richards , she isn’t glum now , in the present sense ,  but the image does show us how she looked over 100 years ago.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 19.28.46

Images by Julia Margaret Cameron were on display at the MoMA  when I visited in June. They made an impact on at the time me but I gave little thought to the fact that I was able to see what Cameron saw all those years ago: I saw through the image into the past.

IMG_0712

I have many old photos I treasure but this exercise has made me realise just how precious and unique they are.

 

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