Saturday, 18 August 2012

'Photography as Art' supplement

There was an interesting pullout supplement in yesterday’s Times newspaper on ‘Photography as Art’ and it can be found as here.  I have also added this blog entry to my hard copy journal so I can directly reproduce the images referred to in addition to the links shown here.
In the introduction, Michael Pritchard of the Royal Photographic Society claims that “Photography is now fully accepted as an artistic medium sitting equally alongside the other fine arts” although I think it would be interesting to test this with fine art purists from the world of sculpture and painting who have in the past discounted photography as having too little technical skill.  There are a number of contributors of short, and therefore at times rather superficial, articles encompassing still life, landscape and social and documentary photography, but potentially the most interesting to me was Miranda Gavin’s piece on still life, going from its early origins as a technique forced by the necessity or very slow shutter speeds which precluded making images of anything moving, and onwards through the likes of  Edward Weston and Robert Mapplethorpe and their skilled use of composition, framing, lighting and background to generate their photographs. 

An interesting area that Gavin raised that I had not heard of before was the importance of vanitas paintings in driving some schools of still life photography.  Vanitas paintings originate from the 16th and 17th century Netherlands and use as their material objects such as fading flowers, rotting fruit and especially skulls, all intended to portray the “emptiness and life and the inevitability of death”.  Vanitas in fact comes from the Latin meaning ‘emptiness'.  Other cheerful themes included bubbles (transience of life), watches and timepieces (brevity of life) and even subjects like lemons which were apparently representative of life in that they were good to look at but had a bitter taste.  All rather dismal to be honest, but these themes also crop up in modern photographic art from the likes of Ori Gersht in Blow up (exploding floral paintings) and David La Chappelle in Earth Laughs in Flowers where modern objects are used alongside classics such as the skull.

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