NO CAPTION NEEDED
ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHS, PUBLIC CULTURE, AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

April 6th, 2014

Sight Gag: It’s The Real Thing

Posted by Lucaites in sight gags

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Credit: Chan Lowe/South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sight Gag is our weekly nod to the ironic, satiric, parodic, and carnivalesque performances that are an important part of a vibrant democratic public culture.  These “gags” may not always be funny or represent a familiar point of view, but they attempt to cut through the lies, hypocrisy, shamelessness, stupidity, complacency, and other vices of democratic life.  Of course, we invite you to comment … and to send us images that you think might deserve a laugh or at least a wry and rueful look by those who are thinking about the character of public life today.

April 4th, 2014

Paper Call: Photojournalism and Citizen Journalism

Posted by Hariman in conferences & shows

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“Photojournalism and Citizen Journalism: Cooperation, Collaboration, and Connectivity”

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Journalism Practice
Guest editor: Stuart Allan, Cardiff University, UK

If everyone with a smartphone can be a citizen photojournalist, who needs professional photojournalism? This rather flippant question cuts to the heart of a set of pressing issues, where an array of impassioned voices may be heard in vigorous debate.  While some voices are confidently predicting photojournalism’s impending demise as the latest casualty of internet-driven convergence, others are heralding its dramatic rebirth, pointing to the democratisation of what was once the exclusive domain of the professional by citizen journalism.  Regardless of where one is situated in relation to these stark polarities, however, it is readily apparent that photojournalism is being decisively transformed across shifting, uneven conditions for civic participation in ways that raise important questions for journalism practice.

This special issue of Journalism Practice aims to identify and critique a range of factors currently recasting photojournalism’s professional ethos, devoting particular attention to the challenges posed by the rise of citizen journalism. Possible topics to be examined may include:

• Redefining photojournalism in a digital era
• Evolving forms and practices of citizen photojournalism
• Citizen photo-reportage in war, conflict or crisis events
• Influences of social media on photojournalism
• News organisations’ use of crowdsourced imagery
• Audience perceptions of ‘professional’ versus ‘amateur’ news photography
• Ethical issues engendered by citizen witnessing
• Impact of citizen photo news sites, agencies or networks
• Innovation and experimentation in photo-based visual reportage
Prospective authors should submit an abstract of approximately 250 words by email to Stuart Allan (AllanS@cardiff.ac.uk). Following peer-review, a selection of authors will be invited to submit a full paper in accordance with the journal’s ‘Instructions for authors.’ Please note acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee publication, given that all papers will be put though the journal’s peer review process.

Timeline
Deadline for abstracts: 1 May 2014; deadline for submission of full papers: 1 September 2014. Final revised papers due: 15 January 2015. Publication: Volume 9, Number 4 (August 2015).

Guest Editor
Stuart Allan is Professor of Journalism and Communication, and Deputy Head of School (Academic), in the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, UK. His books include Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis (Polity Press, 2013) and Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives, Volume Two (co-edited with Einar Thorsen; Peter Lang, forthcoming).

Contact
Professor Stuart Allan (AllanS@cardiff.ac.uk)
Deputy Head of School (Academic)
School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue
Cardiff University
Cardiff, CF10 3NB
UK

Photograph by Gail Orenstin/The web 3.0 lab/Clima.

April 2nd, 2014

Humanity Among the Ruins

Posted by Hariman in catastrophe

It is understood that one of the challenges, and responsibilities, of photojournalism is to capture “the decisive moment”: that instant when intention becomes action or action becomes effect to define an event and perhaps change the course of history.  This encounter with history’s eventfulness is not the only task facing either the photographer or the viewing public, however.  To note another, perhaps equally daunting responsibility, we might ask how photography can represent history’s longer, more repetitive patterns.  What happens when suffering is prolonged, destruction becomes routine, war is normalized, and searing images turn into genres of catastrophe?

Aleppo ruins 2014

This photograph from Aleppo is one answer to this predicament.  It’s another scene from Rubble World, and images of wrecked urban neighborhoods in Syria have become so common that Reuters has gathered some of them into a slide show, which also helps the public face up to what is happening.  We need to admit to the frequency and redundancy of these images.  We need to grasp that war is now business as usual for too many people, and that no photograph is likely to change that.

So what can a photograph do?  Perhaps it can show us how much is at stake, and how much already has been lost.  It may have become too easy to see wrecked concrete as another occasion for urban renewal–hey, war is a job creator, come to think of it–or to see a broken city as merely a reason for pulling up the drawbridge–well, we don’t want that to happen here–or to accept the repetitiveness of the news as a reason to pay less attention rather than become more troubled.  The photograph above challenges all of that and more.

Admittedly, this image has more aesthetic quality than some of the others in the series, but that is precisely why it is the more important political statement.  The dark ruins on either side contrast with a stream of light flowing from the hazy shaft of space in the background to the muddy sheen of grey roadway in the foreground.  It seems that one can move through this space, albeit slowly and carefully, but that there is no chance that one could live there.  And so we get to the sole figure in the middle.  He is walking through, and looking, perhaps in stunned amazement, perhaps with a specific curiosity, but slowly and carefully.  What else can he do?  What else can we do?

This emphasis on his nomadic movement and contemplative gaze is underscored by that fact that we see him as the silhouette of a human being.  No more ascriptive marker is provided: you can’t limit his identity to Freedom Fighter or Aid Worker or Resident.  Instead, he is much closer to a philosophical figure: the Existential Subject who, with his civilization in ruins and only empty space for a god, now has no choice but to consider how civilization and barbarism are two sides of the same thing.  He could be that thing, the abstract human being that usually is clothed in this or that social identity, but now–like the city itself–has been stripped down to reveal how close it always was to desolation.

The war in Syria has gone on for four years.  Add to that ten years and counting in Afghanistan, plus the “sectarian violence” (i.e., continuing warfare) in Iraq, the many wars periodically erupting across Africa, the drug wars in Latin America, . . . . If any of this is to stop, something more than another decisive moment is needed.  The pressure for peace will have to be as it always has to be: slow and wide and insistent and then more insistent.  If that is to become a decisive process, it will need habits of representation and spectatorship to match.  Fortunately, some of what is needed is already available.  The question remains, what, or who, is still missing?

Photograph by Hosam Katan/Reuters.

March 31st, 2014

As Time Goes By

Posted by Lucaites in no caption needed, visual memory

Kiss in war

Two lovers caught in a passionate embrace.  He on the left, she on the right.  Their faces barely recognizable as their bodies meld into one another.  Oblivious to all that surrounds them, it is a tender, private, intimate moment in a public space.

At first blush it could be two individuals (once again) performing the now famous Times Square Kiss in a modern setting.  But look again.  The differences are both subtle and profound.  Neither is wearing a recognizable uniform.  She is actively engaged in the kiss, her arms pulling him towards her as much as (if indeed not more than) he is pulling her towards him. Notice for example how his right arm seems barely to be holding her while her arms reach fully around him, holding him in place. More interesting still is the fact that she is holding a slab of concrete in one hand, her finger nails giving the impression of being freshly manicured.  If the sign of the kiss in the original photograph was animated by an aggressive, masculine representation of state military power, here the kiss is no less a sign of aggression—it is hard to imagine that the concrete slab would be used as anything other than a weapon, particularly given that the caption tells us that this is taken at the site of a protest—but it is now no longer institutionalized by the state and it is gendered feminine.  Last, and perhaps most important, while the kissers are plainly and visibly in a public space, there are no onlookers who can channel a public attitude about what is going on.  Indeed, there is a clear sense of voyeurism here as we, the viewers, seem to be intruding on an altogether private moment.

 So what are we to make of this photograph?  The caption identifies the kissers as protestors in Caracas, Venezuela, the site of prolonged and massive public protests against rampant crime, protracted food shortages, and an altogether ineffective and authoritarian government.  The government crackdown against such protests has resulted in nearly forty deaths and hundreds of injuries, leading to demands for investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS).  That too has produced its own manner of controversy as the OAS leadership challenged the legitimacy of opposition leader Maria Corina Machado to address the body.  When she was finally allowed to speak, the sessions were held behind closed doors; one member of the OAS noted that the meetings would be conducted “With total transparency: In privacy.” The photograph above seems to mock this “war is peace, slavery is freedom” logic as it failingly purports to perform intimacy in a public space under the broken veil of privacy.  There may be no viewing public observable to legitimize the union, but then of course there is the camera and our own spectatorial gaze which gives the lie to the whole process.  Transparency in private is at best a comfortable fiction and at worst an intentional deception.

There is an additional dimension to the photograph that bears attention, and it has relatively little to do per se with the economic and political turmoil in Venezuela.  Instead, it concerns how we understand  Alfred Eisenstadt’s Times Square Kiss and all it stands for in our cultural memory.  The original kiss photograph took place on the occasion of VJ Day and the end of World War II.  It is often remarked as illustrating the return to normalcy.  But its contrast with the image above helps to reveal how constructed the conventions of such normalcy can be: men kissing women, women being kissed; the legitimation of violence as a manifestation of masculine, state governed military institutions; the forced separation of Eros and Thanatos; the performance of intimacy in public, and so on.  All such constructions—or should we call them “comfortable fictions”— indicate a particular worldview, to be sure, and perhaps even one that we might want to endorse, but the point is that it is particular, not universal.  Each photograph shows “a” truth, or many such truths, but certainly not “the” truth, however objective the photographic representation of the event on hand might be.

As the song says, a kiss is just a kiss … or is it?

Photo Credit: Christian Veron/Reuters

March 30th, 2014

Sight Gag: Cold War Icons: Report for Duty!

Posted by Lucaites in sight gags

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Credit: Arend Van Dam

Sight Gag is our weekly nod to the ironic, satiric, parodic, and carnivalesque performances that are an important part of a vibrant democratic public culture.  These “gags” may not always be funny or represent a familiar point of view, but they attempt to cut through the lies, hypocrisy, shamelessness, stupidity, complacency, and other vices of democratic life.  Of course, we invite you to comment … and to send us images that you think might deserve a laugh or at least a wry and rueful look by those who are thinking about the character of public life today.

March 28th, 2014

Paper Call: ICFVCMS 2014

Posted by Hariman in conferences & shows

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That’s quite an acronym, isn’t it?  It refers to the International Conference on Film, Visual, Cultural and Media Sciences.  The annual meeting his year is in Munich in October, but the paper submission deadline is this Monday, March 31.  Basic info and links are below.

The International Conference on Film, Visual, Cultural and Media Sciences is an interdisciplinary forum for the presentation of new advances and research results in the fields of Film, Visual, Cultural, and Media Sciences.  The conference will bring together leading academic scientists, researchers, and scholars from around the world.  Topics of interest for submission are listed here.  Additional conference information is here.

Paper submission         March 31, 2014
Notification of acceptance         April 30, 2014
Final paper submission and authors’ registration         May 31, 2014
Conference Dates         October 5 – 6, 2014

March 26th, 2014

What Is Photography’s Subject?

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Well, cows, of course.  And cats and puppy dogs and little kids with ice cream cones.  And did I mention cows?

Cattle in Iceland

These beauties are crowding up to get a taste of that sweet, green grass, which smells soooo good.  OK, the photo probably was posed; that grass may have just been there, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  And is Cute really photography’s subject?  The short answer is no, despite the millions of cutesie images in family albums, on company bulletin boards, on Facebook pages, and elsewhere around the home, office, and Web.

And this blog stays away from Cute (OK, not entirely, there are exceptions, they can be explained. . . . ), so what’s with posting up these cows from a farm near Kirkjubæjarklaustur in south Iceland?   The not so short answer is that the image was selected because it’s a stretch from what I want to say about photography; if the argument can stick here, it will apply many other places as well.

So what’s the argument?  First, some context.  From its inception photography has been understood to be characteristically modern.  The photograph was a technological innovation, unknown to all prior civilizations, and it was experienced initially amidst “vast changes in society and in culture” created by startling advances in science, technology, industrialization, and urbanization (Alan Trachtenberg, Classic Essays on Photography, ix).  Nor has this representative aura diminished as modern life became saturated with images: successive developments from the hand-held camera to color photography to digitization have been symbols of progress and lightening rods for anxiety about change.  Where early commentators lauded its likely value to the sciences while debating whether it would help or harm the arts, today the scope of its influence is summed up in the claim that Photography Changes Everything.  In the supposedly innocent act of objectively recording the world, photography has changed the way people in modern societies see everything, and with that, it has changed how they think, feel, relate to one another, and otherwise share a common world, that is, a culture.

Such comprehensive change is what it means to become modern: the common world of photography is the world as it is observed and imagined within a modern society.  That culture is, by definition, ambivalent in respect to questions of value, for modernization has always been experienced as both creative and destructive, marked by both gain and loss, producing winners and losers, as these are inevitable outcomes of continuous and often radical change.  Famine disappears, but so does tradition.  Prosperity increases, but so does loneliness.  One can “see the world,” and watch jobs migrate to other countries.  So it is that photography bears responsibility for another burden, the weight of modernity itself as it presses down on society.  Both effect and cause of modernization, agency of both enlightenment and alienation, instrument of both civilizational progress and the deadening uniformity of a machine age, photography is in the curious position of being an inexpensive medium having very high stakes.

The quality of the discourse on photography probably turns on how it handles the medium’s relationship to modernity.  One reason the critical discourse authored by Susan Sontag, Alan Sekula, John Berger, and others has become so important is that it took photography’s relationship with modernity very seriously. What was equally important, however, was that the emphasis was on the negative consequences.  Whatever positive benefits had accrued were taken for granted, while the task of critique logically focused attention of what had gone wrong.  And apparently a lot had gone wrong:  As Sontag announced: “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted.  Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution” (On Photography, p. 24.)

If that sounds a tad harsh, well, it is a tad harsh.  The authors of this blog believe the time has come for a paradigm shift, that is, for a more sophisticated discourse on photography that can better account for the full range of photographic experiences and effects, as well as the complexity of the relationship between photography and modernity.  It would take too long to do that in small steps, so let me set out a different proposition, one that doesn’t refute Sontag directly, but instead offers a different point of departure, different questions, and a different approach toward how those questions might be answered.  (Needless to say, that’s what this blog has been trying to do for several years, but perhaps success is just around the corner.)

And so we get to the argument: What is most important about photography is not that it requires machine age and now computer age technologies, or that its products can be reproduced cheaply (and now ever more cheaply) and widely (and now ever more widely).  Though shaped by these attributes, the single most important characteristic of photography is that its distinctive content is modernity itself.

Literature, painting, film and any other art are not locked in to the depiction of the present, and they are free to take up any topic or theme one might wish.  They are produced in the present and will inevitably reflect the conditions of their time, but they have the freedom to go where they will.  Their significance comes from being works of art, and only then from concerns about relevance.  Photography, however, is nothing if it is not about something, and about something that is happening now or that influenced the present or should be faced in the present.  Likewise, a literary or plastic art is defined primarily by its relationship to the history of that art.  Photography’s history, by contrast, is a very weak force.  Because the reality principle is primary, the aesthetic form has to cohere with that principle rather than bend the image too much along the lines of an artistic tradition.  More conventionally, most arts are valued as their work can become “timeless,” a transcendent status reflecting their mastery of artistic technique to fully realize a mode of perception or express an essential truth about human nature.  Photography is never timeless.  Instead, it is defined by its relation to the conditions of its making and always caught in the dilemma of recording a continually disappearing present.

These formal considerations are the least of it, however.  The relationship to modernity may be contingent, an accident of birth or development that bonded the medium to the self-awareness of its historical epoch.  It now is set, however: photography is the archive of vernacular life, displayed to allow reflection on how everyone is being affected by the ongoing changes that define modern societies.

Photography thus is a representative practice of modern life to a greater extent than Sontag and other critics imagined.  It not only carries all the defining features and troubling effects of modernization and democratization, but also casts all of modern life into a reflective space.  Photography doesn’t merely record modern society, it provides a performative re-enactment of how that society gets through the day, how it is made up of multiple ways of seeing from a stolen glance to satellite images of cities aglow at night, and whether it is moving into a future of continued progress or impending catastrophe.

Thus, photography puts the world on parade, and let’s hear it for parades, but its most important function is to mirror modern society.  Its subject matter is whatever is of enough interest to become framed by a viewfinder, but its content is the continuing and somewhat indirect discovery and questioning of what it means to be modern.

Which is why I decided to go with the cows. The photography may be Cute, or a sympathetic glimpse into a culture of animal husbandry, or an uncanny encounter with the idea that cows can be closer to pets than many people realize, or a direct contrast with the brutal feedlots of modern agribusiness, but it is something else as well.  It is another small part of the ongoing chronicle of modernity.  Of how modern civilization still includes living near large animals, and still has some space (albeit in Iceland) for them to be raised humanely, and yet clearly sees them as apart, more a part of nature to be managed for human use rather than participants within our social world, and (as alluded above) of how we know–but prefer not to think about–that most of them are used much more callously–and so forth and so on.  One could say it’s not really about cows at all, but about how modern society is disposed to think about and treat cows, right down to using the Cute Pet hook to get an audience in the first place.

In addition, the photo could be another, very small example of how photography changes everything, that is, how it is part of modern technological, economic, and cultural processes that continually destroy or transform the traditional world and then do the same to modern societies as well.  And an example of how those changes need not all be negative.  For example, we might consider how by becoming photographed the cows acquire a provisional equality of some sort with the species taking the photograph.  If so, perhaps a more advanced version of modernity, one of greater dignity for more species, is also suggested here, albeit as the exception during one of the great die-offs in natural history, a cataclysm caused by the unfettered expansion of modern civilization.

Like I said, the argument may come down to the cows after all.

Photograph by Erlendur Gudmundsson from the National Geographic Daily Dozen, March 11, 2014.

 

March 24th, 2014

Playing Jeopardy

Posted by Lucaites in no caption needed

Sticks and Stones

Photographs of Palestinians hurling stones or aiming slingshots  at Israeli troops are a dime a dozen.  They are so common that we don’t even need to see the Israelis, or for that matter a caption, to know what it is that we are being shown.   Indeed, a week barely goes by without one or two such photographs appearing in this or that mainstream internet news slideshows, lodged, as the image above, in between images of pole dancers in Sydney, grief-stricken relatives of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, a farmer racing his Oxen through a rice paddy at the annual Kakkoor Kalavayal festival (it is in India, look it up, I had to!), and sunbathers in Nice.

So what exactly is going on here? By one account the stone throwers are performing for the camera, and there may be some of that going on, but such an account begs the question as to why the photographers are so invested in the activity to begin with or why photo editors are so willing to pay heed to the images and to give them pride of place in their publications with such regularity.  One could argue that there is an anti-Israeli influence operating in the western media, as such images feature a stateless people fighting against a modern military state with the most primitive of weapons; but then again, one could just as easily also argue that there is a pro-Israeli influence in as much as what we are being shown are criminal malcontents disrupting the prevailing order of a legitimate, modern state.  And there is the rub, for in an important sense such photographs leave the question entirely open to discussion.

There are two thoughts worth considering here.  The first concerns the regularity of such photographs and their often random placement in slideshows that make them seem to be rather routine and ordinary events, if not also something like exotic curiosities on the order of annual pole dancing competitions, oxen races, or sunbathers.  From this perspective, of course, the viewer is cast as a passive spectator witnessing an event from afar with little real investment in what is going on.  There is something of a performative contradiction in this practice as the very regularity of the event, which should incline us to focus on its tragic significance—and I mean “tragic” regardless one’s particular political sympathies—seems to work against that understandng.  This is not a matter of so-called “compassion fatigue,” but rather an instance of turning attention against itself such that the regularity of the event normalizes it and thus mitigates its importance.  Ah yes, it’s springtime and so the sunbathers are out once again.  And the beat goes on.  And so the question might be, what is the point of the weekly slideshow and how are photos chosen for inclusion?

But there is a second and perhaps more pertinent concern:  If we take the time to look at the photograph as a singular event, what is it that our attention is being directed to?  Susan Sontag makes the point that photographs lack “a” narrative.  The article is important, for it is true enough that there is no single narrative animated by or contained by any photograph.   That is not the same, however, as saying that there are no narratives.  And indeed, as I’ve suggested above, there are at least two operative within this image, one which casts the Israeli state as the protagonist and one which casts it as the antagonist.   Perhaps both are correct.  And there are likely other narratives as well.  The point is that the photograph directs our attention to “an” event without necessary definition and encourages us—or more properly helps us —to imagine the range and register of useful questions to pose.

In a sense, engaging photographs is rather like playing the game of Jeopardy.  And the point, of course, is always to put your answer in the form of a question.

Photo Credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

March 16th, 2014

NCN Taking A Break

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

hounds

We’re traveling this week and may even get some down time, so the next new post will be on March 24.  See you then.

Photograph by Daniel Karmann/AFP-Getty Images.

March 14th, 2014

What Happens When Photography Imitates Art?

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 9.17.07 PM

You can see why I asked the question.  Like the caption itself (“Still Life”), every detail of the composition connects directly to the art of painting, and to its history and within that to a specific genre, and within that to a particular style.  And “composition” refers to both the technical values of the image and the careful arrangement of the objects that were photographed.  There is nothing accidental here, and so the intention seems clear: to create an image, and response, that would as closely as possible approximate the experience of viewing a work of fine art.

Which would be enough to make some critics go ballistic.  From Baudelaire to Sontag and beyond, the censors’ reactions have been clear.  It is only an approximation, and a cheap one at that, they say.  The skill that is supposedly on display–and that was reason for the existence and value of the genre in the first place–is in fact being supplied by the camera.  Oh, sure, some technical craft is involved, just as is the case with arranging the table, or for that matter a department store window, but it can be learned in hours, not the years that would be required to paint such an image.  Worse, that de-skilling is matched by a loss of value in the work and in the audience.  Finely wrought images become cheap things to be admired and as quickly forgotten.  Because of the easy reproduction of the image, the artwork loses the aura that comes from being experienced within a tradition, and with that loss we become less capable of being open to or improved by the art itself.  Instead, modern society becomes susceptible to kitsch and related habits of excessive consumption.  A still life on your desk top, or those cheap reproductions of Modern Art  in every hotel room, or it doesn’t matter: whatever they are, they are not really art.

I’ve argued against this attitude, and usually I take the angle of saying that photography is not a fine art and all the more important for that; instead it is a public art, among other things, all of which have considerable value for modern society and politics.  (By the way, you don’t win an argument with an attitude in a day.)  Today, however, I want to take a different tack.

My argument can be stated very simply: It’s beautiful.  You can tell me that it’s derivative or that it’s not authentic or that it’s more contrived that photography should be, but you can’t tell me it’s not beautiful.  (And I’m speaking for me, by the way, not you.  If I’m a sucker for elegance or any other social value evident in the image, that’s my problem, though certainly not one foreign to painting.)  My idle scanning through a slide show stopped the moment I say it, and my day is richer for having seen it.  Nor is it idiosyncratically or oddly beautiful; instead, its beauty comes in part from how well it has reproduced the conventions of the painterly genre.  Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of still lifes, and I’ve walked by a good number that did not catch me as this one did.  (Yes, this had the advantage of not being in a museum context, but frankly I think photography always is orienting us, to greater or lesser degree, to see as if we were in a large, open air museum.  Furthermore, it stood out at National Geographic, which is saying something as far as photography goes.)  Long story short, although I never would have set out today to look at still life paintings, this photograph provided one nonetheless, and it’s beautiful, and I’m grateful for that.

There also is a more complicated argument to be developed along the same path, but I’m running out of time.  One thing to consider is how the photographer has labored to put photography back into the tradition of painting, and how something like an aura may be one result.  At the same time, there is little likelihood that anyone would mistake this image at a photography website for a painting, so perhaps the art of approximation also is being featured, and with that the conventions and history of the artistic genre.  This image may be an imitation of a painting, but also an imitation of a photograph; and it may be about photography more than painting, which would move it closer to the work of art in any medium.  (Admittedly, this still life doesn’t stun me, enthrall me, and challenge me as the best art does, but in my experience that’s a problem of the genre.)  And if it is about photography, then it is about modernity.  If tired of defending the arts, you might to think about that.

It might also be a statement that simple elegance is more available than we might think–much like a photograph is less expensive and more accessible than a painting.  It could be a demonstration of how beauty can be shared easily via photography, indeed, how photography is pitched toward sharing while painting continues to be defined largely by hoarding in mansions and corporate hallways.  When a photograph imitates an older art form, such questions are brought to mind.  Surely that can’t be all bad.

Photograph: “Still Life” by Rucsandra Calin, Craiova, Dolj, Romania, from National Geographic’s Daily Dozen, March 11, 2014.

 

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