Photography through time

Lewis Baltz(2014) in Campany, D. (2018) David Campany: So present, so invisible: Conversations on photography. (01 edition) (s.l.): Contrasto.

LaToya Ruby Frazier(2015) in Campany, D. (2018) David Campany: So present, so invisible: Conversations on photography. (01 edition) (s.l.): Contrasto.

I’ve read these two conversations rather too late to have any effect on my work for this particular course but a point from each has got me thinking about how being influenced too strongly by other photographers can lead to traps.

In his conversation with Lewis Baltz, David Campany and Baltz decry the tendency to romanticize some of the imagery from photographers working in the 1970s. Campany mentions Stephen Shore’s apprehension about how a 1970s diner or an industrial park is now seen as romantic. I’m not so sure this can be totally avoided as time will always tend to numb the shock of any art dealing with the world as it was at the time. However it does act as a reminder that the meaning of a photograph can and will change over time, and that being too rigidly influenced can lead to an inappropriate nostalgic view of a subject.

LaToya Ruby Frazier in her conversation with Campany quotes Bertold Brecht as saying “Photography in the hands of the bourgeoisie has become a terrible weapon against the truth”, to which Campany responds that Brecht “understood that realism must be supple and keep on its toes”. These remarks add another layer of caution to the idea of conforming too closely to aesthetic styles of previous photographers. Both are saying to me that I should try and remain aware of the cultural context behind photographs from the past, and adjust my approach to make sure it is as relevant as possible to present day viewing.

Of course this only really applies when the aim is to reflect a social or cultural concern. There may well be occasions when a deliberate reference to past photography can help to show a current concern, as long as that reference is fully though out and not just a simple copy of other past styles.

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