Photography and Culture (Berg Journals)

Volume 3 Issue 1 March 2010

I’m using this journal as a switchboard for discussion – not as a didactic or as an in-depth study of their approach.

The journal begins with: ‘the question of photograph’s future cannot be discussed without definitions from the past… Still we feel the need to hold and touch a photograph to evoke memory, to reassure us that the past existed, and to potentially fix our identity in a rapidly changing world.’

Old processes and technology take on new relevance in fast moving societies. By nature of time and memory – technologies like analog photography become linked to identity and sense of self. Collective identity of an era is anchored by objects like the analog camera, the generation born in the 1990s has a vague recollection of it, the generation of the 1970s has recollection of using it et cetera.

With every turn of the century, photography means different things to different generations. Different artifacts and technologies of photography similarly amass a different collective identity. What I’m aiming at saying is that photography will adapt to become emotionally, socially and ideologically relevant to the discourse of the now, the today.

In the pp.19-40 (Photographs from an American Album: The Albatross Nudes, 1899-1900), a phrase form Susan Sontag’s book On Photography (1977) is quoted: ‘To collect photographs is to collect the world.’ The medium of photography itself is telling of the society of today – instant, accessible, immediate, social. Perhaps more than ever, instead of the photograph, the medium of photography itself becomes a mirror of zeitgeist.


Under the chapter The Role of Photography on the Albatross Voyage, we can see that photography is seen as two separate but overlapping entities: documentation and artistic interpretation. I think these two roles of photography have not changed but have been adapted to the contemporary audience. The idea of authorship of a photograph (as a photographer) becomes less apparent. In Search and Seizure American artist Sean Snyder re-contextualized photography gathered from various websites. The unprofessional, snap-shot like appearance of these images accord a certain naivete and carelessness to them. (Could this denote that the photograph has escaped scrutiny and manipulation?) ‘This perception sees the informal, amateur photograph as inherently genuine,’ but also inherently faceless. Is it possible that without authorship a photograph is seen as more reliable?




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