..a photography which is able to relate a tin of canned food to the universe, yet cannot grasp a single one of the human connections in which that tin exists; a photography which even in its most dreamlike compositions is more concerned with eventual saleability than with understanding… the true facts of this photographic creativity is the advertisement...
Not for nothing were the pictures of Atget compared with those of the scene of a crime. But is not every spot of our cities the scene of a crime? every passerby a perpetrator? Does not the photographer -- descendent of augurers and haruspices -- uncover guilt in his pictures?
The camera… on the one hand extends our comprehension of the necessities that rule our lives; on the other, it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action.
The illiterate of the future will not be the man who cannot read the alphabet, but the one who cannot take a photograph.
[Photography] has become more and more subtle, more and more modern, and the result is that it is now incapable of photographing a tenement or a rubbish heap without transfiguring it. Not to mention a river dam or electric cable factory: in front of these, photography can now only say, “How beautiful!”
The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject.
The invention of the match around the middle of the nineteenth century brought forth a number of innovations which have one thing in common: one abrupt movement of the hand triggers a process of many steps... Of the countless movements of switching, inserting, pressing, and the like, the “snapping” of the photographer has had the greatest consequences... The camera gave the moment a posthumous shock, as it were.
It is no accident that the portrait was the focal point of early photography. The cult of remembrance of loved ones, absent or dead, offers a last refuge for the cult value of the picture. For the last time the aura emanates from the early photographs in the fleeting expression of a human face. This is what constitutes their melancholy, incomparable beauty.
For it is another nature that speaks to the camera than to the eye: other in the sense that a space informed by human consciousness gives way to a space informed by the unconscious.
For the first time in the process of pictorial reproduction, photography freed the hand of the most artistic functions that henceforth devolved only upon the eye looking into a lens.
One might say that our most profound moments have been furnished, like some cigarette packages, with a little image, a photograph of ourselves. And that “whole life” which, as we often hear, passes before the dying or people in danger of dying, is composed precisely of those tiny images.
On the rise of photography... a new reality unfolds, in the face of which no one can take responsibility for personal decisions. One appeals to the lens.
Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film [because,] since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was accelerated so enormously that it could keep pace with speech.
The [slowness of early glass plate procedures] caused the subject to focus his life in the moment rather than hurrying on past it; during the considerable period of exposure, the subject (as it were) grew into the picture, in the sharpest contrast with appearances in a snapshot.
Anybody will be able to observe how much more easily a painting, and above all sculpture or architecture can be grasped in photographs than in reality.
Evidently, a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye—if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man.
In my research, my interest has always been with the phenomenal margin, those areas that are not quite landscape, not quite visible, the marginally taboo, the nearly obscene.
One of photography’s early attractions for me was that it was – or could be made to appear to be – almost the same as ordinary vision; or at least it was the closest thing to that the arts offered. It had the illusion of being unmediated seeing, and it was that quality that I wanted to exploit…
In photography, exhibition value begins to replace cult value all along the line. But cult value does not give way without resistance.....
Man is created in the image of God and God’s image cannot be captured by any human machine. Only the divine artist divinely inspired, may be allowed, in a moment of solemnity at the higher call of his genius, to dare to reproduce the divine-human features, but never by means of a mechanical aid ! Here, in all its ponderous vulgarity, treads forth the philistine notion of art, dismissive of every technical consideration yet, sensing its doom as the new technology makes its provocative entry. Nevertheless, it is this fetishistic, fundamentally anti-technical notion of Art which theorists of photography have tussled for almost a century without, of course, achieving the slightest result.
...it was this fetishistic, fundamentally anti-technological concept of art with which the theoreticians of photography sought for almost a hundred years to do battle, naturally without coming to the slightest result. For this view understood nothing except to accredit the photographer before the exact tribunal he had overthrown.
The limits of photography cannot yet be predicted. Everything to do with it is still so new that even initial exploration may yield strikingly creative results. Technical expertise is obviously the tool of the pioneer in this field. The illiterates of the future will be the people who know nothing of photography rather than those who are ignorant of the art of writing.
"The illiteracy of the future," someone has said, "will be ignorance not of reading or writing, but of photography." But shouldn't a photographer who cannot read his own pictures be no less accounted an illiterate? Won't inscription become the most important part of the photograph?
What we must demand from the photographer is the ability to put such a caption beneath his picture as will rescue it from the ravages of modishness and confer upon it a revolutionary use value.
Rather than ask, “What is the attitude of a work to the relations of production of its time?” I should like to ask, “What is its position in them.”
However skillful the photographer, however carefully he poses his model, the spectator feels an irresistible compulsion to look for the tiny spark of chance, of the here and now, with which reality has, as it were, seared the character in the picture; to find that imperceptible point at which, in the immediacy of that long-past moment, the future so persuasively inserts itself that, looking back, we may rediscover it.
The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image that flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.
The creative in photography is capitulation to fashion. The world is beautiful—that is its watchword. Therein is unmasked the posture of photography that can endow a soup can with cosmic significance but cannot grasp a single one of the human connexions in which it exists, even where the most far-fetched subjects are concerned with saleability than insight.
The camera will become smaller and smaller, more and more prepared to grasp fleeting, secret images whose shock will bring the mechanism of association in the viewer to a complete halt. At this point captions must begin to function, captions which understand the photography which turns all the relations of life into literature, and without which all photographic construction must remain bound in coincidences.
[Photography] has succeeded in making even abject poverty, by recording it in a fashionably perfected manner, into an object of enjoyment.
Is it not the task of the photographer—descendent of the augurs and haruspices—to uncover guilt and name the guilty in his pictures?
Only the future has developers at its disposal that are strong enough to bring forth the image in all its details.
To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the “authentic” print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice—politics.
One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind. Both processes are intimately connected with the contemporary mass movements...
I don’t think we need [photography recording a real present] at all, any more; we already know, to the point of ennui, what the world looks like in photographs.
I remember that for some California photography exhibition in the 1980s, someone interviewed Robert Fichter, who described the photo community as being like a lovely little sun-drenched Greek Island. I thought that was really generous. I thought it more Appalachia than Santorini: some dank mountain valley where brothers have been screwing their sisters for generations, and everybody talks a little bit funny.
I use a high-art photographic technique to present views of nothing, that is, of no special interest per se.
I’ve thought that when people appear in a picture, they automatically are perceived as the subject, irrespective of how they are represented. I wanted the only person in the picture to be the viewer.
When you see a group of images together, they create their own context, and, in a sense, their own text.