What does it profit the photograph to be accepted as a work of art? Does this dubious elevation in market value enhance or diminish what is intrinsically photographic? There is little that is new in this practice but much that is alien to photography. The photographer, not the photograph, becomes the collectible.
If there is a common photographic dilemma, it lies in the fact that so much has been seen, so much has been “taken,” there appears to be less to find. The visible world, vast as it is, through overexposure has been devalued.
In the anonymous photograph, the loss of the photographer often proves to be a gain. We see only the photograph.
The camera eye is the one in the middle of our forehead, combining how we see with what there is to be seen.
However varying their points of view, all photographers share the common field of vision that the mind’s eye, and the camera’s eye has imposed on this century... The camera’s eye combines how we see with whatever there is to be seen. What it has in mind for us may not at all be what we have in mind for ourselves.
Images proliferate. Am I wrong in being reminded of printing money in a period of wild inflation? Do we know what we are doing? Are we able to evaluate what we have done?
The vast number of photographers, feeding on anything visible, overgraze the landscape the way cattle overgraze their pasture.
What we sense to be wondrous, on occasion awesome, as if in the presence of the supernatural, is the impression we have of seeing what we have turned our backs on.
Let us imagine a tourist from Rome, on a conducted tour of the provinces, who takes a snapshot of the swarming unruly mob at Golgotha, where two thieves and a rabble rouser are nailed to crosses. The air is choked with dust and the smoke of campfires. Flames glint on the helmets and spears of the soldiers. The effect is dramatic, one that a photographer would hate to miss. The light is bad, the foreground is blurred, and too much is made of the tilted crosses, but time has been arrested, and an image recorded, that might have diverted the fiction of history. What we all want is a piece of the cross, if there was such a cross. However faded and disfigured, this moment of arrested time authenticates, for us, time’s existence. Not the ruin of time, nor the crowded tombs of time, but the eternal present in time’s every moment. From this continuous film of time the camera snips the living tissue. So that’s how it was. Along with the distortions, the illusions, the lies, a specimen of the truth.
[The] recombining of the visual and the verbal, full of my own kind of unpeopled portraits, sought to salvage what I considered threatened, and to hold fast to what was vanishing.
In the photographer’s aspiration to be an “artist” does he enlarge his own image at the expense of the photograph?
What photographs usually do, more than anything else, is authenticate... existence. Authentication, not enlargement or interpretation is what we want.