Allan Sekula – The Traffic In Photographs

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

How can we wprk towards an active, critical understanding of the prevailing conventions of representation, particularly those surrounding photography? The discourse that surrounds photography speaks paradoxically of discipline and freedom, of rigorous truths and unleashed pleasures. Here then, at least by virtue of a need to contain the tensions inherent in this paradox, is the site of a certain shell game, a certain dance, even a certain politics….

…By discourse, then, I mean the forceful play of tacit beliefs and formal conventions that situates us, as social beings, in various responsive and responsible attitudes to the semiotic workings of photography. In itself constrained, determined by, and contributing to “larger” cultural, political, and economic forces, this discourse both legitimates and directs the multiple flows of the traffic in photographs. It quitlely manages and constrains our abilities to produce and consume photographic imagery, while often encouraging, especially in its most publicized and glamorous contemporary variants, an apparently limitless semiotic freedom, a timeless dimension of aesthetic appreciation. Encoded in academic and “popular” texts, books…etc…this discourse exerts a force that is simultaneously material and symbolic, inextricably linking language and power….

…Above all else, the ideological force of photographic art in modern society may lie in the apparent reconciliation of human creative energies with a scientifically guided process of mechanization, suggesting that despite the modern industrial division of labor, and specifically despite the industrialization of cultural work, despite the historical obsolescence, marginalization, and degradation of artisanal and manual modes of representation, the category of the artist lives on the exercise of purely mental imaginative command over the camera.

From Modernism and Modernity, The Vancouver Conference Papers Mar 1981, The Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 2004.


From modernism and photography..

January 8, 2010 1 comment

The invention of photography was part of the process of modernization of the means of production that took place during the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century, more and more goods once made by hand, including images, became machine made. Photography is a modern form of image making, contributing to the development of modernism, for example in painting, by taking on its representational tasks.

By the beginning of the 20th century, with the diffusion of illustrated magazines and newspapers, photography was a mass- communication medium. Photojournalism acquired authority and glamour, and document-like photographs were used in advertising as symbols of modernity. Artists and photographers began looking at the photographs used in mass culture, to develop an aesthetic true to the intrinsic qualities of photographic materials: the accurate rendition of visible reality; framing that crops into a larger spatial and temporal context; viewpoints and perspectives generated by modern lenses and typically modern spatial organizations (for example, tall buildings); and sharp, black-and-white images. This objective, mechanized vision became art by foregrounding not its subject matter, but its formal structure as an image.

In the USA, Alfred Stieglitz rejected the hand-crafted look of pictorialism, in favour of a more ‘straight’ photography (The Steerage, 1907). In Camera Work, he championed photographers who used the realism of the medium to create beauty from everyday life, and to make statements about the nature of photography, rather than about the world; (Paul Strand, Blind Woman, 1916). Their work often abstracted reality by eliminating social or spatial context; by using viewpoints that flattened pictorial space, acknowledging the flatness of the picture plane; and by emphasizing shape and tonal rendition in highlights and shadows as much as in the actual subject matter (Edward Weston, Nude, 1936).

In Europe, avant-garde artists sought to break down traditional definitions of art, and the barriers between art and design, often with the utopian aim to merge art with everyday life. They also questioned the notion of artistic identity based on the myth of the artist as a special kind of being emoting over a canvas in the isolation of a studio. Instead, they embraced technologically advanced means of production, developed mixed-media practices, and often engaged with social and political issues. At the Bauhaus, László Moholy-Nagy explored the abstract possibilities of photographic and cinematic images. In Soviet Russia, Alexander Rodchenko’s work (Chauffeur, 1933) advocated a new aesthetic vision that would change individual and mass consciousness. He emphasized the constructedness of images, rejecting the illusion that photographic representations could be an unproblematic mirror of reality. The use of reflective surfaces is a common modernist device to reveal how every viewpoint, artistic or ideological, is constructed rather than natural. In Italy, the Futurists exploited blurred movement to celebrate the speed and dynamism of modern life. In Berlin and throughout Europe, Dadaist photomontage was used to challenge the authority of mass-cultural representations.

The development of modernist photography has often involved the recategorization of documentary or otherwise functional photographs in an art context. An example is the posthumous redefinition of Eugène Atget as a modernist photographer, first by Surrealist magazines, then by Berenice Abbott’s exhibitions and articles. A similar process can be seen in the use of social documentary photographs in the Family of Man exhibition.

In the post-1945 period, American modernism became dominant in the West, emphasizing specialization and purity, and downplaying the political engagement of earlier avant-garde groups: to be modern, each discipline had to refine the definition of its own competencies. Photography became art by transcending its reality- bearing function through the subjectivity that photographers, as authors of their images, managed to instil in their pictures. The writings of the art critic Clement Greenberg and the photographic historian Beaumont Newhall, and the exhibitions mounted by MoMA, New York, emphasized formal and aesthetic qualities that defined ‘masters’ and ‘canonical’ images that transcended their historical and social context. A tradition of essential photographic values was identified for successive photographers to explore and push to further limits. This ‘authorial’ approach is often contrasted with the theories of photographic meaning developed since the late 1970s. It does not follow from this, however, that modernism did not theorize about photography; rather that it did so implicitly, using a critical language of universal values which erased the traces of its own ideological construction.

— Patrizia di Bello


  • Nesbit, M., “‘Photography, Art and Modernity’”, in J. C. Lemagny and A. Rouillé (eds.), A History of Photography (1987).
  • Varnedoe, K., A Fine Disregard: What Makes Modern Art Modern (1989).
  • Harrison C., and Wood, P. (eds.), Art in Theory 1900-1990 (1992).
  • Edwards, S., “‘Photography and Modernity in Nineteenth- Century France’”, in P. Wood (ed.), The Challenge of the Avant-Garde (1999).
  • Childs, P., Modernism (2000)

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Jacques Ranciere-Future of the Image

January 8, 2010 1 comment

“”Image” therefore refers to two different things. There is the simple relationship that produces likeness of an original:not necessarily its faitfull copy, but simply what suffices to stand for it. And there is the interplay of operations that produces what we call art: or precisely an alteration of resemblance……The images of art are operations that produces discrepency, a dissemblance. Words describe what eye might see or express what it will never see; they deliberately clarify or obscure an idea. Visible forms yield a meaning to be constructed or substract it. A camera movement antcipates one spectacle and discloses a different one. A pianist attacks a musical phrase “behind” a dark screen. All the relations define images. This means 2 things. In the first place, the images of art are, as such, dissemblances. Secondly, the image is not exclusive to the visible. There is visibility that does not amount to an image; there are images which consist wholly words. But the commonest regime of the image is one that presents a relationship between the sayable and the visible, a relationship which plays on both the analogy and the dissemblance between them. The visible can be arranged in meaningful tropes; words deploy a visibility that can be blinding….”

Jacques Ranciere- The Future of the Image, Page 7 , Published by Verso

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fotograf artık varolana tanıklık etmek yerine resim gibi yokolanı sıfırdan varetmek yoluna gitmektedir..diyebilecek miyim? Abstract..

January 5, 2010 1 comment

Acceptance and Rejection of Indexicality; Photography as Art, as a Storyteller, as a  Visual Language

Photography can be used as a visual language. Apart from the sign, signified and referrent relationships, it can be treated as a tool to create a language, a way of transferring information via visuality. Photography, also acts as a fossil of time an evidence which captures a limited time. Computers and technological advancements like faster Cpu’s, more flexible programs, HDR, photo editing software, Panorama softwares undermine the truthfulness, reliability of the Photograph as an evidence, as a fossil in time, on the contrary this advancments allow the photographer to create its own fossils, relics in time, in the photographers own language.

This paper will research through the history of photography and the history of Art Historical writings on photography and image making, and try to find a balance between 2 different approaches to photography, modern and postmodern while trying to explore the issues of indexicality and theatricality and literacy in making of photographs.

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Düşünceler /yorumlar

December 21, 2009 1 comment

-Bahsettiğim kitaptan ve referans olarak kullandığı başka bir kitaptan 2 bölüm ekledim. biraz uzun ama ilginizi çekeceğini düşünüyorum.
-Still life demek isterken aslında NaturMorte a gönderme yapmak istedim..yani natürmort daha uygun bi kelime bence. Ölüm, bozulma (decay),yeni bir gerçeklik yaratma gibi konulara giriyor aslında. HDR portrelerimde (özne) kullandığım, geliştirdiğim, lisanı, aynı gramer ögeleriyle çiçek(nesne) de kullanmaya çalıştım.
Bu iş Visiting Artist studio dersinin sergisinde Belkısın Müjde Apartmanı projesinde Müjde Hanımın kuzeni Bilge Hanımın oğlu Hikmet Bey tarafından yapıldı.(Yani öyle gözükecek.) FineArt kağıda veya normal fotoğraf kağıdına basılıp, genelde resim sunmakta kullanılan, sarı altın çerçeve içinde sunulacak.

Yani aslında, Amerikaya gidip 1950 ve 60 larda eğitim görmüş bir kişinin işleri olacak(Abstract Expressionism’in dorukta olduğu aralar). Ama Ülke içine girdiğinde, tekrar bir değişime uğrayıp burada tekrardan sarı altın çerçevede sergileniyor olması da ayrı bir eleştiri.

Fotografik açıdan bakıldığında, yüklediğim metinlerde dönüp dolaşılıp üzerinde durulan indexicality, theatricality antitheatricality meselesiyle örtüşmekte. (ki diğer işlerimde örtüşmekte olduğunu gördüm.) Buralarda bir yerde bir yanlış yapıyorum farkındayım bir şey eksik onu bulmaya çalışıyorum, çalışıyoruz:) .

Yani fotograftaki signifier signified ilişkkilerinden tamamen olmasada kurtulup, (post-modern bağlamda), -burada bahsetmek istediğim Barthes ın studium, punctum ikilisinden kurtulmak aslında- yeni bir şeyler söyleyebilmek, söylemek.

Postmodernism in biraz ağlak, biraz tutucu, eskiye bağlı, kısacası seküler olmayan, durumundan kurtulmak gerektiğine inanıyorum. Avantgarde demek belki biraz iddialı olabilir ama, Clement Greenberg, kitap daha gelmesede okuduğum bir kaç dokümandan modernism i avantgarde la eşleştiriyor.(Bu tam doğru olmayabilir ama kabaca böyle.) [İmpressionism, Symbolism, Post-impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract expressionism…gelişmesindeki gibi..]

İş külliyatım açısından, emeklemekte olan bir dilim olduğunu düşünüyorum. HDR portrelerle başlayıp, bugüne gelen…Bu işlerde nüans yapamıyorum halen. Portrelerimde belki artık yapabilirim..ama sanırım, mekan hdr denemelerimde eğer tutarlı cümleler kurabilirsem, yani bu lisanımın dilbilgisini oturtuktan sonra, elimde artık yeni kelimeler ve cümleler oluşabileceğini zannediyorum..

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Michael Fried Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before_Yale Univ. Press

December 21, 2009 1 comment

This is where i started. This is the conclusion part of M.Fried’s book. I think the issues of indexicality and theatricality is equilivalent and more correct of my us of “storytelling”.

Photograph And Fossils / Walter Benn Michaels

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The last essay of the Photography Theory. ed. Elkins, John. The beginning and the end are crucial..I really want to hear your opinions. I totatlly agree with the writer…I will upload another essay tonight…

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