I found, at the bottom of a drawer of youth, an execution (it was a free theme I suppose) whose title was “ photography: document or art”.
I am not sure how old I was, it doesn’t have a date, but I was at the gymnasium, so 15/16 years old. perhaps 17.
we have “deciphered” and transcribed it.
here it is:
Photography, since its inception, has been drawn into two misunderstandings or prejudices that constantly influenced its course throughout history.
These misconceptions are the objectivism and what claims to be impossible to create a true art because of an alleged contamination of the technique and mechanics that are the basis of the photographic process itself.
These are two assumptions that have proven false over time but still possess a number of proselytes: about the supposed impossibility of making art because of mechanical contamination there are many who say it is impossible that there must be an intervention by the photographer in the process and that this must be reduced to a single passive presence.
I would answer the question by saying only that the technique is essential for an autonomous discourse, but it is also essential to an original vision and above all personal that would serve technology to our will.
For example, Raffaello says “Learn your craft, the trade is not enough to become an artist, it is true, but the trade [the technique] is necessary. Do not just eat to live as a man, but you can not live if you do not eat. Art in Italian means first of all trade”.
Therefore the technique is necessary, which may however be subjectively filtered as Rinholds tells it: “In spite of the mechanical means of reproduction involving a number of objective reasons, there were many photographers who have shown their photographic style. These people already know what they want and leaving their original idea is carried through the entire life-cycle until the final stage of printing.”
This first prejudice that I have briefly analysed actually can be found when you are in front of certain stupid photo amateurialism, faced with a situation that you really see the photographer interlocked with certain temptations of technical virtuosity that lead him away from his real and personal aspirations.
About the objectivity of photography the problem is more complex and involves all the progress that photography has had in its existence.
In fact, “objective” can stand for “faithful” and this syllogism has led to many misunderstandings not only in the photojournalistic field but also in the artistic one. In fact, most people have always thought, consciously or more often unconsciously “photography is objective, and is faithful to reality and so all you see in the picture is exactly as it existed in the photograph.”
This bias towards photography was particularly felt at the time of its birth and throughout the 1800s while in our century it has had more than one floor decisive move coming within the limits of the so-called artistic photography.
Let me explain it better: as photography was born it surprised immensely with its ability (supposed) to see the reality as it appears. In fact, the picture found its first practical applications as well as in portraiture, which has its own particular social motivation, not so much in reportage but in the document: the exotic document of facts, unknown or far away places.
Thus we see, for example O’Sullivan wander in America to show the most peculiar and curious aspects, as well as W. H. Jackson or R. Fenton photographing the Crimean War or various photographers from Europe to explore the far eastern lands or the wonders of Egypt.
The photographs these photographers brought home amazed the public that became even more convinced of the miraculous power of pictures: this belief developed into a school of thought that is still alive today and would like the photograph only as a document of reality. Of our lives.
All studies critics now insist only on this: paradigmatic example is the American critic S. Sontag that makes this thought her bases.
Even the so-called artistic photograph and the one not taken under precise commissions is analysed as if subjected to this standard and great photographers are analysed solely as documentary filmmakers.
This concept leads Sontag to sociological considerations that I think can not be valid for any type of photography: here is an example of what she writes in her essay “On Photography”: “Each photograph is a memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in mortality, vulnerability and mutability of another person or thing “and still” looking at a photograph means first think how much younger I was (or it was) then. Photography is the inventory of mortality. Just a flick of the finger to grant a moment posthumous irony. The photographs show people who are there for a specific age in their lives”. Or it confirms that photography is giving a prevalence, an importance to something over another.
All this is true, absolutely true, but be careful, only for one type of photography (which is the most widespread at all levels): a photograph taken to astonish in its contemplation and, above all, to astonish others; the beautiful picture, nice to look at, but everything in a passive and not active because the photograph won’t be pleasant and beautiful per se, but the object photographed (concept also well mentioned by Turroni in his essay “Guide the photographic criticism “).
The normal and calm amateur photographer photographs not so much to express his true inner drive, but to have a safe and decisive witness of his vision of a given fact or a certain something. And so in ten minutes he’ll go from shooting fiery red sunsets to photographing old ladies with “many fine wrinkles”: all things that are not related if not by the desire to surprise and amaze the photographer.
But there is another photography, very different from that analysed by Sontag. In fact the complete opposite. Its the photograph that we can truly say that the great A. Stieglitz invented, the American photographer who lived in the early ‘900. He created the concept of “equivalents” that not only precisely led to an original photo but also to a total new way of thinking and doing photography.
The concept of “equivalents” is simple: when Stieglitz, for example, was photographing clouds, those clouds were not for him the closing point of his photographic investigation but the beginning, since they represented something different, abstract, on another level.
The photograph became true expression, true potential, active and creative, real investigative tool, we can also say, philosophical.
Stieglitz fact, for example, said: “I was born in Halsocken. I’m an American. Photography is my passion. The search for truth my obsession. “
Our in this is very similar to painting in fact in his own gallery, the “291”, introduces the avant-garde painting of his time.
Stieglitz’s photography is the one on which Sontag throws herself onto who, always in her essay “On Photography” talking about Evans writes: “Evans wanted his photographs were cultured, authoritative, and transcendent. But since the moral universe of the thirties is no longer ours, today these adjectives are almost unbelievable. No one can imagine how a picture can be authoritative. No one asks anymore for it to be cultured. No one understands anymore how anything, let alone a photograph, can be transcendent …. “
Thus two distinct types of photography are created, shall we say, one artistic and the other documentary.
This division, however, is often not based on precise patterns while what I would like to achieve is to give schemes almost scientific to differentiate sharply the two sectors. To make this more streamlined lets call the first artistic photography A, while the second, the documentary one B.
As a substantial division lets begin by saying that A is the pure expression of feelings and human passions, while B is a documentation of situations. If someone told me that even in B you could catch a glimpse of the feelings of the author of the photographs, I would answer to these objections by noting that these feelings surely are noticeable and detectable but only by reflection because of the way, the technique in which the photographer has photographed and therefore interpreted the given situation, but it is not a genuine expression, its criticism!
Moving on, we will say that B is the killing of the photographed object (as R. Barthers argues) because it, once photographed and analysed by the viewer, is completely consumed, its function is exhausted.
In A instead of the object is the starting point and thus it is vivification.
As a consequence of these last considerations we also say that A captures the moment in which the object becomes the subject while the B captures the moment in which the subject becomes the object.
In addition, we can also say that A brings out the emotions while B brings about the notions; also A represents situations that are totally unrecognisable and subjective because in this type of photography you photograph not to show others and themselves a something new or lived, but to express personal feelings that need only satisfy the author. In contrast, B represents situations which necessarily must be recognisable and objective.
Another important consideration is that A does not have and should not present a situation as it is, but teases, alludes to trigger in receiver a VERY PERSONAL act of EMOTION. Instead, B does not tease at all but instead it tears decisions, it confronts well-defined facts that in their turn give precise convictions.
On this point, for example, Fulvio Roiter says “photography does not have to refer, nor suggest, it must show with clarity.”
If we now move on a plane of linguistic analysis also in this case we are faced with substantial differences between the two types of photography. First, we say that B is related to extraphotographic factors (language, culture, etc.) that profoundly affect reading, while A contains all morphological units. Therefore it is deduced that A is a unicum, with its own particular code, which is the photograph itself, while in B all photographs of the same sky are tied to a particular code. So we see then a very important thing ie that A is completely universal while b is universal only on a primary level. In A, the only thing you should be aware visually is what is represented in the primary level (for example, a man who has always lived in a cave will never be moved by the picture of a cloud, which he has never seen: in this case takes over the photographic document).
Therefore we can deduce that A is the means of communication while B is a communication system and therefore language (see distinctions of Mounin). And while in A the primary and secondary level are the same, in B they coexist.
We have seen then how diversified the two types of photography are. It is not simple to distinguish them, since it is said that a photograph does not belong to exactly one group or another and I think it is sufficiently useless to analyse it to put a photo in a particular section, albeit intermediate.
However, it is absolutely necessary to make a judgment of this kind with regard to an author, to examine not only one picture but many that if they belong to B they will be linked by a single reading code, while if in A they will be together by a lack of code.
Giving a judgment of value on the two types of doing and understanding photography taken into account may not make much sense, and it is certainly wrong to state categorically that a particular type of photography is better or worse than the other.
But I will not refrain from mentioning a small excerpt from Zibaldone Leopardi: “The present, however it may be, can not be poetic, and the poetic, in one way or another it always finds itself consisting in the distance, in the undefined, in the vague “…