Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Face, Meet Palm

It's FacePalm time! That's right: toss the palm of your hand over your face, and repeat after me: Not This Crap Again.

Is Photography Dead?

"Art and truth used to be fast friends. Until the beginning of modernism, the most admired quality in Western art was mimesis—objects in painting and sculpture closely resembling things in real life. William Henry Fox Talbot, who produced the first photographic prints from a negative in 1839, immediately saw the mimetic new medium as an art form. Talbot wanted only to be able to "draw" more accurately than by hand. In fact, he called his first book of reproduced photographs "The Pencil of Nature." For at least a century thereafter, any photograph with a claim to being art had in its DNA at least a few chromosomes from Talbot's "The Open Door" (1844), a picture of a tree-branch broom leaning just-so-esthetically against a dark doorway."
I've said again and again that thinking that a flat, black and white rectangular representation of a fraction of a second is a "true" thing -- when we know the world to be three-dimensional, in color, and continuous -- is a pointless way to relate to photographs.

Yet in this week's Newsweek Magazine, here's this essay.... It's real achievement: misunderstanding both the history of art AND the history of photography. Usually, at best one can be completely wrong about one or the other. At least in the same essay.

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