Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What's special about photography?

Isobel Armstrong praises photography; and a certain person’s justification of her obsession with (her own) images.

“The very fact that [the photograph] emerges from a fleeting moment in time means that that time is irrevocably lost. Even to exchange the photographed rose with the real rose a few hours later is to expose the delicate ravage of time in a disposition of pollen or fallen petal or the transformation of light. Photographs are celebrations of the uniqueness of every moment of being, every configuration of shadow and substance, and an elegy upon them. The permanent structures guaranteed by the physics of light, and the impermanent moment when the light never again falls in exactly the same way, are its dialectic. Photographs are as heavily mediated as paintings, depending on light, camera angle, the grain of paper, the mood of the artist. Photographs of the same object by different people are always different, utterances about the play of light, universes exposed in a single lens, epiphanies of transcience.”

–Isobel Armstong's The Radical Aesthetic, p. 8


  1. The other t said: “Photographs are as heavily mediated as paintings” – yes, they are. It is interesting that many people still see photographs as realistic reflections of reality, much more so than any other art form (with the exception of film), even though they are not.

  2. Shadowy Figure said: A photograph is always a projection, capturing a 4-dimensional target into 2 dimensions frozen in time. A bit like making shadow puppets with your fingers, creating illusions of rabbits or dogs or people or whatnot by manipulating the angle of the projection. Of course, the art of photography is a bit more nuanced than that, but I belive that in principle that is what distinguishes it from painting which is creation of images from nothing but the artists’ imagination.

  3. But if an uncertain magic
    drew patterns of light and dark
    Capturing a vision of time
    Would it have been time enough
    To rest upon a pillow
    Or throw off a ragged life
    And turning instead
    Towards the light
    Should I say instead
    That I knew not what it meant
    In this uncertain time



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