I have just finished reading a Newsweek article entitled Is Photography Dead. I urge you to go read it, then come back here and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I am going to express my own thoughts on the matter.
I enjoy photography. It lets me capture feelings and emotions in a different way than sketching or painting can. I can immerse myself in mood and feeling, without having to consider medium. With a modern dSRL, I can not only capture an instantaneous fragment of a mood, but I can shoot dozens of frames over a period of seconds, then see how this mood modulates and changes temporally. And all for the cost of a camera. It’s fascinating.
When I first started reading it, I thought the article and I were in agreement, that photography is indeed art.
But then the article declares the death of the medium. It is dead because photography coupled with digitalization now allows photography to transcend capturing the “real” and allows the photographer (no longer an artist, note) to capture what I am going to call the “hyperreal”.
Am I reading this article right? Does it really say that because photography allows the capture of the hyperreal, it is dead. Photography used to be an art because it was intrinsically linked to reality, that its “special claim on a viewers attention” was as “evidence, rooted in reality”. And so now it’s dead?
Painting started as an art-form firmly rooted in the real. Painters painted landscapes and portraits and all manner of things that were firmly real. But along the way, painting started exploring the hyperreal. Some of the most famous paintings in the world are art, and more rooted in hallucinogenic imaginings of mentally ill painters than in any sort of reality. But these paintings are considered more artistic, not less. Was the death of painting declared? I guess it might have been, by someone too inflexible to deal with change. Painting did not die, it merely passed from the confines of a childhood linked to reality to a hyperreal adolescence.
Art is almost impossible to define, but it is easy to define what it isn’t. Art is not about the real. Art is not about medium, or foundations in the real.
Art is about the relationship formed – sometimes across centuries and cultures and distances – between artist and audience. A relationship that transcends the real and becomes hyperreal.
And photography is not dead. It’s just growing up.