Hyperreal Monday December 3, 2007, 15 comments

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.


sarah Monday December 3, 2007

It does seem a somewhat bizarre thing to have done, to have looked at a tool and unilaterally declared its current and future practitioners as outside the realms of art.

jeff Monday December 3, 2007

Man what a smarmy article. Do I get what they are saying? Sure. But you’re right. Just because its not “real” anymore doesn’t mean much. Did Ansel Adams not manipulate the time of his shots an many other aspects of each of his images? Of course he did. He was an artist and was using the camera to show his vision. I’m sure you or I could go to the same spots and not get any shot as close to his. Sure hes our superior but you get my point. The article is silly. I think if anything it may allow for more “art” to come out of photography. Make an image of something and then manipulate it to illustrate your vision.

Adrian Monday December 3, 2007

Exactly Jeff, this is what I was saying. Photography isn’t dead, its growing up.

I expect some amazing things from the medium.

Jorge Tuesday December 4, 2007

I am not a photographyer.
I am not an artist.

I am a photartistographer.

Adrian Tuesday December 4, 2007

No. You’re just weird. The exception proving the rule, or something.

Jorge Thursday December 6, 2007

I am indeed.
I am the proof ruling the exception, though.

Adrian Thursday December 6, 2007

The pudding, so to speak.

Yes. I called you pudding.

Jorge Friday December 7, 2007

As long as it’s not instant, I am cool with that.

Adrian Friday December 7, 2007

What if its J-E-L-L-O pudding?

Can you handle the Cos?

Jorge Friday December 7, 2007

I am a rebel without a Cos, my friend.

Adrian Friday December 7, 2007

That wasn’t even good, Jorge.

You can do better than that.

Jorge Monday December 10, 2007

You don’t like my Huxtaposition?


polaris Thursday December 13, 2007

I am not sure that I would consider Dianne Arbus an example of “realistic” photography, as Peter Plagens does in the article. In a sense, her photos seem to be obsessively controlled. She was rarely a mere spectator and often a meticulous participant in how the subject behaved in her picture. They are less “real” and more “art”, which actually makes your point rather than Plagens’s.

His point about excessive Photoshopping is well taken, but can anyone say that photoshopping (done properly) is not art?

Adrian Friday December 14, 2007

Photoshopping done well is indeed art.

The brush is digital, but it’s still a brush.

I think people just get arrogant about their art, and hate seeing new tools usurp the tools they spent so long mastering.

I can totally understand it, actually.

sarah Friday December 14, 2007

I think your point about Diane Arbus is well taken, polaris. The thing that struck me most about her photos, is her ability to take any happy occasion, and find the one crying child.

Commenting has ended for this post, but I'd still love to hear from you.

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