Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the other hand...

Both Elisa and I really like Christopher Allen's writing for The Weekend Australia although these comments from the January 17-18 Edition left me in a bit of an 'off' mood.
Photography has many limitations as an art and a few virtues. The chief of these is the guarantee of some kind of factual truth. When it is relinquished, it is astonishing how quickly the seriousness of the photographer's witness evaporates. If you are trying to tell the truth, you cannot afford any of these tricks. The work empties of authority and we are left with images as futile as the work of amateurs with Photoshop.

I understand his broader comments on Gursky's occassional 'coldness' and the spectacle aspect of the work yet find that particular brushstroke disquietingly wide.

This especially so given the extensive theoretical discourse on objectivity, the lack of passive vision, 'truth' and context. A photograph has as little to do with truth as a painting, drawing or sculpture.

Or as Andrew Frost from Artlife put it...
Nah ... what we want is for the photographer’s work to be seen to be telling us something, and hopefully to do it with a degree of subtlety.

From a journalistic standpoint - which Gursky most certainly is not - do we then also return to the futile argument about how a story should be told... is an image of a slaughtered child a more effective and 'truthful' tool to illustrate a story or the apathy/boredom of soldiers on that same day?

Credit: Moises Saman for The New York Times.

Whose truth is then the 'right' truth? If something is bathed in beautiful light, slightly burred or skewed is that untruthful? What of context? Is it less truthful if the soldiers are in front of lush fields whilst the 'others' are bathed in dust?

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