The very fact that photography possess the power of authentication has brought indefiniteness to its status as a medium. This status as a medium still holds the basis of photography’s evidential nature in every photograph. (Clarke 1997: 53)
I agree to a large extent that there are remnants of 19th Century past in every image. I believe, photography is a tool for representation, it cannot deceive, what I see must be true and I cannot add nor take from it (Marien.M.W 2002: 149). 19th Century photography was mainly base upon the initial idea of authentication. This idea acts as a “certificate of presence” (Barthes.R & Howard.R 2000: 87) through the production of its literal details. People in the 19th Century believed what is seen in the photograph as truth, which was why Fading Away caused a negative reaction because it was assumed to be an actual scene rather than a fabricated one (G.Clarke 1997: 44). Modern photography, due to the industrialization of camera technology, democratize experiences into photographs (Sontag.S 2008: 17). This action of democracy is an act of promoting the evidential nature of capturing a fact of a presence. The general public are using readily available sleek pocket cameras to capture images with the intention of using it for evidential purposes, that “this has been” (Barthes.R & Howard.R 2000: 77), to document their lives. Since to document, means to give evidence (G.Clarke 1997: 145), I agree to the above statement.
Fig. 1: William Henry Fox Talbot. The Open Door 1843
Fig. 2: Jeff Wall. The Stumbling Block 1991
In Fox Talbot image of The Open Door (Fig. 1), objects in the image were arranged to give symbolic and narrative structure (G.Clarke 1997: 42).The Stumbling Block (Fig. 2) was made up of photographs of different scenes that were put together to create a seamless montage (Burnett, C. & Tate Modern 2005: 49). Both photographs share a similar idea in staged effect and were constructed to suggest secondary meanings from its literal from. However, a montage image is not a representation of the scene right before the camera as it is manipulated by digital technology (Burnett, C. & Tate Modern 2005: 49) to combine different scenes (that has a representation of its actual scene) into one. While Open Door is an image that represents the actual scene right before the camera when the photo was taken. This shows that ideas have changed. Modern photography is not constraint within the idea of “record keeping” (Marien.M.W 2002: 31), realism and authentication purposes.
Modern photography took a step further, while still retaining the remnants of 19th century photography in every image. Modern photography has moved towards a more aesthetical and abstract approach. However, no matter how abstract or aesthetical it becomes, “A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture.” (Sontag.S 2008: 5).
List of Illustrations:
Figure 1. TALBOT, William Henry Fox. 1843. 1800-1877 Pencil of Nature Plate VI The Open Door. ARTstor. [online image] Available at: http://library.artstor.org.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/library/ExternalIV.jsp?objectId=8CJGczI9NzldLS1WEDhzTnkrX3krdVN8eiM%3D&fs=true [Accessed on 28th October 2015]
Figure 2. JEFF Wall.1991. The Stumbling Block 1991 Transparency in Lightbox 229×337.5 (90 x 132 7/8) Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto. From: Jeff Wall 2005, pp.48. London: Tate [Accessed on 28th October 2015]
BARTHES, R. & HOWARD, R. 1993. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London: Vintage
BURNETT, C. & Tate Modern (Gallery). 2005. Jeff Wall. London: Tate
GRAHAM, Clarke. 1997. The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press
HABERSTICH, D. 1973. Photography and the Plastic Arts [Online] Falmouth Summon 6(2), p.113-119. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1572686 [Accessed on 16th October 2015]
HARKER, M.F. 1988. Henry Peach Robinson: MASTER OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART, 1830-1901. Oxford: Basil Blackwell
HERON, L. & Williams, V. 1996. Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography From the 1850’s to the Present, Tauris
HULICK, D.E. 1990. The Transcendental Machine? A Comparison of Digital Photography and Nineteenth-Century Modes of Photographic Representation [Online] Falmouth Summon 23(4), p.419-425. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1575345 [Accessed on 16th October 2015]
MARIEN, M.W. 2002. Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King
ORVELL, M. 2003. American Photography. Oxford: Oxford University Press
SONTAG, S. 2008, On photography. London: Penguin