Fotomuseum Winterthur has a wonderful blog, STILL SEARCHING which explores the changing nature of photography though posts by historians, artists and theorists. Artist Trevor Paglen looks at the the state of photography as the medium continues to shift in too many ways to count.
What was interesting to me about Paglen’s article was that he avoids a technological discussion of how photographs are being made (i.e. analog vs. digital) and instead asks whether “photography and seeing” are becoming synonymous?”
Ultimately, it’s this change in our relationship to photographs that is most interesting to explore. As a practitioner I discovered that while documenting the demise of the photographic industry over the last decade I not only experienced radical shifts in the ways I made photographs but more importantly how I viewed them after the fact. My biggest dilemma became not what technology to use but rather about how to make meaningful photographs in a world that was suddenly saturated with photographic imagery. As Paglen suggests “traditional approaches to doing-photography and thinking-about-photography feel increasingly anachronistic”
I agree but also wonder how the anachronistic elements of the medium will be redefined in the 21st century. I can’t help but think we are all re-living the experience of the 19th century French painter, Paul Delaroche, who upon seeing the first photograph in 1839 ran into the street and declared, “From today painting is dead”. Painting didn’t die but its relationship to reality was fundamentally altered forever which, in turn, allowed painters the opportunity to explore new dimensions of their medium. Will this history repeat itself with photography as it transitions into “old media”. Perhaps it is time for a new – New Vision.