Monday, March 30, 2009

This is Not a Pipe

Photography is the great democratic medium. Anyone can do it. You don't need artistic talent or training, you just need to know how to trip the shutter on your camera. Everyone seems to be taking pictures and these pictures show up in print and on local blogs, Facebook and Flickr. But all photographs are not created equal. Some photographs are more equal than others. What is it that makes a photograph compelling? In the book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Roland Barthes, talks in depth about what makes a good photograph.

..all we can say is that the object [the photograph] speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think. And further: even this risks being perceived as dangerous. At the limit, no meaning at all is safer: the editors of Life rejected Kertesz’s photographs when he arrived in the United States in 1937 because, they said, his images “spoke too much”; they made us reflect, suggested a meaning – a different meaning from the literal one. Ultimately, Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels or stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.

Photographs have both a denotation and a connotation. The denotation is the obvious, literal meaning. The connotation is the symbolic or metaphoric meaning. Below are images from
Andre Kertesz. Do these images "speak too much"?

Andre Kertesz, Martinique

Andre Kertesz - Satiric Dancer, 1926.

Rene Magritte, 1928-29, The Treachery of Images

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