Authors, Bernd Stiegler
15.01.–29.02.2012
6. Invisibility

Perhaps photographs stemming from worlds invisible to the human eye are precisely those that we tend to perceive as real. The realm of the unseen is often the most “real.” It is a sphere that we endow with such trust due to the appearance of its images, that we not only allow ourselves to be guided by such photographs but we also use them to make consequential decisions. more

Published: 20.02.2012
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5. Form

Form might seem to be the absolute worst candidate as a means of reflecting on and mapping out photographic realism. But isn’t this simply a reflexive response based on an interpretive tradition that associates form with simulation and the formless snapshot with the captured moment as evidence? On the one side is an entire tradition extending from the difficulty in controlling the overwhelming richness of details in the early phase of the medium, to snapshots, press photography and social documentary. On the other is the opposite, an approach working with controlled, well-composed images (such as those of Rejlander or Peach Robinson), the golden mean, or painterly parameters. One the one side is the unpredictability of the moment, which for this very reason is perceived as being “realistic”. On the other is the imperative to control form, which is therefore viewed as “art” and not as “nature” or “reality.” more

Published: 13.02.2012
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4. Practice

Up until now photography has perhaps been conceived too much in terms of images, and its social function has been neglected. But ultimately it is the way photography is used that affirms or negates its realism. In talking about photographic realism, one should not talk about the images but about photographic practices. Practical application decides the function of photography and defines its epistemic fields of reference. It decides about good and evil, conviction and rejection, images and their meaning. more

Published: 05.02.2012
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3. Order

When I recently visited the Diane Arbus exhibition in Paris (to be shown at Fotomuseum Winterthur from March 3 till May 28, 2012), I realized to a greater extent than ever before that Arbus in effect stages a photographic order of the world in a highly ostentatious manner. She uses photography to define, critique, and ultimately subvert the order of the world, which, in and of itself, is only first perceived and shown through photography. If one were to create a list of her criteria for this order, it would be long: fat - thin, young - old, person - doll, alive - dead, original - copy, black - white, face - mask, naked - clothed, idyll - horror, war - peace, inside - outside, singular - double, observed - observing, human - animal, friend - foe, original - copy, tragedy - comedy, private - public, dwarf - giant.  more

Published: 29.01.2012
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2. Reflection

A second approach for considering photographic realism is to define photography as a “reflective medium.” In a theoretical context, this term (“Reflexionsmedium”) featured prominently in Walter Benjamin’s dissertation Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik (The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism). Benjamin writes, “Reflection constitutes the absolute and constitutes it as a medium” (“Die Reflexion konstituiert das Absolute und sie konstituiert es als ein Medium”). [Walter Benjamin, Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik, ed. Uwe Steiner, p. 39.] He continues: as the absolute, reflection is a “metaphysical credo” (“metaphysisches Credo”) that claims to be the “interpretation of all things real” (“Deutung alles Wirklichen“)[p. 67]. What for Benjamin is the absolute, is, in my opinion, replaced by the concept of the real or realism in photography. more

Published: 22.01.2012
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1. Imperfection

In looking at both contemporary exhibitions as well as photographs as they are used in everyday aesthetic applications, one notices that imperfection plays a key role. Far removed from the ideals of the Group f/64, New Objectivity, or even the Bechers and their school, to name a few positions, photographs that consciously employ technical errors have become common sense in photography. There are photographers who use deficient cameras; Lomography aficionados sell their photographs along with this type of camera in stores in major cities; snapshots are in demand, and blurriness is the aesthetic rule. Imperfection is the new ideal of contemporary photography, even if celebrated, staged, and represented in a kind of perfection. My thesis is that imperfection serves as the contemporary modus of the real in photography. more

Published: 11.01.2012
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