Seeking For Ariadne In The Post-Modern Labyrinth

Submitted By akucinskaite
Words: 1861
Pages: 8

Seeking for Ariadne in the post-modern labyrinth
Nowadays there are numerous different attempts to play with the roles of photography. In the early years seen as a reliable tool to document the surrounding world, the relationship between reality and photography has been questioned. Artists like Jeff Wall, Tom Hunter, Hannah Starkey and many others make falsified photography documents when exploring broader themes of perception, authenticity, notion of every day or other cultural issues. This essay will examine two French artists Sophie Calle and Mohamed Bourouissa, who examines photography as a document. But before that I believe it is necessary to explore the origins of such critique. Photography because of its mechanic nature has been associated with science. British medical doctor and amateur photographer Hugh Welch Diamond addressed the royal society in 1856 stating, “photography’s scientific objectivity would give it historical importance” (Warner Marien, 2014, p. 36). There were numerous scientists who used the media to illustrate their works: famous motion studies by E. J. Muybridge, ethnological research by L. Agassiz, experimentation in biology by A. Atkins and others. However, even at that time the relationship between photography and scientific truth was problematic. For example, it is known that many photographs of mental patients were made for scientific study, but sometimes they were used to raise money for the asylum too. This could mean that having such a purpose would diminish the objectivity of the image since you are trying to affect the viewer as much as possible. What is more, some of the scientific photographs were falsified – French physician and neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot studies of women suffering hysteria was nothing else as people acting out (Warner Marien, 2014). Relationship between photography and the documentation of every day was no less complicated. Starting with a lack of technical abilities, it left the Boulevard du Temple deserted by people and the portrayed models looking unnaturally strained. Gradually, photographers were able to shoot quicker, produce and reproduce the image better. The role of media increased. Artists conveyed the positive moods of the Roaring Twenties and utopian societies, documented the horrible years of Great Depression and World Wars. However, “we have indeed learned to fix shadows, but not to secure their meanings or to stabilize their truth values; they still flicker on the walls of Plato’s cave” (Mitchell, 1994, p.225) Many documentary photographs are suspected or known to be falsified (see figure 1 and figure 2). What is more, others are criticized to be subjective, as by their nature photography is already never innocent, but ideologically loaded, fragmentized part of reality (Godfrey, 1998). According to the physics of photography, one can not find much truth there too: “the light reflected from water, mirrors, metal, or narrow edges of almost any object, may be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times more intense that the light coming from the same source reflected from other surfaces in the corresponding picture. The perceptual impact of these contrast restrictions is to make pictures look flatter than the scenes they represent” (Mullen, 1998, p.5). These critiques intensified in the post-modern era. The early years of the period in West were the times of “underlying tension and social malaise” (Godfrey, 1998, p.85). Thirty-two newly independent countries, the space race between SSRS and USA, the Berlin wall was built in 1961, Americans marched the streets of Washington of black and white inequality in 1963 and students’ riots happened in Paris in 1968, two World Wars after-effects. Society could no longer believe “in all we have based our lives on: friends, family, job, beliefs” (Godfrey, 1998, p.14). At the same time, the role of television increased and as once photography replaced painting need to convey surrounding world