In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling
Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…

In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.

— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling

Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…

@1 month ago with 20 notes
#Photography #Martin Kollar #Criticism #John Berger #Realism #Theory #Politics #Documentary photography 

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

Consequently the uncommon experience of those moments which defy time is now denied by everything which surrounds them. Such moments have ceased to be like windows looking across history towards the timeless. Experiences which prompt the term for ever have now to be assumed alone and privately. Their role has been changed: instead of transcending, they isolate. The period in which photography has developed corresponds to the period in which this uniquely modern anguish has become commonplace.

Yet fortunately people are never only the passive objects of history. And apart from popular heroism, there is also popular ingenuity. In this case such ingenuity uses whatever little there is at hand, to preserve experience, to re-create an area of “timelessness”, to insist upon the permanent. And so, hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy.

The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time.

— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling(1984).

@1 month ago with 36 notes
#Photography #Art #John Berger #Criticism #Subjectivity #Time #History #Positivism #Productivism #Neoliberalism #Inspiration 

Part one of a three part panel discussion on the critical work of John Berger, centred on the forthcoming publication by Aperture of a collection his essays on photography, titled Understanding a Photograph.

@3 months ago with 41 notes
#Photography #Panel Discussion #John Berger #Geoff Dyer #Aperture #Wendy Lesser #Lawrence Weschler #Christophe Agou 

A brief but typically illuminating conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and John Berger, followed by a reading from his wonderful essay in response to the London Looting of the summer of 2011, The Time We Live, from the “Memory Marathon" of 2012 at The Serpentine, London.

@6 months ago with 69 notes
#Art #Literature #Culture #John Berger #Hans Ulrich Obrist #The Serpentine #London Riots 2012 #Consumerism #History #Identity #Ideology #Narrative 

"

For the serious photographer with a confirmed belief in the artistic worth of ‘straight’ photography – the so-called ‘poetic documentary’ mode – these are trying times. More than ever, most of the world seems to think that the simple photograph is not enough. The photographic artist who still stubbornly works within the broad tradition of Atget or Weston, even Frank or Friedlander, is deemed wilfully anachronistic, a member of a mutated, almost extinct species.

The straight photographer certainly is an endangered species. Reviled either openly or covertly, and frequently passed over in favour of those utilising the medium for conspicuously more grandiose ends. These days, the straight photographer’s nominally modest, ‘unambitious’ [works] tend to be swamped by the serried ranks of vainglorious photofabrications and moronic pieces of minimalist conceptualism masquerading as the ‘real thing.’ (…)

Of course, I am deliberately oversimplifying the issue. I also wish that it were unnecessary to take such a reactionary tack, but I feel that a little revisionism is in order. An artist’s medium should not be the ground for value judgements and ideological conflict. The art, yes – the medium itself, no. Yet that is precisely what has happened, and what is happening with photography. Certain ideological applications of photographic processes, namely, where the primacy of the photograph is denigrated and challenged, are held to be superior to the documentary utilisation of the medium. The photo-hybrid – photopainting, photosculpture, the ubiquitous conceptual photo ‘piece’ – is seen as the only valid notional approach. There are signs of active discrimination against the straight photograph and the plainly veristic practice from both within and without the photographic enclave.

Yet, so many of those seeking to ‘extend the boundaries of the medium’, and refute the ‘hegemony of the documentary’, are fooling themselves. Whether deliberately or unknowingly (often the latter I suspect), they would seek to deny photography’s salient strengths and replace them with a diluted academicism. Much of what they trot forth as shining examples of the medium’s cutting edge are simply tired old ideas (intellectually kosher ideas, to be sure) wrapped in glossy new packages and bound with accompanying rhetoric. Invariably – lots of rhetoric.

"

Excerpted from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger, (1987, Creative Camera magazine).

The foregoing argument from Gerry Badger, which dates back to a profoundly turbulent moment of political and economic strife in 1987, struck me recently as being both relevant and accurate in terms of many aspects of the contemporary state of fine art photography. In many ways history, on a political and economic level, has repeated itself in the intervening thirty years. So too it seems —  perhaps predictably — has the history of contemporary art.

To be clear, the issue is plainly not a zero sum game, which is to say as the literary critic Lorna Sage did: “[t]here is room to live intellectually, in other words, without having to compete over who’s more marginal than whom." That said, it seems a certain persistent mistrust, or a certain disdain of the virtues of ‘straight’ photography remains characteristic of the uneven terrain of critical discussion about the medium more generally. There are greater comforts to be found in the armature of conceptualised abstraction than in the complex ambiguities of the documentary image.

Badger’s avowedly extreme characterisation of experimental approaches to the photographic image also brought to mind an argument from Hal Foster’s 1984 essay Against Pluralism (quoted before here):

Modern art engaged historical forms, often in order to deconstruct them. Our new art tends to assume historical forms — out of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a “return to history”; but it is in fact a profoundly ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often “aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa.

If the prevailing sense is that ours is a society rife with images, none of which accord with a credible notion of reality (much less a stable convention of realism), then the ‘straight’ photograph is eminently suspect and of debatable value. Certainly our sense of the stability and authority of modernist conventions of photographic realism has been comprehensively undermined. The critic, historian and photographer David Campany discussed this notion recently when he said:

In modernity realism is a moving target. Maybe photography, or those with vested interests in it, thought they could freeze realism the way the shutter freezes action. The hegemony of the mass media magazines did that for a while. But their stranglehold on the conventions for realism is over. This makes form much more of a live issue than it once was.  Realism does not have a form that can be taken for granted. We must fight for it in the midst of things.

But the notion that the spectacular nature of reality is all pervasive nevertheless presumes an inevitable authority of spectacle over substance, and moreover presumes that no image is capable of contravening or subverting these prevailing conventions. If ‘reality’ is taken to be equivalent to spectacle, then the sort of ahistorical conventions of its appropriation that Foster points toward are likely to be the most persuasive strategies with which to address it. There can be greater comfort in reformulating the status quo than in resisting its logic of distraction and dissimulation.

And yet people in their millions continue to find a means by way of images to resist the tyranny of distraction and spectacle - to resist the model of time that underpins it. If the conventional aspirations of our image-saturated culture are for a sense of accelerated time, constant stimulation, perpetual distraction and a socially-networked solipsism, then the capacity of an image to engender some sense of the timeless is surely to be all the more highly prized. The form that such an image might take is not the ultimate issue. However, in view of the cyclical nature of our recent history there are grave wounds to be tended on many levels (and in many registers).

In 1984 John Berger wrote of how “hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy. (…) The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time." A little earlier in that same essay, he described the genesis of this peculiarly modern complaint:

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

What is so remarkably powerful about Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, and what for me remains so unalterably important about the book is the profoundly atypical sense of time that it engenders — the steady cumulative intensity with which it invokes a vast span of history, and renders it in an embodied, individuated and visceral sense. The work is avowedly documentary, and offers a progressive adaptation of a documentary tradition Badger eloquently describes in his essay. But it is also, as Badger goes on to say, fundamentally subjective - which for me means that it bridges the apparent oppositions of subject and object, abstract and concrete, aesthetic and political.

the pain and sense of loss running through the whole book like a subliminal subtext would seem to be as much personal as historical, as eschatological as phenomenal, as much diary as report. Waffenruhe is a subjective, deeply felt work, elegiac and bitter by turns.

from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger.

@1 month ago with 377 notes
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Michael Schmidt #Hal Foster #Theory #John Berger #Culture #Lorna Sage #Art #Politics #Documentary photography 
Susan Thompson, Cape Split, Maine, 1945 from Time In New England by Paul Strand.
"What has finally determined his success in his photographs of people and in his landscapes — which are only extensions of people who happen to be invisible — is his ability to invite the narrative: to present himself to his subject in such a way that the subject is willing to say: I am as you see me.
This is more complicated than it may seem. The present tense of the verb to be refers only to the present; but nevertheless, with the first person singular in front of it, it absorbs the past which is inseparable from the pronoun. I am includes all that has made me so. It is more than a statement of immediate fact: it is already an explanation, a justification, a demand — it is already autobiographical. (…)
Photography, because it preserves the appearance of an event or a person, has always been closely associated with the idea of the historical. The ideal of photography, aesthetics apart, is to seize an historic moment. But Paul Strand’s relation as a photographer to the historic is a unique one. His photographs convey a unique sense of duration. The I am is given its time in which to reflect on the past and to anticipate its future: the exposure time does no violence to the time of the I am: on the contrary, one has the strange impression that the exposure time is the lifetime.”
— John Berger “Paul Strand” (1972) in Selected Essays.

Susan Thompson, Cape Split, Maine, 1945 from Time In New England by Paul Strand.

"What has finally determined his success in his photographs of people and in his landscapes — which are only extensions of people who happen to be invisible — is his ability to invite the narrative: to present himself to his subject in such a way that the subject is willing to say: I am as you see me.

This is more complicated than it may seem. The present tense of the verb to be refers only to the present; but nevertheless, with the first person singular in front of it, it absorbs the past which is inseparable from the pronoun. I am includes all that has made me so. It is more than a statement of immediate fact: it is already an explanation, a justification, a demand — it is already autobiographical. (…)

Photography, because it preserves the appearance of an event or a person, has always been closely associated with the idea of the historical. The ideal of photography, aesthetics apart, is to seize an historic moment. But Paul Strand’s relation as a photographer to the historic is a unique one. His photographs convey a unique sense of duration. The I am is given its time in which to reflect on the past and to anticipate its future: the exposure time does no violence to the time of the I am: on the contrary, one has the strange impression that the exposure time is the lifetime.”

— John Berger “Paul Strand” (1972) in Selected Essays.

@2 months ago with 91 notes
#Photography #Paul Strand #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Criticism #John Berger 

In his poetic, impassioned and elegant introduction to the collection of essays Between The Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics, John Berger quotes the French poet Paul Valéry, who wrote that “[t]he eyes are organs of asking”. Berger continues: “The first answers to such asking are visual not verbal, precise yet inexplicable, familiar yet strange. Appearances contain more messages than we ever allow them to tell us — except perhaps when we are in love.”

In his seminal essay on photography, “Appearances”, published some eight years earlier, Berger wrote that:

“The one who looks is essential to the meaning found, and yet can be surpassed by it. And this surpassing is what is hoped for. Revelation was a visual category before it was a religious one. The hope of revelation – and this is particularly obvious in every childhood – is the stimulus to the will to all looking which does not have a precise functional aim.”

Looking again at the fragile, gilted images in that small wonder of a book, Treadwell, by Andrea Modica, Berger’s words attain an unshakeable clarity and depth. In a sense this may seem a contradiction, or at least some form of anachronism, given that when looking at portraiture of this lucidity it might seem that the image begins precisely where words run dry. And yet, the question posed by these resonant, elliptical, hypnotic images is of a piece with some form of revelation - however minor. Moreover, there is a basis both for hope and a welcome sense of mystery in this work, one that is grounded in the most elusive of the many qualities that these photographs possess - “the stimulus to the will to all looking which does not have a precise functional aim.”

What follow are some words excerpted from "Reliquary", the introductory essay to Modica’s book, written by E. Annie Proulx:

"There is a Treadwell, population 200, in rural New York south of the Susquehanna, south of interstate 88, and it is the place where, ten years ago, Andrea Modica took the first and now famous photograph in this study, two children caught in the hands of adults; we look and wonder, are they sheltered or imprisoned, resigned or straining against the hold, is the clasp tender, is the bathrobed child prevented from hearing something dreadful, is the other seeing something that can never be forgotten? The slant of white buttons, the tiny downward glint of a ring introduces us to the richly fleshed and beautiful child who is the central figure in Treadwell, moving from this moment out of childhood toward the shoals of adult life.

For a decade Modica followed her subjects from one decayed farmhouse to another, photographing in an atmosphere of crowded rooms and generations of bad luck. The photographs are not some chronicle of despair, but caught moments in lives ruled by hard situations; there are possibilities of anything. …

A skeleton of a horse lies in the dead leaves as it fell, surrounded by a mazy thicket of saplings. We stare and see the hooves still standing, eerily upright, like a spare set the skeleton may use some moony night. And there beyond the saplings, as though risen from the bones, is that a ghost horse, an after-image of life, a reincarnation, a dream-animal, or another fragment in the reliquary of Treadwell? …

There is a beginning, a flow of events and episodes, the children grow older, sexual tension increases, lipstick is smeared, caries eat at the teeth, a finger points. … There is a sense of beating, scratching life, of inchoate longing and suppressed anger. …

Modica has a strong eye for the human condition. We are able to catch telling pieces of lives in a single photograph, glimpse private intimacies, animal pleasure, the comfort of skin. She sees, and shows us how to see, a kind of beauty in mean lives, the beauty of affection and gesture, of imaginative play, even with such a macabre object as a decaying fawn head – relic of deer, of hunt, of deed.”

Photographs © Andrea Modica, words © E. Annie ProulxPublished by Chronicle Books, 1996.

@5 months ago with 112 notes
#Photography #Andrea Modica #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Writing #Literature #Criticism #E. Annie Proulx #John Berger #Poetry #Paul Valéry #David Levi Strauss 

We may conclude from a constantly growing wealth of evidence that art in its origins was magic, a magic aid towards mastering a real but unexplored world. Religion, science, and art were combined in a latent form — germinally as it were — in magic. This magic role of art has progressively given way to the role of illuminating social relationships, of enlightening men in societies becoming opaque, of helping men to recognize and change social reality. A highly complex society with its multiple relationships and social contradictions can no longer be represented in the manner of a myth. In such a society, which demands literal recognition and all-embracing consciousness, there is bound to be an overwhelming need to break through the rigid forms of earlier ages where the magic element still operated, and to arrive at more open forms — at the freedom, say, of the novel. Either of the two elements of art may predominate at a particular time, depending on the stage of society reached — sometimes the magically suggestive, at other times the rational and enlightening; sometimes dreamlike intuition, at the other times the desire to sharpen perception. But whether art soothes or awakens, casts shadows or brings light, it is never merely a clinical description of reality. Its function is always to move the whole man, to enable the ‘I’ to identify itself with another’s life, to make its own what it is not and yet is capable of being.

Ernst Fischer “The Function of Art” in The Necessity of Art (1971)

@8 months ago with 88 notes
#Art #Theory #History #Criticism #Ernst Fischer #Verso Books #John Berger 
In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for explanation. The one who looks may explain afterwards; but prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling
Photograph Untitled from Field Trip by Martin Kollar (MACK, 2013). More to follow…
1 month ago
#Photography #Martin Kollar #Criticism #John Berger #Realism #Theory #Politics #Documentary photography 
"

For the serious photographer with a confirmed belief in the artistic worth of ‘straight’ photography – the so-called ‘poetic documentary’ mode – these are trying times. More than ever, most of the world seems to think that the simple photograph is not enough. The photographic artist who still stubbornly works within the broad tradition of Atget or Weston, even Frank or Friedlander, is deemed wilfully anachronistic, a member of a mutated, almost extinct species.

The straight photographer certainly is an endangered species. Reviled either openly or covertly, and frequently passed over in favour of those utilising the medium for conspicuously more grandiose ends. These days, the straight photographer’s nominally modest, ‘unambitious’ [works] tend to be swamped by the serried ranks of vainglorious photofabrications and moronic pieces of minimalist conceptualism masquerading as the ‘real thing.’ (…)

Of course, I am deliberately oversimplifying the issue. I also wish that it were unnecessary to take such a reactionary tack, but I feel that a little revisionism is in order. An artist’s medium should not be the ground for value judgements and ideological conflict. The art, yes – the medium itself, no. Yet that is precisely what has happened, and what is happening with photography. Certain ideological applications of photographic processes, namely, where the primacy of the photograph is denigrated and challenged, are held to be superior to the documentary utilisation of the medium. The photo-hybrid – photopainting, photosculpture, the ubiquitous conceptual photo ‘piece’ – is seen as the only valid notional approach. There are signs of active discrimination against the straight photograph and the plainly veristic practice from both within and without the photographic enclave.

Yet, so many of those seeking to ‘extend the boundaries of the medium’, and refute the ‘hegemony of the documentary’, are fooling themselves. Whether deliberately or unknowingly (often the latter I suspect), they would seek to deny photography’s salient strengths and replace them with a diluted academicism. Much of what they trot forth as shining examples of the medium’s cutting edge are simply tired old ideas (intellectually kosher ideas, to be sure) wrapped in glossy new packages and bound with accompanying rhetoric. Invariably – lots of rhetoric.

"

Excerpted from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger, (1987, Creative Camera magazine).

The foregoing argument from Gerry Badger, which dates back to a profoundly turbulent moment of political and economic strife in 1987, struck me recently as being both relevant and accurate in terms of many aspects of the contemporary state of fine art photography. In many ways history, on a political and economic level, has repeated itself in the intervening thirty years. So too it seems —  perhaps predictably — has the history of contemporary art.

To be clear, the issue is plainly not a zero sum game, which is to say as the literary critic Lorna Sage did: “[t]here is room to live intellectually, in other words, without having to compete over who’s more marginal than whom." That said, it seems a certain persistent mistrust, or a certain disdain of the virtues of ‘straight’ photography remains characteristic of the uneven terrain of critical discussion about the medium more generally. There are greater comforts to be found in the armature of conceptualised abstraction than in the complex ambiguities of the documentary image.

Badger’s avowedly extreme characterisation of experimental approaches to the photographic image also brought to mind an argument from Hal Foster’s 1984 essay Against Pluralism (quoted before here):

Modern art engaged historical forms, often in order to deconstruct them. Our new art tends to assume historical forms — out of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a “return to history”; but it is in fact a profoundly ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often “aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa.

If the prevailing sense is that ours is a society rife with images, none of which accord with a credible notion of reality (much less a stable convention of realism), then the ‘straight’ photograph is eminently suspect and of debatable value. Certainly our sense of the stability and authority of modernist conventions of photographic realism has been comprehensively undermined. The critic, historian and photographer David Campany discussed this notion recently when he said:

In modernity realism is a moving target. Maybe photography, or those with vested interests in it, thought they could freeze realism the way the shutter freezes action. The hegemony of the mass media magazines did that for a while. But their stranglehold on the conventions for realism is over. This makes form much more of a live issue than it once was.  Realism does not have a form that can be taken for granted. We must fight for it in the midst of things.

But the notion that the spectacular nature of reality is all pervasive nevertheless presumes an inevitable authority of spectacle over substance, and moreover presumes that no image is capable of contravening or subverting these prevailing conventions. If ‘reality’ is taken to be equivalent to spectacle, then the sort of ahistorical conventions of its appropriation that Foster points toward are likely to be the most persuasive strategies with which to address it. There can be greater comfort in reformulating the status quo than in resisting its logic of distraction and dissimulation.

And yet people in their millions continue to find a means by way of images to resist the tyranny of distraction and spectacle - to resist the model of time that underpins it. If the conventional aspirations of our image-saturated culture are for a sense of accelerated time, constant stimulation, perpetual distraction and a socially-networked solipsism, then the capacity of an image to engender some sense of the timeless is surely to be all the more highly prized. The form that such an image might take is not the ultimate issue. However, in view of the cyclical nature of our recent history there are grave wounds to be tended on many levels (and in many registers).

In 1984 John Berger wrote of how “hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy. (…) The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time." A little earlier in that same essay, he described the genesis of this peculiarly modern complaint:

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

What is so remarkably powerful about Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, and what for me remains so unalterably important about the book is the profoundly atypical sense of time that it engenders — the steady cumulative intensity with which it invokes a vast span of history, and renders it in an embodied, individuated and visceral sense. The work is avowedly documentary, and offers a progressive adaptation of a documentary tradition Badger eloquently describes in his essay. But it is also, as Badger goes on to say, fundamentally subjective - which for me means that it bridges the apparent oppositions of subject and object, abstract and concrete, aesthetic and political.

the pain and sense of loss running through the whole book like a subliminal subtext would seem to be as much personal as historical, as eschatological as phenomenal, as much diary as report. Waffenruhe is a subjective, deeply felt work, elegiac and bitter by turns.

from Another Brick in the Wall – Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe by Gerry Badger.

1 month ago
#Photography #Criticism #Gerry Badger #Michael Schmidt #Hal Foster #Theory #John Berger #Culture #Lorna Sage #Art #Politics #Documentary photography 

Today what surrounds the individual life can change more quickly than the brief sequences of that life itself. The timeless has been abolished, and history itself has become ephemerality. History no longer pays its respects to the dead: the dead are simply what is has passed through. (…) There is no longer any generally acknowledged value longer than that of a life, and most are shorter. The worldwide phenomenon of inflation is symptomatic in this respect: an unprecedented modern form of economic transience.

Consequently the uncommon experience of those moments which defy time is now denied by everything which surrounds them. Such moments have ceased to be like windows looking across history towards the timeless. Experiences which prompt the term for ever have now to be assumed alone and privately. Their role has been changed: instead of transcending, they isolate. The period in which photography has developed corresponds to the period in which this uniquely modern anguish has become commonplace.

Yet fortunately people are never only the passive objects of history. And apart from popular heroism, there is also popular ingenuity. In this case such ingenuity uses whatever little there is at hand, to preserve experience, to re-create an area of “timelessness”, to insist upon the permanent. And so, hundreds of millions of photographs, fragile images, often carried next to the heart or placed by the side of the bed, are used to refer to that which historical time has no right to destroy.

The private photograph is treated and valued today as if it were the materialisation of that glimpse through the window which looked across history towards that which was outside time.

— John Berger ”Appearances” in Another Way of Telling(1984).

1 month ago
#Photography #Art #John Berger #Criticism #Subjectivity #Time #History #Positivism #Productivism #Neoliberalism #Inspiration 
Susan Thompson, Cape Split, Maine, 1945 from Time In New England by Paul Strand.
"What has finally determined his success in his photographs of people and in his landscapes — which are only extensions of people who happen to be invisible — is his ability to invite the narrative: to present himself to his subject in such a way that the subject is willing to say: I am as you see me.
This is more complicated than it may seem. The present tense of the verb to be refers only to the present; but nevertheless, with the first person singular in front of it, it absorbs the past which is inseparable from the pronoun. I am includes all that has made me so. It is more than a statement of immediate fact: it is already an explanation, a justification, a demand — it is already autobiographical. (…)
Photography, because it preserves the appearance of an event or a person, has always been closely associated with the idea of the historical. The ideal of photography, aesthetics apart, is to seize an historic moment. But Paul Strand’s relation as a photographer to the historic is a unique one. His photographs convey a unique sense of duration. The I am is given its time in which to reflect on the past and to anticipate its future: the exposure time does no violence to the time of the I am: on the contrary, one has the strange impression that the exposure time is the lifetime.”
— John Berger “Paul Strand” (1972) in Selected Essays.
2 months ago
#Photography #Paul Strand #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Criticism #John Berger 
3 months ago
#Photography #Panel Discussion #John Berger #Geoff Dyer #Aperture #Wendy Lesser #Lawrence Weschler #Christophe Agou 
5 months ago
#Photography #Andrea Modica #Portraiture #Documentary photography #Writing #Literature #Criticism #E. Annie Proulx #John Berger #Poetry #Paul Valéry #David Levi Strauss 
6 months ago
#Art #Literature #Culture #John Berger #Hans Ulrich Obrist #The Serpentine #London Riots 2012 #Consumerism #History #Identity #Ideology #Narrative 

We may conclude from a constantly growing wealth of evidence that art in its origins was magic, a magic aid towards mastering a real but unexplored world. Religion, science, and art were combined in a latent form — germinally as it were — in magic. This magic role of art has progressively given way to the role of illuminating social relationships, of enlightening men in societies becoming opaque, of helping men to recognize and change social reality. A highly complex society with its multiple relationships and social contradictions can no longer be represented in the manner of a myth. In such a society, which demands literal recognition and all-embracing consciousness, there is bound to be an overwhelming need to break through the rigid forms of earlier ages where the magic element still operated, and to arrive at more open forms — at the freedom, say, of the novel. Either of the two elements of art may predominate at a particular time, depending on the stage of society reached — sometimes the magically suggestive, at other times the rational and enlightening; sometimes dreamlike intuition, at the other times the desire to sharpen perception. But whether art soothes or awakens, casts shadows or brings light, it is never merely a clinical description of reality. Its function is always to move the whole man, to enable the ‘I’ to identify itself with another’s life, to make its own what it is not and yet is capable of being.

Ernst Fischer “The Function of Art” in The Necessity of Art (1971)

8 months ago
#Art #Theory #History #Criticism #Ernst Fischer #Verso Books #John Berger