quarta-feira, 14 de janeiro de 2015

The Photographer's Eye, 1

capa do livro "The Photographer's Eye", de John Szarkowski. Moma, 1966, 1980, 2007.

Baseado numa exposição de 1964, The Photographer's Eye foi publicado em gravura em 1966 e reimpresso em 1980 e 2007.

J. Nevins publicou o conteúdo textual do catálogo publicado pelo Museu de Arte Moderna de Nova Iorque, que transcrevemos aqui.

[6] introduction
"This book is an investigation of what photographs look like, and of why they look that way. It is concerned with photographic style and with photographic tradition: with the sense of possibilities that a photographer today takes to his work.

The invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process—a process based not on synthesis but on selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made —constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes—but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken.

The difference raised a creative issue of a new order: how could this mechanical and mindless process be made to produce pictures meaningful in human terms—pictures with clarity and coherence and a point of view? It was soon demonstrated that an answer would not be found by those who loved too much the old forms, for in large part the photographer was bereft of the old artistic traditions. Speaking of photography Baudelaire said: "This industry, by invading the territories of art, has become art's most mortal enemy."1 
And in his own terms of reference Baudelaire was half right; certainly the new medium could not satisfy old standards. The photographer must find new ways to make his meaning clear.

These new ways might be found by men who could abandon their allegiance to traditional pictorial standards—or by the artistically ignorant, who had no old allegiances to break. There have been many of the latter sort. Since its earliest days, photography has been practiced by thousands who shared no common tradition or training, who were disciplined and united by no academy or guild, who considered their medium variously as a science, an art, a trade, or an entertainment, and who were often unaware of each other's work. Those who invented photography were scientists and painters, but its professional practitioners were a very different lot. Hawthorne's daguerreotypist hero Holgrave in the house of the seven gables was perhaps not far from typical:

"Though now but twenty-two years old, he had already been a country schoolmaster; salesman in a country store; and the political editor of a country newspaper. He had subsequently travelled as a peddler of cologne water and other essences. He had studied and practiced dentistry. Still more recently he had been a public lecturer on mesmerism, for which science he had very remarkable endowments. His present phase as a daguerreotypist was of no more importance in his own view, nor likely to be more permanent, than any of the preceding ones."2

The enormous popularity of the new medium produced professionals by the thousands—converted silversmiths, tinkers, druggists, blacksmiths and printers. 
If photography was a new artistic problem, such men had the advantage of having nothing to unlearn. Among them they produced a flood of images. 
In 1853 the new york daily tribune estimated that three million daguerreotypes were being produced that year.3 
Some of these pictures were the product of knowledge and skill and sensibility and invention; many were the product of accident, improvisation, misunderstanding, and empirical experiment. But whether produced by art or by luck, each picture was part of a massive assault on our traditional habits of seeing.

By the latter decades of the nineteenth century the professionals and the serious amateurs were joined by an even larger host of casual snapshooters. 
By the early eighties the dry plate, which could be purchased ready-to-use, had replaced the refractory and messy wet plate process, which demanded that the plate be prepared just before exposure and processed before its emulsion had dried. 
The dry plate spawned the hand camera and the snapshot. 

[7] introduction
Photography had become easy. 
In 1893 an English writer complained that the new situation had "created an army of photographers who run rampant over the globe, photographing objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes, under almost every condition, without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic? … They spy a view, it seems to please, the camera is focused, the shot taken! There is no pause, why should there be? For art may err but nature cannot miss, says the poet, and they listen to the dictum. To them, composition, light, shade, form and texture are so many catch phrases…"4

These pictures, taken by the thousands by journeyman worker and Sunday hobbyist, were unlike any pictures before them. The variety of their imagery was prodigious. Each subtle variation in viewpoint or light, each passing moment, each change in the tonality of the print, created a new picture. The trained artist could draw a head or a hand from a dozen perspectives. The photographer discovered that the gestures of a hand were infinitely various, and that the wall of a building in the sun was never twice the same.

Most of this deluge of pictures seemed formless and accidental, but some achieved coherence, even in their strangeness. Some of the new images were memorable, and seemed significant beyond their limited intention. These remembered pictures enlarged one's sense of possibilities as he looked again at the real world. While they were remembered they survived, like organisms, to reproduce and evolve.

But it was not only the way that photography described things that was new; it was also the things it chose to describe. 
Photographers shot "…objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes… without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic?" 
Painting was difficult, expensive, and precious, and it recorded what was known to be important. 
Photography was easy, cheap and ubiquitous, and it recorded anything: shop windows and sod houses and family pets and steam engines and unimportant people. 

And once made objective and permanent, immortalized in a picture, these trivial things took on importance. By the end of the century, for the first time in history, even the poor man knew what his ancestors had looked like.

The photographer learned in two ways: 
first, from a worker's intimate understanding of his tools and materials (if his plate would not record the clouds, he could point his camera down and eliminate the sky); 
and second he learned from other photographs, which presented themselves in an unending stream. 
Whether his concern was commercial or artistic, his tradition was formed by all the photographs that had impressed themselves upon his consciousness.

The pictures reproduced in this book were made over almost a century and a quarter.
They were made for various reasons, by men of different concerns and varying talent. They have in fact little in common except their success, and a shared vocabulary: these pictures are unmistakably photographs. The vision they share belongs to no school or aesthetic theory, but to photography itself. The character of this vision was discovered by photographers at work, as their awareness of photography's potentials grew.

If this is true, it should be possible to consider the history of the medium in terms of photographers' progressive awareness of characteristics and problems that have seemed inherent in the medium. Five such issues are considered below.

These issues do not define discrete categories of work; on the contrary they should be regarded as interdependent aspects of a single problem— as section views through the body of photographic tradition. As such, it is hoped that they may contribute to the formulation of a vocabulary and a critical perspective more fully responsive to the unique phenomena of photography.

1 . Charles Baudelaire, "Salon de 1859," translated by Jonathan Mayne for The Mirror of Art, Critical Studies by Charles Beudeleire London: Phaidon Press, 1955. (Quoted from On Photography, A Source Book of Photo History in Fecsimile, edited by Beaumont Newhall. Watkins Glen, N. Y.: Century House, 1956, p. 106.)
2. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The [louse of the Seven Gables. New York: Signet Classics edition, 1961, pp. 156-7.
3. A. C. Willers, "Poet and Photography," in Picturescope, Vol. XI, No. 4. New York: Picture Division, Special Libraries Association, 1963, p. 46.
4. E. E. Cohen, "Bad Form in Photography," in The International Annual of Anthony's Photographic Bulletin. New York and London: E. and H. T. Anthony, 1893, p. 18.

The Photographer's Eye, 1 - introduction
The Photographer's Eye, 2 - the thing itself
The Photographer's Eye, 3 - the detail
The Photographer's Eye, 4 - the frame
The Photographer's Eye, 5 - time
The Photographer's Eye, 6 - vantage point
The Photographer's Eye, 7

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