In Exercise 2 we are reminded of the argument that the ‘mechanical’ nature of photography precludes it from being considered an art. We are then asked to make notes in respect of the following:
- Does this make photography a medium uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?
- Can other creative art forms deal with the concept of time to the same extent?
Firstly, I would point out that in my view photography is art and is not dependent on the mechanics involved in making a picture. It is possible to take the most amazing, interesting, artistic shot, using a basic camera, dependent on the person taking it, how they took it and the story behind it. After all what is art? Going back to a question we were asked at the very beginning of this course. I still believe it be something that makes you think, it can make you laugh, smile, be sad or happy, it is a passionate feeling, opens your eyes to love, hate, beauty and ugliness. Overall it is about feelings, one person may see something totally different in a painting, photograph, play, film or book, each individual is entitled to see things differently just as an artist may paint, write, photograph or act differently, which is what makes Art so wonderful and intriguing and visually challenging.
Photography is not uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time. You only have to look at the drawings found in caves and paintings by the Great Masters to see the relevance to Time and the passage of time. Greek statues of emperors and soldiers are indications of time as no such warriors exist today. Books written by hand in leather-bound notebooks, prior to printing are testament to great writers who laboriously wrote thousands of words by hand (Hebel, Shakespeare). Soldiers who wrote letters home of the horrors of world war I, are typical example of Time being portrayed in the written word describing in detail what they saw, felt, hated, possibly outlining a portrayal of war that no photo or painting could ever be made to transcribe.
In today’s society paintings are able to portray time just as previous painters were able to do, war today is much more advanced than men in trenches and horses charging towards the enemy. It is more sophisticated with planes, technology, ships and social media. All of which show the difference in time. I have seen paintings showing the devastation in the Arab world, along with books and films, all conveying the horrors of war over time, like the Syrian and Yemen wars.
I do believe, all forms of art are able to deal with the concept of time in the same extent. Just differently. Photography is able to capture the moment at the exact time and place. However, so can a writer and an artist, each can capture the moment in time, each can portray historically what is happening at that moment, whether it is a man in the street looking in a shop window at a baby’s cot. A sad expression on his face. A photographer can capture that moment, it may just be he has that look on his face regardless, a writer may write it’s because his baby died and the cot reminds him of this, a painter may see it as a beautiful scene on a London street and the man is just part of the overall painting. It is a matter of time and place, and what the artist is seeing at that time. All three scenarios could be seen by each of the artists in different ways.
On reflection of this exercise I am not sure I have understood the meaning of the questioning but if carried on thinking about what to write i wouldn’t have started to write anything as I felt I was over thinking it all. I have read the essay by Walter Benjamin on ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ and can see the argument of how the mechanics of progression can change things, but that’s life and progression, people change and we will see things differently as we progress. Films have progressed, sometimes the mechanical side of things have not enhanced films where you know ‘it’s not real’. I have enjoyed reading more on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’ which is the concept of taking a photograph in a real life scenario, that captures a decisive moment, a moment in history, a time and place, perhaps this is the argument whereby a writer can’t physically write the whole image in one second or an artist cannot paint that same picture in that second, so perhaps photography does have the ability to be the art form that can capture the unique moment in time. I am looking forward to learning more about this concept specifically in photography but also in the written word and visual communications as I realise I have completely changed my mind from when I first started writing my notes.