Towards a Philosophy Instigated by Photography
Perhaps I should have started at the beginning? (I wanted the OP to be to-the-point, but seem to have filled nearly 2 pages on my own trying to overcome its imprecision)
In his own words:
When once the availability of one great primitive agent is thoroughly worked out,
it is easy to foresee how extensively it will assist in unraveling other secrets in natural science.
Elizabeth Eastlake, Photography, 1857.
A philosophy of photography could be taken to mean the act of philosophizing on the subject of photography. That is to say,
one can examine photography by using the concepts philosophers have accumulated over a period of two thousand five hundred
years. One could inquiry into its links with perception, imagination, nature, substance, essence, freedom and consciousness.
The danger of such an approach is the projection onto photography of concepts created long before photography's emergence,
concepts which might prove to be ill-suited. In effect, many respectable philosophers following this path concluded that photography
was a form of painting or minor literature. This judgment was foreseeable since the concepts of western philosophy precisely
subscribe to a pictorial, sculptural, architectural and literary outlook. But the philosophy of the photograph can also designate the
philosophy emanating from the photograph itself, the kind of philosophy the photo suggests and diffuses by virtue of its characteristics.
All materials, tools and processes employ, through their texture and structure, a specific mode of constructing the space and
time around them. They engage "to a greater or lesser degree" specific parts of our nervous system. They induce certain gestures
or operations, while excluding others. As such, they endow those who use them with a certain lifestyle. There is no reason why film,
devices or photographic paper should be deprived of such action. Undoubtedly, they suggest an unforeseen space and time, a distinct
manner of capturing reality and the real, action and act, event and potentiality, object and process, presence and absence, in brief,
a specific philosophy.Evidently, the term philosophy is here taken in its most common meaning. A psychology, sociology or anthropology
of the photograph would have been equally suitable. And why not an epistemology, semiotics or indicialogy of the photograph?
It is vital to ask what the photograph itself imposes or distills, rather than what wedemand from it.This undertaking will therefore
be anything but easy. Because not simply our philosophies, but more importantly our languages were originally forged to speak about
painting, architecture and literature. On different occasions, God was a painter, a sculptor, an architect or a poet, only because man
had been. We therefore do not have the words to describe a photograph adequately. But specialized terminology would be even
more fallacious, as only common language has the power "through its bricolage" to re-encode itself so as to touch on new objects.
That is why one should forget all jargon here, and particularly that of linguistics. When encountering terms such as signifier and signified,
reality and the real, indices and indexes, perception and sensation or act and action, the reader is called upon to rediscover a naive
English that will define and redefine itself according to circumstance.
Henri Van LierUm, much more readable through the link above. I don't know how to (or if I can) change font and spacing. :S
Also, noticing a lot of Canada love up in here. F--in' eh rights.
Last edited by andy_k; 02-01-2013 at 03:00 AM. Click to view previous post history.