Skip to main content

A new objectivity

The advent of the portable camera allowed for changes in the practice of photography, in the methods and goals of photographers.  Photography leaves the comforts of the studio, its tempo or rhythms, its formal ideas and established procedures and searches for novelty in the cadences, the pulses and figures of everyday life. Photographers such as Giuseppe Primoli and Paul Martin stand in between the amateur art of their predecessors and the developing discipline of photojournalism, as observed by I. Jeffrey (1). 


 

Roma - Via Ostiense 1890
self-portrait of Giuseppe Primoli
photographing the flooded street




The informal, the improvised, the ephemeral are made into new plastic values translating the energies of urban life, the heterogeneous world of modern civilization unified in the commodity form of its material products and social exchanges, and similarly equalized in the “democratic” vision of the camera, a vision more and more unconcerned with distinctions of taste, propriety, traditional aesthetics values, and other similar distinctions.  In this respect we can say that, like money, the photograph is, in some important ways, the great “cynic and leveler” (Marx) destroying traditional ways of seeing and their associated social-cultural concepts and practices. And yet imagination is a fluid and unpredictable force, and the image a more unstable unity of meaning/ signification that can provide for, as much as it can and escape from the workings and functions of ideology. 


The portable camera allows for the emergence of the undetected photographer amid the flow and fluxes of everyday life. We witness the birth of a kind of “subject-less” art, an art of “pure objectivity” both in the sense of the “hidden” or perhaps, in fact, the disappearing subject behind the camera, and the kind of bafflement we may experiment in identifying the theme, content, meaning or subject of photographs, the exact reason for an image to appear or be recorded in this rather than that other possible form or moment. “ What exactly was Martin’s subject? “ asks the historian of photography (2). Or, we can understand that the “incomplete”, paradoxically impermanent character of the images of Martin, and also Primoli and other “photographers of daily life”, refers to photography itself as an open form, to its new kind of autonomy, the autonomous life of the image reflecting the autonomy of the modern subject, unless this latter can be understood more specifically as an effect of photography itself.

Marcelo Guimarães Lima

1)   Jeffrey, I., Photography: a concise history, London 2010 (originally published in 1981)
2)   Jeffrey, I., op cit, page 109


links:


 
MARTIN, Paul, «  Couple on Yarmouth Sands », 1894



  
MARTIN, Paul, «  Couple on Yarmouth Sands », 1892




 Paul Martin, Street Accident in London (1895)  





Giuseppe Primoli
entrance to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Rome,  1890 





 Giuseppe Primoli
Annie Oakley in Rome with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1890 





 Giuseppe Primoli, Three Figures, n/d









Giuseppe Primoli, portrait of Eleonora Duse, Venice , 1894








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Group f/64 Manifesto (1932)

Ansel Adams by Dorothea Lange



Group f/64 Manifesto
The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.
The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West; in addition to the showing of the work of its members, it will include prints from other photographers who evidence tendencies in their work similar to that of the Group.
Group f/64 is not pretending to cover the entire of photography or to indicate through its selection of members any deprecating opinion of the photographers who are not included in its shows. There are great number of serious workers in photography whose style and technique does not relate to the metier of the Group.
Group f/64 limits its members and invitational names to those workers who are strivin…

Paul Strand: method and vision

Portrait, Washington Square Park, 1917



Pears and Bowls, 1916



Wild Iris, Maine, 1927


Wall Street, 1915



Portrait of Georges Braque, 1957

The “full acceptance” of reality is the method and goal of the photographer, observed Paul Strand. However, full objectivity has to be something different from a passive receptivity but must emerge from an active and vigilant attitude that requires the photographer’s control of his subject. Or rather, it requires the coming together of subject and object in the intervening space of the photograph, synthesizing and perhaps transcending both, a mediating space, both familiar and unusual, made of masses and voids, light and shadows, made of the equivalence of presence and absence,  of correspondences of vision and forms in the world, of the coalescence of equivalent forms in a frame, of a spatialized time and a space of  gradually superposed temporalities.

Marcelo Guimarães Lima

links:
http://lumieregallery.net/wp/197/paul-strand/
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettygu…

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)

Alexander Gardner
The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg
(1863)









Alexander Gardner Dead Confederate sharpshooter at the foot of Round Top.  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863. Alexander Gardner.
Richmond, Virginia. "Ruins of Gallego Mills." April 1865






The Lincoln Conspirators, 1865











Alexander Gardner, Lincoln 1865