Being all H3 and shizz with photography

Sorely unprofessional title aside – Jon, Yongfeng and I went for this talk at 2902 Gallery a week ago in conjunction with their Paradise Lost photography exhibition. Some interesting points/questions came up during the artist presentations, Q&A sessions and mine and Jon’s attempt at a hushed debate in the last row. All this was noted down in my handy-dandy notebook and I’m finally getting my ass up to organise them here.

If anyone’s up for an intellectual debate about this, feel free to comment! Especially you H3art-ers that read my blog.

1. Does the process of photography matter if you achieve the final image all the same? E.g. re-creating a film effect with digital manipulation. Is using film somehow “better”, since it (arguably) requires more versatility of skill? Then again, is this an “elitist” point-of-view; just as we have readymades in art, should we be prejudiced against the expansion/democratisation of photography in the digital age?

2. Is there thus a decreased dependency on the conventional aesthetic sensibilities in photography? For example, using handphone-camera-quality to serve a a conceptual purpose, but yet diminishing the aesthetic qualities of the image, as one of the featured photographers did.

3. What is the purpose of photography? As a photographer, is mere documentation enough? How can one go beyond documentation – getting a subjectivity within the framework of a medium that is so blatantly cold and objective? How about story-telling, performance, etc? Should we seek another world or focus on capturing our own reality?

4. What is the role of the photographer? When does one transcend from photographer to artist? Is there even a differentiation, or a need for differentiation between these roles? Do we still harbour some kind of hesitation in calling photographers artists?

5. How has the significance of the single photographic image – the one that speaks a thousand words – changed? In considering this question, we must also consider the Post-Modern context that we apply to our criticism of all visual art. Just as the process has exceeded the importance of the final product in Post-Modernism, should the same parameters be applied to photography? That is, do we place equal emphasis on any accompanying text – be it title, methodology, stories, explanations, poems and so on – or do they in fact render these images useless? I am of the opinion that a controlled use of text can enhance the power of the photographic image. In fact, the artist should have the discretion and responsibility to use text in any way that will improve the work artistically.

6. In light of point 5, what makes photographs powerful?

7. If a beautifully composed and emotionally compelling photograph is found to be faked, does that diminish its power? E.g. Robert Capa’s Fallen Soldier? If not, are we then admitting that the image is the only element worth considering, rather than its context?

8. Are there boundaries to photography? What can we take/not take? How far are artists willing to go? “As a photographer, do you feel uncomfortable/voyeuristic when taking public pictures of an intimate/private situation?: Basically, being human, we understand the issue of intrusion of personal space. We realise that the camera acts as ‘prying’ into someone else’s privacy especially without their consent.” (Jon) Isn’t the camera’s eye inherently voyeuristic, no matter what situation? I think each photograph can be construed to have a weird voyeur-exhibitionist dynamic, no matter how innocent.

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