‘Cutting through a photograph is like cutting through flesh’ comments photographer John Stezaker, discerning the somewhat sadistic nature of that voyeuristic art form we term photography. Long has photography been hailed as a powerful educative force and an alluring channel into all that has passed, from silently uncovering the unfamiliar idiosyncrasies of our family members, to revealing the catastrophic journeys of natural disasters- the microscopic mechanism of a camera has given us eyes to zealously gaze over every crack and crevice that the world has offered us. Yet perhaps we ought ask ourselves, should we ever have been given these eyes at all?
The photographer revels in the craftsmanship of his photographic endeavours, a professional voyeur, he slides down alleyways and blunders through the streets with his camera, igniting the flames of narcissism, vanity, self-doubt and scopophilia in his wake. In the name of artistic creativity he purports to present his frozen moments as morsels of reality but each onlooker adds his own reality to everything he witnesses- each photograph is not a portrait of reality but an amalgam of the real and the irreal. A picture may well tell a thousand words, yet a photograph may well tell a thousand lies for it takes reality out of context, it misleads us into believing we have returned to the past when in fact we know that what has passed has passed- we may only ever return to a reconstructed illusion of the past.
However, whilst the visual mirage of a photograph may be ambiguous and deceptive, photography defines the modern world. Satellite imaging enables us to gain a glimpse of outer space, artistic shots have shown us a million more people and places than we ever could have observed in our own lifetimes while fashion photography has given us vibrant newspapers and magazines- photographic images have added to the realms of history, science and art and brought colour to our lives.
Should we sing the praises of photography for its contributions to art, technology, medicine, criminal science and history, or condemn it for its invasive nature and the destruction of privacy that it instigates? An immobile onlooker – should a photographer take action rather than stand by passively and soundlessly observe, or is a photograph in itself action enough? How much damage can be done when the human form is reflected back on itself? Has photography dangerously exacerbated society’s obsession wth itself and the erotic appeal of the human form? Does the self-admiration and self-criticism brought on by an image have a positive or negative influence on photographic muses and models? To what extent do photographs in the media manipulate our minds and our of view reality?
‘To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.’ ― Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers
A Japanese victim lies on his front in the aftermath of the uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) being dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; 3 days later a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) was also unleashed onto the city of Nagasaki. Photographer: Unknown.
Composer and musicologist, Ernst Hermann Meyer (my grandfather), is photographed and filmed in his sitting room with the high-tech instruments on offer in 1960’s Eastern Germany.
Avant garde Japanese photographer intertwines the realms of realism and fantasy in his 1970’s photographic works. ‘When I was younger I thought that the fantasy of becoming invisible and the desire to become a poet stood in an antinomy. But now I can positively say that these two dreams are not contradictory at all.’
― Shuji Terayama
A bewildering snapshot into Shuji Terayama’s imagined world of antinomies.
‘To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.’ ― Susan Sontag, On Photography
Nadine Elfenbein explores freak shows, performance art and fashion as her camera wanders through Berlin.
Susan E. Liston seeps her photographic fingers into the glamourous well of fashion.
Reality meets Rapunzel- Pop surrealist Dina Goldstein’s photo from her visual art collection Fallen Princesses
‘The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness’ ― Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Earth from Above
The half-French half-Spanish principal ballet dancer of Opéra national de Paris, Sylvie Guillem, strips off for a nude selfie that would grace the pages of French Vogue to reveal her muscular form and ‘the way I am and the way I see myself.’
The Modern Selfie- narcissism aggressively infiltrates the Modern world as the camera lens continues its supreme reign over contemporary society.
Germany proudly showcases its sleek high-tech hand on the world stage at the 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai.
‘While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.’ ― Dorothea Lange
A father entices his son with a blinding display at the summer Torch Festival in China’s Xichang.
London beauties- my beauteous friends let their Cinderella locks flow on the rich emerald lawn of London’s Olympic Stadium.
An amalgam of modernity and traditionalism – this photograph, taken last summer taken in the fleeting instant when the setting sun in Shanghai reflects onto a Longines advertisement reflects the cultural fusion of East and West that epitomises contemporary Shanghainese culture.
“It is a cruel, ironical art, photography. The dragging of captured moments into the future; moments that should have been allowed to be evaporate into the past; should exist only in memories, glimpsed through the fog of events that came after. Photographs force us to see people before their future weighed them down….” ― Kate Morton, The House at Riverton