Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Postmodernism

This semester, I've been taking an art photography class in the MU Art Department. In the class, we have to answer questions on readings, usually involving movements in photography. The last reading (which we did this week) is about postmodernism. For those of you don't know me, I shoot a lot of film, use a bunch of old cameras and try to do often-stupid things with prints in the darkroom. Most people would probably consider me pretty 'artsy'. But one thing that has always bothered me about art photography is how defeatist it is. This is sort of my opinion on that way of thinking. Sorry that there aren't any photos here. I just felt that this kind of needed to be said.

Postmodernism is suggesting that all original photographs have been produced, and even if they haven’t, the culture we live in predicts the way we would create it. Postmodernists seek to establish the idea that the image is dead, and that we should move towards representations of this idea over the representation of a scene in and of itself.
Personally, I feel that this argument is self-defeating. Postmodernist photographers are erecting an artificial wall for themselves, and then proudly deconstructing it for everyone to sit and marvel at their ingenuity. It’s easy to say that there are no original images left to create when the dominant movement in the world of art photography discourages trying to create them; the biggest sin we can commit as photographers is agreeing with that statement and simply giving up on finding any semblance of the real to represent. Saying that our cultural conceptions color our perspective on the world is like saying we need water to survive. Of course they do, and that is simply the way it has always been and always will be. This is neither a bad thing, nor is it a good thing. It doesn’t mean originality doesn’t exist, it means we have to connect with our own reality in order to demonstrate anything original.
Now, the postmodernist’s argument would be that what we know as real is simply a construction of symbols and images, that we have no way of knowing what the real is. However, I feel that to deny that we can experience reality is a rejection of faith in humanity as a whole. For me, as an artist and photographer, the central tenets of postmodernism mean close to nothing. As long as there are stories to tell, as long as we are still human beings, I will continue to have some kind of faith in the image.

Thank god for photo-j.


Elizabeth said...

That's just about exactly how I feel. I would call myself an art photographer but this is what made me not consider art school as an option.

photophanatic1887 said...

Hmmmm Esten... maybe.... even though postmodernism says there is nothing new to create, I tend to not believe that. Postmodernism is just that, something created after another, and created with the influences from other genres. I think that something new CAN be created out of that, and there is no reason to feel defeatist about photography. You just have to come at your photography with fresh eyes, and I think you do that well!

Although I agree... postmodernism does kind of suck...