Having spent my evening working through the history of Photography for a class next week I found myself confronted with a strange and saddening realisation. Photography is kind of lost. It does not know what it should be anymore. When we look back to the early days when photography was the founder of all truth we would imagine a photograph as having the all seeing power, the controlling visual medium that informed us of the world. Technology has played its way in devaluing the photograph, you just need to look at the family archives living on digital hard drives and gathering virtual dust or presented on public forum; facebook. Another thing is that things don’t have the same affect on us now a days. We know our world, and well might I add. We are aware of most of what it throws at us, despite the odd event that shakes us to our core. This is not to just consider news and how we receive it, I would not feel comfortable placing an authoritative voice on that. It also refers to Photography, now thats more comfortable isn’t it.
Looking through what Photography has endured I do not know where it is to go now. On having a look at Adam Broomberg and Oliver Channerin’s new work surrounding the found archives of the Polaroid revolution, dealing with it like archeological evidence, we are in a reflective state of Photography. We have digested and spat out the notion of ‘the decisive moment’ and moved onto discover its rebellious cousin, the indecisive moment. This cousin, if you like, has reigned for sometime changing how we see Photography as a medium recognising its limitations and pointing them out in neatly wrapped parcels we know as projects. These projects do not shake the world like they used to, like when ‘The Americans’ was introduced in 1959 to a deluded group of people known as art critics, stating its damning ways and destructive tendencies. We look at a review as a celebration now, we see images of beauty and colour, exhibit work of the modern ways of society wrapped in traditional techniques carried out in a contemporary way. Even the term contemporary seems tricky to define, when will we be entering the post-contemporary. After all the surrealists did not last forever as the ‘post’ always comes the next morning, the next week and inevitably in the next few years.
As Photography has ‘kind of lost its sense of direction’, as a statement which has very little sense of direction, I do not know. I am merely speculating. We have now become so aware of Photography as a medium, we do not know what to do with it anymore. The generation of young Photographers dabble with experimentation attempting to make the ‘big time’, the next big thing but that takes experience. Was Duchamp ready to make the ‘upside down urinal’ message at 17, I am not so sure. We look at the age of successful Photographers, respected in their practice and they are older. This is for a reason, and to be labeled as ‘upcoming’ is something we should all be looking to un-peel. Once we are no longer ‘upcoming’ we are there, we are ready to make the projects with significance. Ready to make a difference, but that is hard to do when we are wading through images like quicksand, if we stand too still they will consume us and we will become another internet sensation producing pretty pictures for the masses behind computer screens and inspiring the next internet, blogging sensation.
To craft something new is what should all be looking to achieve. We look at the Martin Parr’s, the Bruce Gilden’s, the William Eggleston’s and the Jim Goldberg’s they have made their big statement and it took years to make. Who is next to step up and create another shift in Photography, it is fair to say Broomberg and Channerin are probably leading that race. And for an aspiring public, we will need to put our heads down, pull our pencils from our ears and wade out of the mass of imagery to make something decisive for ourselves to present to people and say this is where Photography should be going now.