As I am at a transitional period between years 1 and 2 of my Photography course at Coventry University I am required to reflect upon projects, ideas, artists ect that I have encountered in my first year. An issue that had been raised at several points throughout my first year was that we are currently living through another paradigm shift within photography, the first of which being when photography became an art form in its own right, without carrying any of the conventions of any other art form established before the invention of photography. Photographers such as Paul Strand and Edward Weston redefined the medium, by rebelling against the pictorialists views of photography, which were to edit the photograph after it had been taken to make it appear more like a painting.
The pictorialists process obscured and intervened with fact. They played around with what the camera had captured to make it ‘art’ so that the photographs resembled something that people had seen before in other art forms. Photographers such as Paul Strand produced ‘straight photography’, that had not been tampered with afterwards but recorded fact and the art of photography become about the pre visualisation of the photographer and not the manipulation afterwards that transformed the photograph to look like a painting. Photography became about how the artist viewed the world choosing to use the camera as a way of documenting that vision. Paul Strands photographs below show how he used the mediums great ability to record form as well as stark reality.
What I have been reflecting upon is whether or not this pictorialist view still exists in the world of photography, as there are so many ways to alter the photograph after it has been taken. The tools to become a photographer have become so easily accessible that everyone seems to be a photographer at the moment, but is the true art of photography (‘preconceived/pre-visualised’ photography) a concious thought in the minds of the masses that claim to be a photographer. The masses are documenting the world around them but are they carefully planning the photograph before taking it with the knowledge that it can be easily altered at a later point meaning that the notion of ‘straight photography’ is not taking place.
Instagram seems to me to be a way of retreating to the older processes of photography by altering the photograph after it has been taken to ‘transform it into a work of art’. Editing software such as photo shop allows people to edit the photograph to create the perfect photograph.
Before contemplating this I wondered whether the need for a photographer is vanishing with the increasing availability of photographic technology, but as I begin to realise that the art of photography does not appear evident in the masses, then the need for a photographer that sticks to this ‘straight photography’ is definitely needed.