Straight Photography

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.



2 thoughts on “Straight Photography

  1. Interesting ideas. The problem with instagram is that whenever everybody can do something like this – it loses its “art” quickly. I’m already getting tired of instagram.

    Digital is changing things. Photography is facing the same challenge that painting did a century ago when film came along. It will have to find a new reason for existance – and it will be exciting to watch that process play out.

  2. This is a well-written post; especially got me thinking about my current project to do with mundane nature in photography.

    I touched upon your interpretation of straight photography and its capabilities during 151MC, and this article, which questions apps such as Instagram, might be interesting to look at:

    While i do not particularly approach apps like instagram this way, my opinion on ‘filter effects’ and what-not are negative; a lot of aspiring photographers who are subject to tools like instagram and mass media websites will confront imagery that may debase what photography is in both subject representation and objective in the work. For instance, a ‘straight’ story depicting an emotional journey may not appeal to the fanbase of contemporary apps unless generic visual effects are added to raise the message of a single photograph. It’s not a question of ‘do we need’, but an overall look at photography and how people come to respect the qualities and potential it holds.

    With my work, i do not wish to approach my subjects with the use of heavy post-processing. Although this may inevitably deem my photographs as “straight”, it is the portrayal of my subjects that can enable the art side – the other interpretive vision of the world – to come to vision. The question i am still asking and exploring is whether art and straight photography can combine together to approach an idea.

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