20 September 2011

‘Photography is like diamond cutting. If you miss you miss.’

Untitled [Merce (II)], 1953. Photograph © Robert Rauschenberg.

Untitled [John Cage, Black Mountain], 1952.
Photograph © Robert Rauschenberg.

Rauschenberg's view, captured in the title to this post, is one view of photography. It is not one I share. Nor is it one that is useful for those hoping to discern the uses of photography which typically rely on considerably more than the point and click he was willing to sanction. That said, it seems he was a pretty fine shot.



Blogger Walter Dufresne said...

That old formalist John Szarkowski mentioned diamond-cutting in 1975 when comparing crafts but, if I understand him correctly, not in a way favorable to painting *or* photography. Szarkowski just didn't know:

"Photography is a picture-making system; it has therefore been natural to compare it to older picture-making systems, especially to painting, which has a very old and honorable history. In this comparison, it has not been difficult to point out the ways in which painting is different and, by presumption, better. Most of these arguments revolve around two central points: First, the painter can synthesize one picture out of a thousand discrete bits of perception, imagination, and traditional skills and schemes, while the photographer’s act is not synthetic but analytic, and depends fundamentally on perception. Second, painting is a very difficult craft, while photography is quite easy."

"It seems to me that both of these claims are correct, and that photography would by now have traveled farther along its fated path if it had long since pleaded no contest on both counts. Concerning the first claim: The special genius of photography depends on the seamless coherence of its description; the camera shows us a particular cone of space during a specific parcel of time. This makes it a perfect tool for visual exploration and discovery, but a rather clumsy one for realizing the inventions of pure imagination. As to the second claim, it would seem beyond question that the craft of painting is more complex and more demanding than the craft of photography, although probably neither is as difficult as the nonpractitioner might think. (I have no basis for guessing how the craft of painting might, in turn, compare for difficulty with that of diamond cutting, for example.)"

"A Different Kind Of Art"
By John Szarkowski
The Sunday New York Times Magazine
13 April 1975 - page 16

21 September, 2011 12:59  

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