Emphatic Picture Making

©2012 Dave Ortiz

©2012 Dave Ortiz

In a nice bit of irony, I picked up the latest (and wonderfully revamped) issue of Aperture after writing my diatribe railing against the academic in photography. Well  it was with that attitude still fully lodged in my soul that I read an interview with Jeff Wall (who has now become a photographer I need to read as well as look). In the interview Jeff Wall says:

“Emphatic picture making” is a phrase that I think expresses how photography can be free just to be an art form. Sculpture, painting, drawing, and the other older visual arts freed themselves this way a long time ago, but photography is still tied up with the practicalities of image production, and it’s hard for a lot of people working with it to achieve some sort of distance from that almost overpowering identity.

That elegantly expressed concept summed up the entirety of my unease with photography. Photography isn’t free just to be itself. Photography is too caught up in navel gazing: we are too caught up in analyzing the veracity of photographs, analyzing the social impact of photography, the relationship of photography to painting and other arts. Painters are free to paint and musicians are free to make music without overloading themselves with tiresome questions regarding the status of their art. Of course I am not saying that there is no thought or theory in painting or music. Of course there is. But these mediums are free to be themselves. A musician can create music without worrying about it’s relation to “The Novel”. These arts are comfortable in their identity and it is high time photography was too!

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