Roots – Valerie Burke
People greeted the earliest photographs with wonder and amazement because of their ability to faithfully reproduce reality. No other art form had enabled us to recreate nature exactly as it is, to provide us with a true and accurate record of an exact instant in time. Of course it wasn’t long before artists realized they could manipulate the image, so that it was no longer quite so accurate or true, but the world they shared was more interesting, more beautiful. In 1841 Henry Fox Talbot stated, “It would hardly be believed how different an effect is produced by a longer or shorter exposure to the light, and, also, by mere variations in the fixing process, by means of which almost any tint, cold or warm, may be thrown over the picture, and the effect of bright or gloomy weather may be imitated at pleasure. All this falls within the artist’s province to combine and regulate.”
And yet these manipulated images still retained the authority of every photographic image. We believe it because we see it, in print or on our computer screen, we accept that this really happened, at least some part of it. As James Agee wrote, “It is clear enough by now to most people that ‘the camera never lies’ is a foolish saying. Yet it is doubtful whether most people realize how extraordinarily slippery a liar the camera is.”
And it didn’t take long for these subtle manipulations to become more overt and more creative, for Man Ray to create a smiling sky, or Melies to make a trip to the moon. For artists to share with us new, beautiful, impossible worlds, which still seem, somehow, on some level, to hold on to that photographic truth.
Fertility – Laura J. Bennett
Four Artspan photographers share their strange new worlds with us.