by Nik Pekridis Published 01/10/2010
Photography is a relatively new artistic medium, counting in at just over 150 years; just a snippet of time in the history of art. However, during its short lifespan, it has gone through a crash course in artistic development. Being initially influenced by other fine arts, it has gone all the way through to influencing other visual arts in its own right. The history of photography is rich and captivating, marked by challenges, obstacles, failures and triumphs. One thing, however, remained constant throughout – the struggle to bring to photography the recognition it deserves as an art form in its own right. The height of this endeavour took place around the turn of the 20th century, when traditional fine art itself was experiencing a revolution which would propel it into new directions. This revolution, triggered initially by the establishment of the Dada movement, which strived to deny all that were the traditional concepts of fine art, affected photography positively, due to the adoption of this new medium by major artists as a form of mutiny towards other forms. This in itself triggered an experimental phase which brought photography into the picture as a medium that could produce, rather than just reproduce.
Indeed, this was, and probably still remains, the greatest struggle for photography – convincing society that there is a highly intricate creative process behind the creation of a photograph; that in fact a photograph is the interpretation of a subjective reality and not the portrayal of the absolute. It is no surprise that photography was the medium of choice of many Surrealists – the members of the artistic movement succeeding the Dada movement. Their main aim was to break down the links between the mind and reality, producing work which was a direct interpretation of their dreams and thoughts. One of the main contributors to the Surrealist movement, Man Ray, was particularly fond of the photographic medium, experimenting new techniques at length. His philosophy was one which has been adopted by many artists who followed: “I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.”
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