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History of Photography: Brief Overview of the Most Exciting and Impressive Ways of Cultural Representation Essay

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Introduction

Photography is one of the most interesting and impressive ways and techniques of culture representation. The relationship between representation and the culture in which they operate is rarely a matter of passive reflection. Susan Song states that “photography is punctuated by a series of dualistic controversies” (Grivett, 2005). In historical perspective, these controversies are caused by cultural changes, a new perception of the world and new techniques applied to photography.

Reflection of the material world

Hectically, photography has provided new visions which have enabled, for better or worse, the transitions from the nineteenth to the late twentieth century. Science and technology, as well as culture in general, demand representational systems to promote and facilitate change in perception and interpretation of photography. The dualistic controversy can be found in perception and reflection of the material world, in film and digital technologies. The controversy is that “digital photographers can and will cheat” (Grivett, 2005). Researchers underline that every historical period creates controversy proving the validity of the old technology and diminishing the value of a new one. For instance, there were ‘a slides versus prints controversy”, color versus black and whites prints but at the beginning of the 21st century, we face print versus digital photos controversy. Despite these differences, through photos, the artists communicate their views expressing a unique vision of reality and values (Marien, 2006). Photos can be seen as self-expression of the artists. During the 20th century, photography came to prove itself capable of transforming the culture from which it sprang and was also a quintessential product of its era, this it creates a new controversy: deliberation versus serendipity. For instance, photography documented the culture of the 1920s and world wars, the Great Depression-era, and the liberation movement. Photos from different decades differ in their techniques, representation, and images (Marien, 2006). The controversy is that photography can be perceived as individual sensations, thus the entire patterns of perceptual information have to be taken into account. They depend upon the relative attributes of the objects of perception. For instance, the perception of war by world war photographers differs greatly from modern journalists who pay attention to the sensation and emotions of soldiers avoiding battlefield operations (Marien, 2006). Subjectivity and objectivity of photography was reflected in the history of the 20th century with emphasis on the overall context of the photographed object. The historical example of this is still frames and motion films, stereo and ‘flatties (Grivett, 2005). It is possible to say that the convergence of these procedures resulted in the medium of photography which, though related to painting and drawing, amounts to an entirely new representational system with its particular attributes (Newhall, 1982). From the historical standpoint, during the nineteenth-century critics supposed that photography would, through its intrinsic properties, have the power to change or influence people’s moral standpoints and tastes. Following Frith, photography was interpreted as ‘the replication of perfection’ (Newhall, 1982). Gravett states that: “It is possible to create the illusion of depth,.. with, stereo imaging, stereo-grams, and holograms” (Grivett, 2005).

The history suggests that photography is art reflecting personal values and perceptions of a photographer. Many photographers, such as Thomas Annan (1868), compiled documentary records of the slum districts (Newhall 1982). Thus, these photos are often perceived as art playing the role of social criticism. The photographs did have the virtue of revealing the camera’s potential to bring to a wider public evidence of social conditions and injustices. They could have been seen as establishing the traditional approach of social documentary (Rosenblum, 2007).

Conclusion

Photography has undergone dramatic stylistic and contextual changes over the past 30 years. While some of these changes may be due to technical innovation, most innovations in approach have been determined by the dynamics of photography operating in a changing society. Like any other art, photography is a dynamic practice which is subject to change and innovation over time. The dualistic controversies are based and caused by differences in perceptions, technologies, and values of people.

References

1. Grivett, B. (2005). . PSA Journal [online] Web.

2. Marien, M. W. (2006). Photography: A Cultural History. Prentice Hall; 2nd edition.

3. Newhall, B. (1982). History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present. Bulfinch; 5 edition.

4. Rosenblum, N. (2007). A World History of Photography. Abbeville Press; 3 Sub edition.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "History of Photography: Brief Overview of the Most Exciting and Impressive Ways of Cultural Representation." September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-of-photography-brief-overview/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'History of Photography: Brief Overview of the Most Exciting and Impressive Ways of Cultural Representation'. 12 September.

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