Allan Sekula
[Photographer, writer, and theorist, b. 1951, Erie, Pennsylvania, d. 2013, Los Angeles.]

 Documentary is thought to be art when it transcends its reference to the world, when the work can be regarded, first and foremost, as an act of self-expression on the part of the artist. 
 As a privileged commodity fetish, as an object of connoisseurship, the photograph achieves its ultimate semantic poverty. But this poverty has haunted photographic practice from the very beginning. 
 Nothing could be more natural than... a man pulling a snapshot from his wallet and saying, “This is my dog.” 
 The making of a human likeness on film is a political act. 
 The photograph is an “incomplete” utterance, a message that depends on some external matrix of conditions and presuppositions for its readability. 
 Photography promises an enhanced mastery of nature, but photography also threatens conflagration and anarchy. 
 Documentary photography has amassed mountains of evidence. And yet, in this pictorial presentation of scientific and legalistic “fact,” the genre has contributed much to spectacle, to retinal excitation, to voyeurism, to terror, envy and nostalgia, and only a little to the critical understanding of the social world. 
 The only “objective” truth that photographs offer is the assertion that somebody or something... was somewhere and took a picture. Everything else, everything beyond the imprinting of a trace, is up for grabs. 
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