[Writer and theorist, b. 1947, New York, lives in Santa Barbara, California.]
... photography, like all camera-made images such as film and video, effaces the marks of its making (and maker) at the click of a shutter. A photograph appears to be self-generated—as though it had created itself.
As Plato insisted two thousand years ago, it is not by means of the image that moral, ethical, or political knowledge is produced.
That erotic and pornographic photographs were produced almost from the medium’s inception should come as no surprise. That it does so is a testimonial only to the near-total elision of this fact from the standard histories in the field... Indeed, it seems reasonable to assume that almost as soon as there were viable daguerreotypes, there were pornographic ones.
In the final analysis, photography... is ever a hireling, ever the hired gun.
Contemporary art photography, or, more specifically, what I would term mainstream art photography, represents for the most part the mining of an exhausted lode.
“The thing itself” is never just out there in the world waiting to be framed by the photographer’s Leica; rather, it is something dynamically produced in the act of representation and reception and already subject to the grids of meaning imposed on it by culture, history, language, and so forth.
Art photography, although long since legitimized by all the conventional discourses of fine art, seems destined perpetually to recapitulate all the rituals of the arriviste. Inasmuch as one of those rituals consists of the establishment of suitable ancestry, a search for distinguished bloodlines, it inevitably happens that photographic history and criticism are more concern with notions of tradition and continuity than with those of rupture and change.
While the aesthetics of consumption (photographic or otherwise) requires a heroicized myth of the artist, the exemplary practice of the player-off codes requires only an operator, a producer, a scriptor, or a pasticheur.