[Philosopher, critic, and theorist, b. 1892, Berlin, d. 1940, Port Bou, France.]
... much futile thought had been devoted to the question of whether photography is an art. The primary question—whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art—was not raised.
Every day the urge grows stronger to get a hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction. (1936)
An appreciation of the transience of things, and the concern to rescue them for eternity, is one of the strongest impulses in allegory.
“The illiterate of the future,” it has been said, “will not be the man who cannot read the alphabet, but the one who cannot take a photograph.” But must we not also count as illiterate the photographer who cannot read his own pictures?
... [L]ess than at any time does a simple reproduction of reality tell us anything about reality. A photograph of the Krupp works or GEC yields almost nothing about those institutions. Reality proper has slipped into the functional. The reification of human relationships, the factory, let's say, no longer reveals these relationships. Therefore something has to be constructed, something artificial, something set up.
History breaks down into images, not into stories.
Rather than ask, “What is the attitude of a work to the relations of production of its time?” I should like to ask, “What is its position in them.”
What we must demand from the photographer is the ability to put such a caption beneath his picture as will rescue it from the ravages of modishness and confer upon it a revolutionary use value.