Exercise – The myth of objectivity

Reading Bazin’s and Sekula’s article, I can understand where both point of views come from. I realise how much a shock it must have been at the invention of photography that reality could be portrayed in such a true way. More, that now there was the opportunity to document every element in life and not be dependent on the style and interest of the painter. Even though Bazin acknowledges that the photographer has an influence on the outcome of the photograph, reality is shown in such a way it has never been before.

Sekula on the other hand, makes a profound case for recognising that this claim for truth is based on a myth and that information that is passed on is determined by the relationship between viewed and viewer itself. Therefor it is impossible to ascribe an intrinsic meaning to the image itself.

The example of the difference between Hine’s and Stieglitz work makes it very clear. Stieglitz manifests aesthetics and consequently dehumanises the people in his images, denying the status of his subjects as a report, while Hine uses his photography as a report, but with a layer of spiritual expression.

Both articles have been very insightful. Bazin’s because it shows how the myth of objectivity has come into being and Sekula’s because it makes such a clear distinction between the symbolic and realist elements of this myth. He shows that the context and intentions in which the photographs were taken do determine the meaning of a photograph, but that this is not automatically been transferred to the viewers of the photograph. It has made me aware that I need to think about my intentions when I take a photograph, but also how I show it in public and in which context.

Bazin, A. and Gray, H. (1960) ‘The Ontology of the photographic image’, Film Quarterly, 13(4), pp. 4–9. doi: 10.2307/1210183.
Sekula, A. (1975) On The Invention of Photographic Meaning. Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/sekula_photomeaning.pdf (Accessed: 11 October 2016).

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