Reconciling dualistic controversies

Michael Croft


Through a consideration of photographic history and the AGNSW exhibition Photography & Place, Reconciling Dualistic Controversies examines the tensions that emerge from the intersection of modern and postmodern thought. Briefly tracing the early development of photography, early photographic and artistic discourses are examined. The article begins with an examination of how photography was initially used to augment traditional media in their pursuit of realism. It is then highlighted that, at its advent, photography was viewed contrary to notions of art, and thus the belief that it was not suited to artistic expression became deeply embedded in the popular consciousness. This is augmented by a discussion of Modern and Postmodern influences on the discourse, and the evolving treatment of photography throughout the 20th century. Subsequently, the photographer’s role in mediating reality is considered, with a focus on whether photography is an explicitly objective or subjective medium. This if followed by a reflection on the opposing views concerning the construction of meaning, with an emphasis on authorship. Ultimately, it is concluded that neither Modern nor Postmodern thought yields an all-embracing approach to photography, and thus we must attempt to reconcile the two modes of thought.

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