ART Magazine. San Antonio, Texas. By Sarah Luginbill.
“Photography has become the ubiquitous language of our times, transforming a culture obsessed with the word to one increasingly bound to the image.” This declaration by the Chief Curator of the International Center of Photography, Brian Wallis, is pasted on the gallery wall of the ICP’s exhibit “A Short History of Photography.” Accompanying the photos in the exhibit are excerpts from Walter Benjamin’s 1931 essay “A Short History of Photography,” an insightful look into early perceptions of the art.
The International Center of Photography in New York City, New York houses over 100,000 photographs and negatives. These range from the earliest forms of photography to recent digital images. Photography is a medium which has transformed over time due to innovations in technology. Essentially, photography is a direct result of the merging of art and science.
Photography is a very accessible form of artwork. Anyone can own a camera, and thus has the potential to create art. Photography thrives in our extremely visual modern culture which is saturated in images. Some photographs are staged, creating or exaggerating drama to illicit a response. Other photographs are candid, and the moment they capture can be meaningful, historic, or personal.
Most of the photographs displayed in museums are meant to illicit a response. They are shown because their subject-matter is thought-provoking or the picture quality and content is considered art. Either way, photographers who are exhibitied in museums tend to have messages in their photographs, whether the messages are subtle or obvious. Artists who are photographers have an agenda whenever they click the shutter, and that is important to keep in mind while viewing photographs in a museum. Photography is not just an art. It is a form of human communication of ideas and sentiments.
“Looking [is] a social activity that is central to the experience of photography,” Brian Wallis comments later in his paragraph at the ICP.
While walking around the ICP’s “A Short History of Photography” exhibition, a viewer may begin to wonder which images are staged and which are not. Photography is a deceptive medium. Subject-matter can be arranged and pictures altered by the artist, but if something is in a photograph, it is almost immediately taken as real. Taking the time to thoroughly examine and consider a photo is an essential aspect of experiencing a photography exhibit.
As a matter of fact, the San Antonio Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition featuring works by famous American photographers. “Sublime Light: A Survey of American Photographs from the Permanent Collection” is on display at the SAMA until August 19th. If you get a chance to visit, do not just casually look at the photos; try to see the meaning and hidden artistry in each picture.