Daguerreotypes : fugitive subjects, contemporary objects by Lisa Saltzman

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By Lisa Saltzman

In the electronic age, images confronts its destiny lower than the competing symptoms of ubiquity and obsolescence. whereas know-how has allowed amateurs and specialists alike to create fine quality pictures within the blink of an eye fixed, new digital codecs have severed the unique photochemical hyperlink among snapshot and topic. while, contemporary cinematic images has stretched the idea that of images and raised questions about its fact worth as a documentary medium. regardless of this case, images continues to be a stubbornly important kind of proof: referenced by means of artists, filmmakers, and writers as a strong logo of fact, images has chanced on its domestic in different media at exactly the second of its personal fabric demise.

through studying this concept of images as articulated in literature, movie, and the picture novel, Daguerreotypes demonstrates how images secures id for figures with an differently volatile feel of self. Lisa Saltzman argues that during many glossy works, the photo asserts itself as a guarantor of identification, no matter if real or fabricated. From Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home—we locate lines of photography’s “fugitive matters” all through modern tradition. eventually, Daguerreotypes reveals how the picture, immediately own souvenir and fabric witness, has encouraged various smooth creative and important practices.

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Much as Casebere’s photographs are characterized by their relation to enclosures, both literal and metaphoric, and as such, manifestly open onto histories as various as those of the penal system, slavery, and photography itself,18 Demand’s photographs, for all their “interiority” and “intentional” construction,19 also maintain a resilient, if highly mediated, relation to contemporary and historical events. 20 In the case of his 2007 series Yellowcake, when there were no photographs upon which to base his models, Demand shot them with his own cell phone, creating a visual archive through which to document an act of fabrication, namely, the creation of the dossier used to build the case for the invasion of Iraq.

But all too often those pasts and losses do not inscribe their names. They leave no trace. Instead, we come face to face with landscapes, and photographs of landscapes, as recondite as the epitaph on a grave. We, as spectators of these photographs of unmarked landscapes, had become, I suggested, latter-day shepherds, standing before photographs as they once stood before the tombstone, joined across pictorial history in an attempt to make meaning of their sepulchral surfaces. Perhaps these photographs restored something of the aura that once accrued to the exhortation that is the literal meaning of the Mahnmal, in Panofsky’s native German, the “admonishing marker” that is the memorial, echoing in their emptiness the ethical and aesthetic imperatives of the contemporaneous countermonuments in all their resolute, minimalist abstraction.

Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, New York. the photo-constructions of Crewdson and his contemporaries bear no visual evidence of their reworking. Masking their methods of montage and dissimulating their elaborate staging, these seamless illusions depict not perfect moments but filmic fantasies. 11 For despite his use of the term “cinematographic,” it is Western painting, not cinema, that strengthens Wall’s work with an allusive armature. Nor, for that matter, is Crewdson’s work comparable to that of Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose ongoing project of capturing the movie palaces of an earlier era is cinematic only in its literal surround.

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