In this blog post, I would like to focus my attention on the work of a photographer I discovered recently and whose work I found highly pertinent to my writings about representation in photography.
In her project, ‘Early American’, artist Sharon Core, carefully reproduced in real-life the subject matter contained in certain paintings by American painter Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825) and then she photographed the results. Below are a few examples of Core’s work from this project.
Here, in animated gif format, is a painting by Peale (Still Life with Cake, 1818, painting) alternating with Core’s photographic rendition of the same subject (Tea Cakes and Sherry, 2008, C-print)
It is useless to stay arguing on the technique employed by Core to produce the final photographic results. We must stand by our convictions and judge a book by its cover – after all, whatever the technique was that was employed to produce this particular photographic project, the end result is just that: a series of photographs. And we must judge this project as such, that is: as a series of photographs.
In a previous blog post (click here to read post), I wrote about the fluid exchange that exists between the pictorial and the photographic, with the photographic being latent in the pictorial, and the pictorial embedded in the photographic. Now, one can be silly and attribute the pictorial to the painting and the photographic to the photograph. It is completely irrelevant what Christ scribbled in the sand at the feet of the adulteress; all we need to know is that the scribble was definitely photographic. And what do I mean by that?
We talk a lot about context… and sometimes we also make reference to those moments that make us paroxysmally blurt out: “It’s real!”. Let me be simple and reveal to you that context is nothing but background. And, let me now be stupid and state that the yells “It’s real!” are to be equated with the photographic, indeed are the quintessential expression of the effect the photographic has on us beholders. And this simplicity and stupidity will be enough to help us carry forward this discourse on the beautiful art of photography.
For when we are in the mood for exaltations and, in unison, triumphantly and joyously allow our rose-tinctured voices to rapturously exclaim, “It’s real!”, we are doing nothing but confirming the signified presence of a human intention. And context is just background… yes, those horrendous blocks of flats contaminating the lovely snap you took of your grandmother while she was laboriously attempting to gracefully walk down the Sliema promenade are just that… context.
Let’s cut to the chase now. Reality does not exist; and we see through seeing. For the feebleminded, the latter statement is meant to signify that the eyes seek not to see what they very well know they can in any case see, but to see what they inherently know that they can in no way see… is this the Heideggerian nothingness? Nah, the Levinasian “Other” 🙂
P.S. “If it is other, it is not other” – wrong! If it is other, it is other – and this is where the real problem starts.
P.S.S. I know that the above argument about context is completely out of place in this blog post. In no way does it tie in with the rest of the argument. But I think it is really cool anyways to grapple with it here, because, let’s face it, teaching a bunch of certified psychologists, who might happen to be reading this post, that their sanctified “context” is nothing but background is, well, cool.
P.S.S.S Let us stop using the term “photographic camera”! The camera is in fact no more photographic than the painter’s brush. “Photography apparatus” – sounds fab in my opinion…
P.S.S.S.S I own a signed print of the above photo by Core, the one with the watermelons 🙂
Sharon CORE. 2008. Early American. Sharon Core [online]. Available at: http://www.sharoncore.net/earlyamerican [accessed 1 November 2019].
Raphaelle PEALE. 1818. Still Life with Cake. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [online]. Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11737 [accessed 1 November 2019].
Jami430 [License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peeler#/media/File:Chef_uses_a_Y_peeler_to_peel_a_lime.jpg [accessed on 1 November 2019; original image not modified].