transparent pictures

The use of the Leica has traditionally been associated with photojournalism, street photography and photographic realism. Realism is usually interpreted  in terms of the   positivist understanding of knowledge  as an edifice  based on fact and observation, the objectivity claimed by foundational epistemology, and the universality  of the view from nowhere or the God's eye view. 

The philosophical underpinnings of this positivism can be found in photography's  indexical relation,  which is  taken to distinguish photography from other forms of picture making. The inference drawn  is that an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of  the human being. Consequently, images made by strictly photographic means are solely causal traces of the objects responsible for them.

photographic intentions

Snapshot  photography is usually defined  as having the following characteristics. They must be taken by a snapshot camera Kodak to Holga); snapshot formats are limited in number and small in size; snapshots are generally anonymous; snapshots tend not to be (pictorially self-conscious;  snapshots are made to memorialize their subjects; snapshots have  an  arbitrariness in that unintended effects, large or small, are the rule. They are taken by amateurs who more or less snapped the shutters of their cameras.

Art Galleries and museums have started constructing  snapshots as belonging to the folk or popular art tradition.   The folk or popular art tradition is often interpreted as vernacular photography implying naïve or primitive  art. This is then distinguished from art photographers from Jacques-Henri Lartigue to Nan Goldin have self-consciously borrowed the snapshot look as a stylistic manner. 

A major  difference between the folk and art traditions is intention;  meaning that what we see in the photo was produced deliberately. In the former tradition it is unintentional,  in the latter tradition it is intentional.   This account posits a direct connection between a photographer  and his or her photo. In this scenario, the introduction of the personal serves to ground the narrative in the photographer’s experience, in such a way as to make the intimate bond between subjectivity and memory serve as an unassailable foundation for the image being presented.

a reflexive artist-in-waiting

In contemporary art photography the current use of the snapshot's pictorial style  is not simply a return to the anti-aesthetic informality of Conceptual art. This is because the boundaries between professional artist, occasional artist, and non-artist have been perceived to have been eroded in the 1990s. This has created an elision between “advanced aesthetics” and the aesthetics of the photographic amateur, and concomitantly a blurring between the “good photograph”  (the result of extensive labor and post processing ) and the would-be “bad photograph” (the instantaneous photograph taken as a private love-token or momento mori). 

The current digital transformations, from photography’s unprecedented proliferation to its new means of circulation and display through social networking sites  has reinforced  two ideas at the heart of contemporary  hipster snapshot culture:  the romantic  notion of the “amateur” photographer as a reflexive artist-in-waiting and some  notion of mass cultural democracy in popular photographic practice associated with families and friendships. 

a humble photography

The 1990s and 2000s are routinely identified as an era of deregulation, globalisation and neoliberalism as successive Australian governments have progressively "open up" the Australian economy to international competition, ending industry assistance, eliminating remaining tariffs and encouraging exports.  The neo-liberal  decade of economic growth due to the mining boom in Quarry Australia coupled to an authoritarian nationalism with  its tacit white supremacism,  hostility to cultural difference and  xenophobia  ended with the  global financial crisis in 2008.

This process of internationalisation was seen as restricting Australia's national culture in that it  was in danger of becoming  an add on that existed the margins of the global art culture. Australia's visual culture was not seen as particularly distinctive in global art market terms. The national publishing  industry was also  impacted given the increasing dominance of  multinational conglomerates and that meant fewer photo book opportunities  for contemporary photography given the overseas publications being privileged over Australian ones.  It also meant increasing exposure to the art movement flowing strongly  through  the old  art centers of cities such as London, New York, and Paris; cities that  for centuries, have been the engine rooms of modern art. 

a pictorial tradition

The digital era has bought an end to the use of the scrappy snapshot to critique aesthetic ideology, the traditional categories sod art and the norms of artistic professionalism.  The snapshot stood for non-artistic ordinariness and artists exhibited them without framing or manipulation and it opposed the aesthetic ideology embodied in the artisanal arts of painting and undercut   photography’s institutional aspirations to the status of painting. 

This avant-garde strategy of negating aesthetic ideology  no longer works with the general incorporation of photography into the category of art, and  large scale  digitalised cinematic photography  inside the portals whose power it once criticised. 

This large scale  photography made since the late 1980s are designed to be viewed on the walls of galleries rather than in the pages of magazines or books. They have assumed a prominent position in contemporary art, acknowledged by grand exhibitions, extensive critical writing and a clearly established  pictorial canon----  Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Luc Delahaye, Beat Streuli, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Patrick Faigenbaum, Roland Fischer, Thomas Demand, Candida Höfer, James Welling and Berndt and Hilla Becher.

different perspectives on a photo-picture

Todays photography is digital plus  computer graphics, which brings incredible capability. Its computational photography. 

This  gives people the  power to create. The future looks to be one of turning the complex physical parts of a camera into software and algorithms making computational photography more of a  data-crunching problem.   

If photography has changed in terms of  faster, better cameras, new processes and workflows, improved storage mechanisms — but  it has yet to fundamentally re-think the actual picture.  Classical  photography assumes a fixed perspective ---photographers freeze a moment, and do so with particular intentions since  the focus, the depth of field, the composition all serve a careful purpose. 

What the classical picture didn't  allow the viewer  was multiply perspectives  within a single picture. The single perspective was that of the photographer. 

this place is my home

I've always been surprised by the way that the photo made with a film camera was understood as an index or trace of what had caused it. Photography was primarily defined by its technical basis: the way in which light reflected by an object or event in the real world is registered on the film emulsion even though this aspect of the photo-mechanical process has only a small part to play in the meanings that a photograph has.

Even Gilles Deleuze  does not invest photography with the creative and re-creative potential that he associates with both cinema and modern painting. In short, while he highly values other visual artistic forms, he seemingly presents photographic texts as stagnate documents or tools that produce certainty, organize bodies and desires, and iterate hackneyed ideas. He even uses photography as something of a foil to demonstrate the innovation of the cinema and the originality of modern painters. 

returning to the roots

When I was in-between digital cameras I decided that I would only use the Leica as a street camera on my photo trip to Tasmania. I'd given up on a digital Leica --eg., an M9--and decided that I would work with film Leica until a reasonably price range-finder style digital camera came along at a reasonable price. 

 It was a return to my roots as it were when  our visual culture was moving rapidly into a time where the new means of digital and electronic imaging were coming to supersede those of the age of mechanical reproduction. The emergence of 'digital imaging' and a new 'digital photography' was widely sensed as a moment of special significance in the history of media and visual representation,  and this moment was celebrated as a release from the constraints of photographic representation. We had entered a  'post-photographic era'. 

Others responded  to digital image technology in terms of  a cultural panic in which the values and practices of photography were seen to be threatened. This response expressed  a fear  for the demise of photographic truth. The new malleability of the image, it was argued,  would  eventually lead to a profound undermining of photography's status as an inherently truthful pictorial form. 

telling a story

By now I  had morphed into a photographer who was straddling the film and digital worlds with little idea  of the digital world was closing in on me,  or was reshaping photography. I was primarily looking at images on the monitor but still thinking  of photography in the old film terms --eg., the snapshot of the Nth Melbourne railway station whilst I was on the road.  

I had  not yet realised that curators  would frame the pushing the boundaries of art photography as  primarily  coming from  the use of computer software to create complex imagery that stood in stark contrast  to the mundane and normal digital photography being produced.  

I was vaguely thinking in terms of self-publishing the best  photographs from my portfolio. Only I didn't really have a portfolio.  Nor was I sure how to go about creating one---other than taking lots of photographs,  selecting the best, and approaching Blurb. 

John Szarkowski challenged the ability of photography to explain large-scale public subjects in both the preface to The Photographer's Eye (1966) and in Mirrors and Windows (1978). In The Photographer's Eye he wrote, "Photography has never been successful at narrative" and he declared the fields of photojournalism and documentary non-effectual in Mirrors and Windows writing, "Photography's failure to explain large public issues has become increasingly clear...Most issues of importance cannot be photographed." He argued that attempts to photograph World War II were unable to explain events without heavy captioning. 

wandering the city

Some hold that there are  two kinds of photographers, collectors and sculptors. Sculptor type photographers are those who set up a scene,  creating it from scratch,  and then take a picture of it.  In contrast, collector type photographers  wander, bringing things home that they find out in the world and they  often have a vague idea or kind of personal fantasy that they look for out in the world.

The process of wandering is central to my Leica snapshots. When I walk the city my route is seldom pre-conceived and I am not looking for very specific things. I did not  have a list of things to photograph  in my notebook.  I would often walk with the standard poodles.