CRITIQUE OF THE 20th CENTURY PHOTOGRAPHY
20th Century Photography Just as a painting has the ability to move, engage, and inspire its viewers so does a photograph. Examples of such of photographs include the bell pepper photograph by Edward Weston, the iconic lake with a background of snow filled mountain photograph by Ansel Adams, the photograph of a man and woman kissing by Robert Doisneau, among others1. (Gustavson, 2014: 123). Figure 1: Pepper No. 30, (1930) by Edward Weston No matter the photograph, there is no arguing that these photographs are exceptional pieces of art; no one would dispute that fact. Before inventors like Daguerre came up with the daguerreotype, an early type of photography that used a silver-coated plate, there were earlier forms of inventions that served as photography, like the diorama.
The diorama came up with representations of mountains and landscapes by utilizing lighting and scene painting. Photographers had other professions which they preferred to be identified with. Before creating iconic photographic portraits in Paris, Nadar had been well known as a caricaturist long before. The photographer also invented the largest balloon “The Giant” while serving as an aeronaut. She argued that in a black and white photograph, blue eyes ended up being colorless as water. Eastlake also noted that women’s red or blonde hair looked like it had not been dyed and that shiny hair was portrayed as “lines of light as big as ropes. " According to the critic, in photography the natural beauty of women was lost and that it failed to accurately depict the features of women.
Although the beauty of men was inappropriately represented in photographs, it was not to the same level as women’s. According to Elizabeth Eastlake, no matter the value of the photograph or what it represented, by no chance was it a form of art (Hannavy, 2013: 1195). Pictorialists such as Alfred Stieglitz started experimenting with straight photography. Straight photography is the printing of negatives to create photographs without the manipulation or changing of the negatives. Alfred Stieglitz also took abstract photographs of clouds. With the time, every photographer started to accept photography in its classic form and stopped the application of effects to make photographs look like paintings. (Hannavy, 2013: 1480). In comparison, the female nude was treated entirely different by classic art. The female nude lacked a particular standard theme, apart from being a symbol of life-giving and fertility.
In the late 19th century, sexual objectification and fetishistic approach to the female nude was more hyped. Women features, such as waistlines and breasts, were more highlighted to represent women’s sexuality as found attractive by men (Gustavson, 2014: 126). However, the 20th century changed this negative representation and opened photography to women from different walks of life. The Truth as portrayed in 20th Century Photography Undoubtedly, the 20th century is one of the bloodiest centuries in human histories. Worldwide, there were around 175-200 million deaths that were a result of politically motivated conflicts. As such it is critical to examine, how photography was used to represent these bloody times. An analysis of war photography demands that it be evaluated as record mediations and mediated records in equal measures.
Photographs served as vaults of testimony, repositories of information. Nonetheless, various media outlets such as the Daily Mirror and The New York Times managed to bring depictions of the war to the public. Most of these photographs were mere depictions of landscapes of battlefields, troop formations, damaged property and ruins, war materials, and images of soldiers resting while receiving medical attention. The purpose of these photographs was to mitigate the war’s ugliness and solicit public support. Photographs did not represent the truth or the evidence of what was going on, but rather, what officials in government wanted the public to see (Tucker, 2010: 102). However, there are few photographers who tried to bring the truth of the war without any bias. Before this time, photographs only objectified women specifically sexual objectification where they pleased the expectation of men.
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