Philosophy of the Arts



Photographs used to be proof of the reality of their subject: what was on them proved to have existed. [Roland Barthes wrote an interesting booklet about this]. This evidential capacity distinguished photographs from their intentional counterparts, paintings. [Roger Scruton (1983) wrote a convincing article on this distinction.] Due to digitalization all this has changed thoroughly, irrespective of whether or not some particular photograph was digitally manipulated. We wouldn’t see the difference, would we?
In short, some photograph which fifty years ago would have astonished the viewer on account of its capturing a singular moment or movement [one can think of the many beautiful photographs Henri Cartier-Bresson has made], would as such, as capturing the moment, be little more astonishing than a painted picture of that very same moment. [David Hockney rejoices the vast possibilities of the maker who now re-enters the camera-and I fully share his joy.] The evidential powers of photo-journalism were a mere glimmer in the history of truth seeking, shining for a short 150 years. They are damaged by digitalization beyond repair.

Barthes, Roland. 2000 (1980). Camera Lucida. Translated by Richard
Howard. London: Vintage.

Hockney, David. 2002. Secret Knowledge. Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. London: Thames and Hudson.
Scruton, Roger. 1983a. “Photography and Representation.” In The Aesthetic Understanding: Essays in the Philosophy of Art and Culture, 102-126. London, New York: Methuen.

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