Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/11/28

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Subject: [Leica] Critical discourse on photography
From: Guy Bennett <>
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2001 19:16:57 -0800
References: <> <> <v04011702b82a0dda3182@[]>

>Ever since photography has been "discovered" and become marketable as a
>thing unto itself, we've had to suffer the retinue and baggage that
>comes with it. It's produced a great deal of tension inside the craft,
>much of which I personally think is to the benefit of the medium. But
>it's opened the doors to a hoard that ranges from the Sontagian shriek
>for meaning to the Foucaultian self implosion, to name a couple.

These guys are cultural commentators. Photography is a socio-cultural
activity. They write about it (and about a great many other things as
well). It's their job. You're a photographer. You take pictures. That's
your job. Some folk have no interest in what they have to say about
photography. That's their prerogative. The fact is, however, that a great
many people find value in what they say. They have made a more than
significant contribution to critical discourse on photography, art and
culture that is recognized by people around the world. To write them off
with the kind of sophmoric comments we're treated to on this list is more
than a little presumptuous. Instead, why not offer some kind of substantive
critique of what they have to say rather than just diss them, which teaches
us nothing?

Also, the perception that it is only recently that people - both critics
and artists - have been writing critically about photography is false.
Critical discourse about photography long precedes Barthes, Sontag, etc.
Look at Stieglitz' "Camera Work." Pick up "Photography in the Modern Era"
(MMA/Aperture, 1989) for a series of enlightening articles on photography
going back to the early '20s. Critical discourse on photography is almost
as old as the craft itself. It's not a newfangled contraption fashioned by

>It's kind of like being in trench, you look over to see who is there
>with you. As we're doing it, being there in that trench, doing our work,
>I don't see this current generation of cassandras next to us in that
>trench. In my case, as I document the discontent inside our economic
>steerage in metro LA, I rarely see other photographers, let alone those
>voices that will someday be telling me and the rest of us, what
>happened.  So, yes I take issue with the bounders that come after the
>event and try to co-opt it with all the devices at their disposal.

Oh, the above writers are not co-opting anything. They are commenting on,
contributing to a discussion of photography as a social activity. No need
for photographers to feel threatened.

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Replies: Reply from S Dimitrov <> (Re: [Leica] Critical discourse on photography)
In reply to: Message from Dan Cardish <> (Re: [Leica] OT:Photography and Art Photography/ was grad school.)
Message from Dan Cardish <> (Re: [Leica] OT:Photography and Art Photography/ was gradschool.)
Message from Guy Bennett <> (Re: [Leica] OT:Photography and Art Photography/ was gradschool.)