미술사의 사진에 관한 화두 - 사진의 정체성과 예술성에 관한 논의
Issues on Photography in Art History : Debates on Photographic Identity in Relation to 'Art'
Discussion on the photographic identity in relation to 'art' has been carried on since the 1830s when photography had first appeared in the history of art. What was at issue has been whether one could recognize the innate quality of photographic medium in terms of art in its conventional meaning. The debate was most controversial in the late 19th century. What was certain seems to be that photography's mechanical medium was not considered as an artful device at all at that time. Thus one sees 'pictorialism' formed in the circle of photography in order to follow ways of representing and visual mechanism of painting. However, such attempt to repress and even negate its identity was rather limited and couldn't be a fundamental solution to the problematic aspect of photographic identity as art. Such a word of 'problem' turned out to be a quite wrong word when it comes to the 20th century. From about 1903 when pure photography(or straight photography) movement aroused by Stieglitz, the way of considering photographic medium has been changed into a positive direction for photography itself. Not pretending to be other than itself, photography was able to assert its own identity as it is, which was quite liberating. About liberation was, in fact, much more in painting's side. Free from the burden of realistic representation of objects, painting developed into the grand period of abstraction, especially launched by Cubism and other non-figurative movements afterwards. In Modernism, painting and photography seem happily separated, pursuing their own way of art-making on the basis of their different mediums. However, from Postmodern era in art, particularly from the late 1970s, the relation between painting and photography has been dramatically changed. There has been a strong force emerging from the postmodern art itself to unite the two. Art historical discourse including painting, of course, has actively invited photography to its mainstream, to its very centre. Two major points in photographic mechanism that contemporary art highlights and pinpoints were index and reproduction. These have been adopted to other forms of art such as painting in the last three decades. It can be said that what is regarded as postmodern aesthetics has found its characteristics in photography. Thus this essay in its second part explores indexical quality and reproductive mechanism in photography in terms of postmodern perspective. It is ironical that such crucial qualities in photographic identity had been disregarded and even despised when photography was discussed in relation to art. Not only in the 19th century but also in the period of Modernism, the reproductive mechanism of photography, for example, was considered against art. Walter Benjamin's concept of 'aura' ignites the debate on the relation between the original and its reproduction. All these arguments, still going on, are about how we conceive 'art.' That means that photography has become 'art' and 'non-art' depending what are the values emphasized in art historical discourse. In this respect, looking back at photography's history, it seems like that one looks at art history's moving photography-if there is such a thing, showing how it changes its signifying system.
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