Tag, Francois Brunet
15.01.–28.02.2014
3. Meet Billy the Kid (On Portraiture, Two)

In my previous post I raised the question, “why is it that commercial portraiture, which in the 19th century and into the 20th made up an overwhelming majority of all photographs taken, has received comparatively so little attention in the more established histories of photography?” Maybe the “What if God Was One of Us” video, with its weirdly mixed “message,” does not go far enough to answer this question, except to suggest, subliminally or subconsciously, that commercial portraiture is a game of masks, or fools, and an outdated one at that, perhaps even only appealing today to ethnic minorities and punk heads.

One simple answer is that in most portraits encountered in old albums or today in picture-sharing facilities, there is generally nothing to like or to learn—except perhaps numbers, formats, archival procedures—unless the viewer is related to the subject and in a position to reconstruct stories involving the image. Portraits are usually private. Their merits—the knowledge and care that pertain to them, the aspirations of the sitters through their representations—are private, and often ephemeral; memories attached to them fade fast. In portraits, then, there is nothing to learn or to like, unless some significant context or discourse can be recovered or imagined about them. more

Published: 04.02.2014
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2. “What if God Was One of Us?” (On portraiture, One)

My daughter, 14, had a school assignment about finding and analyzing a song “with a message.” She is very musical, and good in school, but she sometimes seeks our advice. After discussing the notion of “with a message” and searching for possible songs (Dylan, Springsteen, Leforestier, etc.) we thought about a more recent song that she liked quite a bit, “One of Us” or “What if God Was One of Us?” I had heard it sung first by Sheryl Crow but the song, written by Eric Bazilian, was recorded originally by Joan Osborne. The “message,” contained in the title, becomes very explicit in the chorus: “What if God was one of us / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus”. This is not necessarily a religious song, I mean a proselytizing song (Brazilian is quoted saying that he wrote that song in one night “to impress a girl”), but it does talk about faith. more

Published: 24.01.2014
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1. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

Happy new year everyone on “still searching”.

This is my first real attempt at writing a blog, and I want to thank the Fotomuseum Winterthur for inviting me. I have to beg readers to bear with me while I adjust my academic style to something more conversational, hoping indeed to continue the lively conversation on “Still Searching”. I say continue, because even though I mostly want to concentrate on history — how do we, how should we, write histories of photography today, in 2014? — I would like to interact with previous bloggers here, especially Marvin Heiferman’s very suggestive comments and questions in the previous series.

One big question is about the continuing sense that we are witnessing an “explosion” of images, linked with the digital revolution. Marvin commented on this in his post on “The River”.  This is obvious, and yet it is something troubling, historically, because we have a very large record of previous expressions of the same sense — descriptions and interrogations about “a flood of pictures”, since at least the 1850s. more

Published: 14.01.2014
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