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Discuss some of the ways that postmodern photographic practice questions, critiques, or opposes Modernist notions of photography

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Discuss some of the ways that postmodern photographic practice questions, critiques, or opposes Modernist notions of photography. When comparing modernism and postmodernism in photography, it would be important to note that modern art and postmodern art are very broad subjects. So broad that one cannot condense all of the two into an essay, nor can your argument be foolproof from rebuttal. There are far too many postmodern photographers to mention, so I shall concentrate on a select few and their methods of questioning Modernist photography. Modernism as we know it today is a movement that began alongside the industrialization of the western world. With Industry and machines came the idea of modernism, that science would eventually overcome nature to create a perfectly streamlined world. The modernist movement argued that the new realities of the 20th century were permanent and imminent, and that people should adapt their world view to accept that what was new was also good and beautiful. Order and meaning to the Modernist movement were found through the concept of Grand Narratives, something that will crop up later in the essay. Postmodernism came of course after Modernism and can be seen as a reaction to the world after modernism. This does not necessarily have to be a critique of modernism, but usually critiques of modern life can bear relevance to previous movements such as modernism that may have caused what is being critiqued. Modernist photographic practice specifically adhered of course to different social and artistic rules. It is a very modernist medium, it's hey day being at the peak of modernist idealism (1880-1940). The use of photography was kept relatively simple. ...read more.


It is not about aesthetics, the quality of the print and the shape or form. Postmodern styles of photography oppose these notions of photography. Another photographer who contested the idea of the male gaze is Helmut Newton. Newton worked mainly in the realm of fashion photography, where he became used to seeing the female model as an object to be desired by both men and women. He began to experiment with his fashion shoots "Newton explored the nexus between power, gender roles and sexuality in his fashion photography"6. Compare these two images, fig 1.4 by Newton and Fig 1.5 by Bellocq. Fig 1.4 Fig1.5 In the Photograph by Bellocq the persons face has been scrubbed out by the artist, we cannot see her face so she becomes a subject for our gaze. She has no gaze and she is reduced to an object. The model stands in a casual manner, accepting that she is on display. By scrubbing out her face Bellocq is on purpose objectifying the model, who is a prostitute posing for Bellocq. In Newtons image there is a completely different tone, there is harsh lighting which illuminates the woman. The photograph is taken lower down so that the woman looms over us in a powerful way. Her stance is also one of power; she stands square on to the camera, shoulders and legs straight. She has her hands together with one clenched in a fist over her crotch. It is as if she is not covering her genitals but protecting them. She stares straight back at the camera, unflinching and fierce, because of this she is less a sexual object more a threat. ...read more.


Not to beautify it. While photographers such as Shonibare were attempting to criticise the ethics of modernist idealism, other wanted to change the way we perceived photography. Postmodern photographic practice has moved away from critiquing modernism and has concerned itself now with popular culture as a wider spectrum. Yet in looking at popular culture one cannot escape cultures that modernism has created. This is why postmodern photography is part an evolutionary process in image making and also a critique of cultures history. Fig 2.1 shows John Baldessaris artwork of two pictures put together. The people in the pictures have their heads hidden under large coloured dots. In combining two photographs Baldessari is rejecting the constraints of a single photograph "a clash of pictures, producing meaning that wasn't inherent in the individual images"13. In using paint to paint dots onto faces he is combining photography with painting, synergizing art with photography. 11. Art after 1960, p120 12.Sontag, On photograpy, penguin, p107 13 Heiser Jorg, John Baldassari, http://www.frieze.com/review_single.asp?r=2241 Fig 2.1 Susan Sontag Argues that "Whatever the moral claims made on behalf of photography, its main effect is to convert the world into a department store or museum-without-walls in which every subject is depreciated into an article of consumption, promoted into an item for aesthetic appreciation".14 What Sontag describes is the world we see today, a world where every object can be defined in a photograph. This is a very modernist notion as it allows for simplicity and modern life to be combined. Postmodern photographers have tried to confront this thought by changing the techniques and styles of photography greatly. Because of this photography is now a diverse and varied art medium. ...read more.

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