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Posted on June 13th, 2012, by

Basically, the invention of photography produced a profound impact on the development of media, art, culture and human society at large because it opened new opportunities for the depiction and representation of the surrounding reality. At the same time, photography is not just a technological invention that is used in media and by ordinary individuals in order to make pictures of the surrounding world but it is also an important tool with the help of which people can represent various aspects of human life and convey a particular message encoded in the photo. In fact, it should be said that the effect of photography may differ depending on the subject depicted on the photo. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the use of photography in documenting the 19th century cities and medieval architecture and in social documentary and journalism, which reveal the striking difference between not only subjects of photos but also their representation and effects.

First of all, it should be said that the depiction of the 19th century cities and medieval architecture with the help of photography is quite specific and it is possible to argue that, in spite of the realism of photography, it cannot fully convey the original method of architects and the magnitude of this type of architecture and the 19th century cities. It should be pointed out that medieval architecture and the 19th centuries cities could be viewed as a sample of art which are extremely interesting for the connoisseurs of art of those epochs. To put it more precisely, medieval architecture developed in the epoch of the domination of religious beliefs and traditions. This means that the art at large and architecture in particular targeted at the creation of such woks which could glorify the power of God and religious motives could be traced even in buildings that were not related to any sacred ceremonies.

In this respect, it is very important that the photography conveys the actual aspects of the architecture and conveys the basic features of the 19th century cities. This means that with the help of photography it is depict the cities and architecture as they were preserved at the moment when the photo was taken. However, the problem is that photographs made in the late 19th century, for instance, cannot fully provide the realistic picture. It is not a secret that photography of that epoch was of a poor quality and, therefore, it could not convey important details of the 19th century cities and medieval architecture. This means that the photography may not only represent the works of architecture, the works of art, imprecisely, but it also creates an erroneous image of buildings and other works of architecture. In such a situation, it is quite natural that photography is not the ideal mean that can be used to convey the works of art. In fact, in medieval architecture and in the 19th century details are very important but photography, being able to document it, still can hardly convey all the details that are important from an artistic of view.

In fact, art and realism of depiction has little in common. In actuality, art basically implies that a viewer can appreciate not a superficial image but rather the hidden or implied message of the artist. In this respect, details that may be omitted by photography are very important because they may be very symbolic and bear certain shade of meaning. In such a way, the photography, in spite of its realism, cannot adequately and fully convey the artistic message.

In contrast, the use of photography to depict the real life and social problems may be very useful because its realism makes the reality closer to the audience. In fact, it is possible to estimate that photography is practically an ideal mean to convey the real life and could be widely applied in social documentary and journalism. Unlike documenting the 19th century cities and medieval architecture, social documentary and journalism does not need to convey some artistic details that influence the general perception of the picture, instead, the realism, the actual but not implied meaning of the subject of the photography is of a paramount importance. To put it more precisely, the depiction of social problems and the reality of life, for instance in works by Jacob Riis, is practically impossible without the use of photography.

Obviously, the use of traditional visual art cannot provide the essential realism of the actual life because an artist cannot adequately convey the objective reality but he/she inevitably conveys his/her own vision of the reality. In fact, an artist brings in certain subjectivity because each artist has a unique vision of the reality. This is actually why the works of art of the medieval architecture and of the 19th century cities cannot be properly depicted with the help of photography. In stark contrast, the photography is practically the only mean to adequately convey the real life and the existing social problems, for instance. It should be pointed out that photography provides the opportunity to convey the real life as it actually is because photography is deprived of any emotions or subjectivity, unlike a painter for instance who creates the subjective image of the surrounding reality.

Obviously, in spite of the fact that photography conveys only real, actually in both documenting of the 19th century cities and medieval architecture and in social documentary and journalism but it cannot convey the major message of architecture and social documentary in the same way because their original goals or messages are different. To put it more precisely, photography cannot be used to depict the work of art, i.e. architecture, because photography cannot convey the original message of the artist. The reason is quite obvious since photography cannot convey the admiration as well as any other feelings or emotions of an artists or photographer. Consequently, regardless the emotional ambiance the final message conveyed by photography is quite emotionless and casual. Moreover, the quality of photographs, especially in the late 19th century made the possibility of the emotional or symbolic message practically impossible because of the distortion of slight but important details.

In stark contrast, the realism is one of the major goal of social documentary and journalism. This is actually why the photography may be viewed as an ideal means of conveying the reality because it just shows to the mass audience the life of people without any exaggeration, objectively and emotionlessly. This characteristic of photography, which is one of the major drawbacks of photography in the documenting of the 19th century and medieval art, turns to be one of its major advantages in the social documentary and journalism. Obviously, photos of the real life situation depicting individuals in their regular, everyday life may produce the striking or even shocking effect on the audience because of its realism. In fact, the audience is conscious of the fact that photography cannot brings in emotions, or the individual vision of the reality of a journalist or photographer. Instead, photography shows the real sufferings of people and real social problems. Naturally, such a power of photography, its realism, produces a profound impact on the audience because often people prefer to ignore social problems and they do not pay much attention to them as well as to sufferings of other people. However, when they see some terrible, shocking pictures taken from the real life of their neighborhood, for instance, people cannot ignore these problems or, at least, did not take into consideration that these problems really exist. Potentially, the use of photography in social documentary can make people start acting to solve the existing problems.

In this regard, it should be said that photography is consistently stronger in social documentary and journalism than art because traditionally art is perceived as a kind of fantasy of the author since it is a creative work. This is why artistic works representing social problems cannot evoke such strong emotion and feelings as photography because they lack realism. On the other hand, the contrary effect photography has on documenting the 19th century cities and medieval art because it is unable to convey the original artistic message because photography is deprived of creativity. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that photography can be used more effectively in social documentary and journalism and has little value in the depiction of artistic works.

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