Conceptual Photography

The old adage that questions are more interesting than answers certainly applies here. Let’s talk about comparative photographs, photos like those of Kenneth Josephson, where we see an image within an image.

I think it is good to think of this topic in terms of our earlier discussion on the genre of comparative photography— that a second photo adds new meaning to the first when the two are placed side by side.  Klett and Hilliard were good examples of this. This is true of course in Josephson’s case as well, although his imagery is a little different as one photo is embedded in the other, which convolutes what we typically think about photographic representation: i.e. how the camera usually defines a scene or subject, or what we expect that picture to represent (generally an instant in time for example.)

When I look at the ship picture for instance, I get the sense that the individual holding the picture is on the very ship depicted in the picture. These associations cause a gap in time (one had to occur before the other) yet here we are seeing them as a single moment.  We know this is not possible, yet here it is, which suggests we make a leap in faith or question what is real and I like where that takes us.

This question of truth and illusion in photography, the confusion between what is real and what is the photograph, is a wonderful query into photographic conventions and something we will return to in later modules when we discuss Postmodernism and fabrication.

Some Examples

Consider the work of Mark Klett. Remember, he set out with the aim of rephotographing landscapes that had changed over time. Consider how his work was informed by the inclusion of the past.

Also the work of Edward Burtynsky. When viewing his work, think about your preconceived ideas of what constitutes a landscape. How does the past change our perception of his photographs?

Another good example is the work of Thomas Kellner, how does his approach to the medium of photography compare to the work of Kenneth Josephson.

Finally, consider the HP commercials that became all to familiar to all who had access to a television not too many years ago. These commercials have a striking similarity to the work of Kenneth Josephson.

Please use the aforementioned examples to draw some conclusions about the ability of an image within an image to inform or change our perception of photography. Post your replies and examples using the form/field below.

My aim is to add to the discussion.

~ John


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