[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 10] [Art Strike 1990-1993]


by Mark Forbes
It's been said that the purpose of a picture is "to inform people about the world." But how much of the information gleaned from a photograph is a result of the cold, fact-oriented, perspectival nature of the process itself, and how much of it depends on the motivations of the individual making or presenting the photograph?

The camera is a mechanical de-contextualizer, tearing off pieces of the whole picture. Yet every such shred of verity seems complete in and of itself. This is the reason for our warning: one cannot trust even the most "objective" datum if it is collected by the biased operative of an enterprise devoted to either commerce or ideology. The ends of each are the same: the control of materials and thus power by controlling peoples' attitudes.

Photojournalism, often seen as a "noble" profession, lends much credibility and immediacy to the reporting of the news, the global gossip that serves to reinforce institutionally imposed collective attitudes. Journalism puts the "prop" in propaganda. Advertising is its alter-ego.

Photography is responsible for replacing lived experience with a strange, boring, irreality that is all surface, no substrate. Part of the sickness of contemporary social life comes from the images in the mass media that many of us aspire to. That we are at all willing to aspire to mere images is telling. But the problem lies not in the depiction of role models for people to follow (although one would likely take exception to those choosing these models: ad men and the corporate fantasies they become mouthpieces for). The real problem lies in peoples' willingness to follow any models that are thrown up in front of them. It would seem that, "That which appears is good, that which is good appears." Therefore people aspire to a fantasy designed to sell beer, detergent, and the like. Not that these commodities are without use, it is simply that focusing on them obsessively is of benefit only to their sellers. It is the gulf between the perceived irreality of corporate fantasy and the poverty of daily existence itself that causes people to be dissatisfied.

People must be made to know that their daily life is a thousand times more interesting than anything thrown up on a tv screen or depicted in magazines.