The Ontology of the Photographic Image, André Bazin; Hugh Gray

  • plastic arts – the practice to embalming the dead = fundamental factor in their creation
  • The evolution, side by side, of art and civilization has relieved the plastic arts of their magic role
  • No one believes any longer in the ontological identity of model and image, but all are agreed that the image helps us to remember the subject and to preserve him from a second spiritual death

  • Today the making of images no longer shares an anthropocentric, utilitarian purpose. It is no longer a question of survival after death, but of a larger concept, the creation of an ideal world in the likeness of the real, with its own temporal destiny
  • If the history of the plastic arts is less a matter of their aesthetic than of their psychology then it will be seen to be essentially the story of resemblance, or, if you will, of realism.
  • Seen in this sociological perspective photography and cinema would provide a natural explanation for the great spiritual and technical crisis that overtook modem painting around the middle of the last century.
  • Thenceforth painting was torn between two ambitions: one, primarily aesthetic, namely the expression of spiritual reality wherein the symbol transcended its model; the other, purely psychological, namely to duplicate the world outside.
  • The need for illusion has not ceased to trouble the heart of painting since the sixteenth century. It is a purely mental need, of itself nonaesthetic, the origins of which must be sought in the proclivity of the mind towards magic.
  • Freed from the “resemblance complex,” the modern painter abandons it to the masses who, henceforth, identify resemblance on the one hand with photography and on the other with the kind of painting which is related to photography.
  • Originality in photography as distinct from originality in painting lies in the essentially objective character of photography.
  • For the first time, between the originating object and its reproduction there intervenes only the instrumentality of a nonliving agent. For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man. The personality of the photographer enters into the proceedings only in his selection of the object to be photographed .and by way of the purpose he has in mind.

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