I’ve just been looking at a wonderful book called Burn_02 which is part of the web site project of the Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey. The site is full of interesting things and interviews and very very fine photography, but what I really loved about this book was that it wasn’t about photographers or their very intimate personal take on the world, it was about life. Well, I guess that’s what photo-journalists are about even though many seem in love with death and violence. Fortunately, most photographers who have reached a certain level of understanding realize that of course photography is about life, what else could it portray?
Well, after dealing with the technical aspects and financial difficulties, then personal complexities and self-identity questions, using photography to understand life is, after all, a beautiful way to use your art. And that brings us to the question of whether photography is an art which is almost a non question in the sense that photography is a technique and art is a cultural judgement. But these images, along with many non journalistic ones found in many other places, constitute the power of vision that photography can give us and I doubt anyone reading this article is still questioning art and photography. Actually, photography is a way to use your art and discover the meaning of yourself. Or maybe art is a way of reflecting your self. Of course, why not.
But getting back to my vision of Burn_02, what struck me was the use of photography to question what we see and what we think is out there in the real world. Alisa Resnik‘s portrait on the web page had the spirit of a Pierre & Gilles icon with the transforming beauty of adolescence. An interesting image which seems far away from the fine art tradition because a little too garish and maybe a little too real but we all know that that’s a silly question as well. Because life is both garish and real. Sometimes too much. That’s why people create metaphors, so they don’t have to deal with the garish and real but can deal with the symbols of them. And photography is anything but real and can so easily be garish.
The image also brings about a strong questioning of the use of color. Color too is a cultural question, as are practically all questions, so the kandy-tangerine red hot pepper color is a statement as well as a document, a thought as well as a hue. And it let me burn the girl’s gaze for a while in my mind.