Sunday, 29 December 2013
Canterbury, Rome, Daguerre, Baudelaire, Selfies
It seems 2013 has been the year of the "selfie", the ubiquitous visual manifest of these times we live in.
Inevitably I thought of good old Charles Baudelaire, who in 1859 vented his fury at the "idolatrous mob" who saw in the then nascent photographic art the possibility of the representation of nature in all its forms.
This is what the furious critic had to say in his day:
"A revengeful God has given ear to the prayers of this multitude. Daguerre was his Messiah. And now the faithful says to himself: 'Since photography gives us every guarantee of exactitude that we could desire (they really believe that, the mad fools!), then photography and Art are the same thing'...From that moment on our squalid society rushed, Narcissus to a man, to gaze at its trivial image on a scrap of metal. A madness, an extraordinary fanaticism took possession of all these new sun-worshippers. Strange abominations took form...The love of pornography, which is no less rooted in the natural heart of man than the love of himself, was not to let slip so fine an opportunity of self-satisfaction..."
"As the photographic industry was the refuge of every would-be painter, every painter too ill-endowed or too lazy to complete his studies, this universal infatuation bore not only the mark of blindness, an imbecility, but had also the air of a vengeance."
Little did Baudelaire know that many years later Daguerre would seem (erroneously) to have been forgotten, and his own ranting words rang prophetic: that the pixellated immediacy of the instant have become the new ruler; and, that virtually everyone speaks from the balconies of our universal, endless mirrors on the internet.
I, for one, believe traditional photography still has a long way to go in the exploration of visual avenues related to art or life itself, in all its manifestations.