Photography at the Crossroads

I’ve recently been reading through several articles in the book, The Education of a Photographer. One of the articles that really captured my attention this time was Berenice Abbot’s 1951 piece entitled “Photography At The Crossroads”. Here are a couple sections that jumped out at me:

Today the challenge of photographers is great because we are living in a momentous period. History is pushing us to the brink of a realistic age as never before. I believe there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time.
Photography gladly accepts the challenge becuase it is at home and in its element: namely, realism – real life – the now.
pg. 7

To chart a course, one must have a direction. In reality, the eye is no better than the philosophy behind it. The photographer creates, evolves a better, more selective, more acute seeing eye by looking ever more sharply at what is going on in the world. Live every other means of expression, photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times – the pulse of today. The photograph may be presented as finely and artistically as you will; but to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.
pg. 10

So these two thoughts of “the now” and the reality or “pulse of today” have been weighing on my mind in terms of where my next move will be in my artistic practice. Right now my work is centered on digital culture: how we build it and how it builds us. That is definitely a topic of now and I feel good about what I have made and in general the possibilities that lie before me in that territory. What interests me is this emphasis on photography’s element: reality. What is the digital age if not a redefinition of reality? But then how is a medium that has relied on the physicality of the real to be used when reality is not defined by space (or even time)?
I have been visualizing my next series to begin working on, and it would be a mistake not to address this seeming paradox. Of course any medium must grapple with the new non-spaces of reality, but how much more for photography, whose process necessitates the physical.
I’m interested where this thought may lead me.

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