Artifice and Observation: Truth, Automatism, and the Performative Self-Portrait
Date of Award
MFA - Master of Fine Arts
If art and artists are complicit in the transfer of information, then photographers are charged, falsely or veritably, with conveying evidence, and by extension, promoting a kind of truth. Since its inception, the camera has been used as an instrument of documentation, creating still recordings of what it sees. Cameras were pointed with seemingly nonprejudicial focus at individuals, the self, and the dead. Pioneering photographers were viewed not as artists, but skilled technicians and observant operators, and thus tasked with the burden of proof.
The “truth claim” is the prevalent belief that traditional photography accurately depicts reality. While the use of a film or digital camera (a mechanistic, device-driven means of picture making), alludes to documentation and veracity, what is the nature of that truth? And what is the relationship of the subject and photographer to it? Even in our digital age of mass image-manipulation and alternative facts, we still want to believe what we see.
Powers, Eileen F., "Artifice and Observation: Truth, Automatism, and the Performative Self-Portrait" (2021). MFA in Visual Arts Theses. 7.
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