Title

Artifice and Observation: Truth, Automatism, and the Performative Self-Portrait

Date of Award

6-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MFA - Master of Fine Arts

Department

Fine Arts

First Advisor

Deborah Davidson

Second Advisor

Jan Avgikos

Abstract

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.

Comments

American philosopher and art critic Susan Sontag writes “A photograph makes real what one is experiencing” (Sontag 9) and, I would argue, in our image-saturated culture, actualizes what one has never experienced.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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