Monday, October 14, 2013

Photographic Style by Michael Gregory

The following is from an article written by Michael Gregory for Aperture Magazine.

"It is important to understand that the photograph is not merely the recording of that experience, but rather its symbolic equivalent."

"What do we mean by “symbolic equivalent?” The nearest definition, I think, is that which T.S. Eliot provided for poetry: that poetry is the “objective correlative” of an experience which is in itself unveralizable, beyond rational, logical language. The poem, Eliot says, is a kind of formula for the experience which, though it uses language, surpasses it, and enables the poet to communicate the incommunicable."

"The same hold true, I would assert, for photography. How do we know when we are in the presence of a photograph which is symbolic equivalent for an experience—a photograph possessing “style”? We know it by the quality of our response: the depth and intensity and unspeakableness of the emotional reaction we feel within us as we view the photograph.. We can tell, too, by the uniqueness of that response. If we feel what we have never, in just the same way, before, we know we are confronting style. For style can never be cliché: these are the old irreconcilable enemies. If we are viewing, let us say, the photograph of a forlorn child holding a torn and grimy doll and we say, “the poor thing!” we are in the presence of cliché, not style. If, on the other hand, we say nothing and feel a strange and unique admixture of emotions to which the cliché exclamation would be blasphemy, we know that we are in the power of photographic style—the exact equivalent of an indescribable, memorable emotional response."

"I nevertheless conclude that a better definition of photographic style might be something like this: the recorded insight. This is probably no worse, and perhaps a little better, than most of the definitions we have. It nevertheless returns the emphasis where it belongs: out of the camera, away from the object, back into the very eye of the photographer."

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