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Art photography at the ‘End of Temporality’

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This article examines a strain of contemporary art photography marked by its resemblance to earlier scientific motion studies as indicative of a wider ‘scientific turn’ in recent photographic art. Focusing on Sarah Pickering’s series Explosions (2008), Denis Darzacq’s The Fall (2006), Ori Gersht’s Blow Up (2007) and Martin Klimas’ Flower Vases (2008), it addresses the conditions that have allowed for forms and methodologies associable with earlier scientific imagery to be reshaped as contemporary art, particularly the large-scale of recent ‘museum photography’ and its self-conscious indeterminacy of meaning. Adopting a schematic approach based on the identification of similarity, I examine the implications of ambiguity and scale as inherent qualities of the work, along with the interpretations that the projects examined share. Noting a potential formalism in artists’ repeated isolation of frozen motion, I anchor this interest in the medium-specific qualities of photography in two changes associated with digitization. Where digital post-production has placed pressure on traditional ontological understandings of the medium, the projects are shown to offer a nostalgic return to ‘purer’ forms of photographic production. Drawing on Fredric Jameson’s 2003 essay, ‘The end of temporality’, I conclude by considering how the photographs may be implicated in wider transformations to the construction and experience of time under late-capitalism.
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Keywords: Frederic Jameson; art photography; digitization; formalism; instantaneous photography; temporality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sussex

Publication date: 08 December 2012

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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