Saturday, October 20, 2007

Timothy O'Sullivan - Desert Lake Near Ragtown, Carson Desert, Nevada. 1867

Great essay by Robert Adams on early photographers conceptions of western space (found yesterday while digging through an old pile of Aperture magazines.)

"The chief reason the photographers did better than the painters, however, was that when the painters were confronted with space they filled it with the products of their imaginations, whereas photographers were relatively unable to do that. The limits of the machine saved them. If there was "nothing" there, they had in some way to settle for that, and find a method to convince us to do the same.
...The resulting pictures have an element almost of banality about them, but it is exactly this acknowledgment of the plain surface of things that helps legitimize the photographer's difficult claim that the landscape is coherent. We know, as we recognize the commonness of places, that this is our world and that the photographer has not cheated on his way to his affirmation of meaning."