What is Photography?

Rodchenko’s letter to Kushner was a very interesting read. I especially liked his point on how the first time he saw the Eiffel Tower from afar, he didn’t like it at all. However, when he passed up to it closely while traveling on a bus, he was struck by the “lines of iron receding upward right and left”. This is a pretty strong argument for unconventional photography. Unlike the painter and the conventional photographer, the unconventional photographer has a duty to portray the world through various perspectives and lenses.
Rodchenko’s criticism of conventional photography is especially strong when he compares it to the standard reproduction that we see in “postcards ad nauseam”. He claims that photographing “non-posed” scenes is a much “higher form of photography”. The challenging nature of capturing such scenes, Rodchenko’s expresses quite lucidly on page 4 and 5. His argument for a new form of photography is quite convincing and very fascinating indeed.

Berenice Abbot’s commentary on America’s importance in the novel field of photography felt wholehearted. The reader can sense the pride she has for her country in helping advance photography, but her tone quickly changes to criticism as she complains of the commercialization of photography, comparing it to “photography [being] torn from its moorings, the whole essence of which is realism. The disdain with which she describes “cash” entering the field instills in the reader a sense of her anger. Abbot seems to be hinting that she wants a purification of photography; an art she claims has been poisoned by advertising.
Ken Light stresses the need for documentary photography; a way for an audience thousands of miles away to “experience” an event more closely than would seem possible. This is my favorite type of photography, as I am an avid fan of history, and I am very much in accord with the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Finally, Larry Sultan’s short piece was especially moving. The simplicity with which he writes and photographs emulates the unconventional “perfect” form of photography that all four writers are debating.


Negative: The developed film that contains a reversed tone image of the original scene.

Definition: The clarity of detail in a photograph.

Diffuse Lighting: Lighting that is low or moderate in contrast, such as on an overcast day.

Graininess: The sand-like or granular appearance of a negative, print, or slide. Graininess becomes more pronounced with faster film and the degree of enlargement.

Vignetting: A fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print. Can be caused by poor lens design, using a lens hood not matched to the lens, or attaching too many filters to the front of the lens.

This entry was posted in Street Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply