I have spent some time in the last week or so contacting people to invite them to participate in the Adelaide Photography 1970-2000 book that is to be produced by Adam Dutkiewicz and myself for Moon Arrow Press. This book builds on, or is a development from, the Abstract Photography book that we published in 2016, which recovered what was left of the abstract modernist work produced in the 1960s. These are companion volumes so to speak.
The result to the initial email that has been sent out has been positive, in that the people who have been contacted so far have all said yes. Several others are rather slow in responding to that email. However, the main problem that I have encountered at this stage has been finding the contact details for some of the names of the relevant people that have mentioned. As a result some people who made art photographs during that period will not be included. They disappear from our visual history.
The design of the book is that each photographer will be given a profile of 4-6 pages, which would include an artist statement and a portfolio images. At this stage the book will have an art historical essay, an essay on the aesthetics of art photography during that period, and it will consist of approximately 12-15 photographers. The aim is to overcome the serious gaps in the historical picture that are close in time but arduous to access— recovering a photographic legacy in the face of its repression or exclusion.
The reason that 2000 is the cut off date is because that was when photography was caught up in an apparent crisis of identity due to the emergence of digital technology. Photography becomes information in a pure state and this changes the cultural framework of photography and the previous art histories of photography. As a result, the latter, with their hurried kinds of narratives, the emphasis on individual innovation and the primacy of the single cathartic image, with the minimal reference to aesthetics, begin to look dated.
This kind of history is one in which artists of talent gained access to the art gallery’s collection that was counterposed to the mass production of images in popular culture. All other photographers were mere sociologists. The art history books were then written from the images in these collections. Today, they look like an archaeology–a necessary digging down into the past to construct a national history of art photographers before photography could be located within art history or a visual culture. What was created by this nationalist historiographic vision was a canon of photographers, a decontextualised history, a tradition of research, and the diffusion of works through books.
The year 2000 provides a good vantage point to look back on our visual history and on the historiographic models on which our understanding of photography has been grounded, and to rethink the assumptions of these models (eg., art v non-art), their hierarchical distinctions between the images, and their conceptual frame of analysis. It has become increasingly difficult to think in terms of a single history based on famous photographers as canonic references to be admired, given that we are aware of the coexistence of diverse ways of understanding, interpreting and writing about our photographic culture.