Aesthetics / Sociology
“Nonstop imagery (television, streaming video, movies) is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has a deeper bite. Memory freeze-frames; its basic unit is the single image. In an era of information overload, the photograph provides a quick way of apprehending something and a compact form for memorizing it. The photograph is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb. Each of us mentally stocks hundreds of photographs, subject to instant recall.”
-Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, pg. 22
“All of Harlem is pervaded by a sense of cognition, rather like the insistent, maddening, claustrophobic pounding in the skull that comes from trying to breathe in a very small room with all the windows shut. Yet the white man walking through Harlem is not at all likely to find it sinister or more wretched than any other slum.”
-James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, Pg.47
Normalcy is a public mask, a necessity, a means of navigating the often perverse conditions of social life. It covers over the tragic and obvious truth implied by James Baldwin in his quote, that social inequality has produced a reality in which one event, say a walk through Harlem, is experienced in two different forms, which are dependent on ethnicity.
Acknowledging racially coded experience as a social reality leads to the question of the degree to which art/photography is able to present social truth? To what degree is the creator of such art able to act as a transmitter of truths beyond their immediate experience and social consciousness?
The sense of narrative created by a sequence of photographs is only the beginning of the story. We must remember that the lives and memories of the photographed subjects did not freeze in the frame. We must be willing to consider outcomes we can never truly know. Beyond art, the life of the subject pulses as deeply as our own.
-M.C. Newton & Dani Bogenhagen