Image, truth and histories

I applied to renew my passport today. The process was easier than in the past. I just completed a form online, took a digital picture and uploaded it, paid a vast sum of money and sent my old passport back. Now I just wait. I also completed reading A History of Pictures[1] and that led to this triptych.Peter Mansell (1 of 1)

The left hand image is my new passport photo and so its use is evidential. The other two have been processed in a variety of ways by me.

I really enjoyed a History of Pictures. Hockney and Gayford argue that European painters had long been familiar with using lenses and mirrors to project images to inform and aid their practice and that this fact is missed from conventional wisdom. Many examples are provided such Vermeer’s The Little Street (1658) or Masaccio’s St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadows (1420s) and the more general move to naturalism by eg Robert Campin’s Werl Triptych (1438) with the view given that such changes must have been achieved with the use of optics.

But while the use of optics is the main point running through the book process of argument involves a wonderful meander through the history of art, ways of seeing and technological innovation. For example, the authors argue that people like Michelangelo thought the naturalistic/realism approach trivialised art by focussing on detail rather than discourse and go on later in the book to argue that this view and the reaction to the ever increasing photographic realism in art were features that give rise to the impressionists with their representations offering no vanishing points, no chiaroscuro, no copying – all interpretation; cubists being against perspective and Picasso’s work being all about attitude.

I always knew about Pictoralism in photography and how the F64 group abhorred it. Well this book showed me the power the lens had on art and picture making prior to the invention of photography and so the charge the some photographers have copied art misses a whole raft of history that shows the interconnectedness of art and lens based art.


[1] A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen Hardcover, by D. Hockney, M. Gayford, Published by Thames and Hudson Ltd; 01 edition (6 Oct. 2016)

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About anomiepete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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