These five videos were made in Doncaster on 21st May at an OCA photography symposium “Photography Matters”. I watched the videos via links on the OCA forum . Gareth Dent comments that the “presentations are demanding and not all students will understand them all at the first viewing”. He is absolutely right, and I will be returning to them over time.
Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works—not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. With this provocative observation, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts. He constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him for his vision and not his command of miscellaneous facts) to Jonathan Swift to Plato to Emily Dickinson (who wrote “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”) to detailed readings of photographs by Eugène Atget, Garry Winogrand, Marcia Due, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. Forcefully and persuasively, he argues for photography as a medium whose business is not constructing fantasies pleasing to the eye or imagination, but describing the world in the toughest and deepest way.
Photography Matters is intended to be read two ways; matters pertaining to photography, and as a statement affirming that photography matters to us all. The latter implies a currency with which to question the former – what is happening in photography right now that affects life as we live it? Where in the everyday do our lives intersect with this most ubiquitous medium? From photojournalism that ‘goes viral’ and ultimately informs political change to the billions of supposedly impermanent direct images sent between individuals, photography is still a primary means of communication. Historically how has it shaped who we think we are?
Subject to agreement from the speakers the Photography Matters event will be filmed and made available to students who cannot attend. Similarly the recent talk by Chloe Dewe Mathews is now available on the student site. See it here