Thursday, May 26, 2011

Robert Altman "You" (1967)

This week I have decided to select an image by Robert Altman from his collection of images taken during the "Summer of Love" in 1967. Altman was originally from New york and had previously been trained by Ansel Adams, yet moved to San Francisco and began a career as a photojournalist becoming the chief staff photographer for Rolling Stone magazine.

Whereas traditional formal art forms such as fine art existed as an icon and signifier of personal wealth and aristocracy, it is photojournalism and photographic portraiture that seeks to uncover and reclaim a sense of "truth" in the artistic community.

I believe that Altman's images manage to capture a balance between the purposes of photographic portraiture, he certainly intends to capture a sense of reality and documentary - however it retains an aesthetic appeal. For example in the above image "You", Altman was taking a picture of two people at the summer of love (the initial intention of documentary), yet the image's composition with the young girl being bathed in light versus the older man's darkness certainly entertains aestheticism.

Furthermore the individuals who are the subject of the image act passively to the camera with indifference - they do not relish in the significance of having their picture taken, as opposed to the laboured subject of a portrait.

I believe that the use of photography is of great importance to art, in that when cultural phenomenons such as the "Hippie" movement surfaced there was an immediate ability to capture its highly stylised cultural memory, allowing the photographer to immerse themselves and absorb its importance. Altman even said "my camera became my passport" - a way of transcending through the social barriers of pretension associated with artists. The camera is informal and unobtrusive and ultimately more personable than painting, it captures and immortalises a moment - rather than the arguably warped and licenced realm of fine arts and portraiture.

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