The new Pompidou Center photography gallery is hosting an exhibition (until June 1st) probing the question “What is Photography?” Sir John Herschel one of the inventors of photography called it “writing with light.” William Henry Fox Talbot another pioneer called his invention sun pictures.
“Qu’est-ce que la photographie” explores the question with fifty works by artists including Brassai, André Kertesz, Denis Oppenheim, Man Ray and Jeff Wall. Eight sections (materials, principles, praxis, verifications etc) feature photographers answering the question not by theories or manifestos but with their work. Some analyze the mediums’ tools and techniques while others emphasize poetics and still others explore photography’s apparent “realism” and documentary qualities.
Italian photographer Ugo Mulas wrote: My aim was to understand the meaning of the operations I endlessly performed, sometimes up to a hundred times a day, for years on end, without ever questioning them for themselves, divorced from their utilitarian function.” The exhibition is as much about the question as the answer. Each of the exhibition’s eight sections and works within these sections, provide a different response to the question. For some photography is simply a desire to see; for others it is defined by its materials (film, pixels etc) for still others a poetic alchemy.
“What is Photography/Qu’est-ce que la photographie” until June 1st, Centre Pompidou.