Wednesday, March 12, 2008
mediating famous art through famous photographs
i was reading Sophie Howarth's essay on Thomas Struth's photograph "San Zaccaria, Venice, 1995," in the book Singular Images, and this passage struck me:
"If one tries to imagine for a moment viewing Struth's photograph in its intended setting of the museum rather than on the [internet], the significance of what this [tourist] couple are doing in relation to what we are doing becomes more evident. They have come to admire the Bellini just as we have come to admire the Struth. Our act of looking incorporates their act of looking. And more importantly, Struth's act of representation incorporates Bellini's act of representation. So what we have is a set of relations between figures (us, tourists, saints, Madonna and Child) and between artistic media (film, photography, painting, architecture). Or more accurately, a set of relations between mediators and media since the tourists mediate our view of the painting but traditionally the saints mediate between worshippers and the Holy Family."
although this isn't about portraiture per se, i thought it was very relevant to the ongoing investigation on this blog about how viewers encounter a photograph...
and if you want to muse on this while viewing the photograph in its "intended" setting of a museum, it is part of the Met's Depth of Field collection of contemporary photography, which is where i first saw it. you can read the Met's take on the same photo here.
(Artnet has another cool article on Struth's work.)