Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Photography: art globalisation

Table lamp, Kristiansund, July 2008

I've been looking at a lot of international photography recently - stuff from all around the world. I've also been reading a history of Japanese photography and also seen quite a lot of older work from various locations. One thing that seems to be evident is the international flavour of photographic styles and development.

Many art forms have developed from local culture, using local materials. Steeped in (pre-)history, similar forms developed independently in the days before wide-spread travel and communications. painting, music, sculpture all come to mind. More contemporary movements may be informed by international developments but there are still strong local cultural ties.

I don't get the same feeling with looking at photographs and certainly the development of photography required travel and communication. As effectively a scientific invention, the photographic process was unlikely to have been spontaneously invented with local materials in several places. It took travellers carrying their equipment around the world to spread the process & art. Materials & equipment are (and always have been) manufactured in a limited number of locations and spread through international trade.

This is what makes it an example of globalisation, for me. This can be seen either positively or negatively. In some ways I feel it is like mathematics: a global language for communicating many ideas. The message may vary but we can all understand the means of communication. This, for me, is why photography has a power in images that few other media can match.

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