Depth of Field, volume 5, no 1 (December 2014)Hilde Braet: Instrumental Photography. The Use of the Medium Photography to Stimulate Empowerment

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Development of instrumental photography

Has there always been attention for photography of this nature? In its rather brief existence, photography has undergone a great deal of alteration. In the beginning, artists and academic researchers focused mainly on the question whether photography should be considered an art or a science. Particularly the end product and the technological process were seen as most important. It was not until the close of the previous century that attention was paid to the awakening process that working with images can induce. Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) studied photography starting from a totally different discipline: sociology.[12] He referred to the importance of family pictures and family albums as a ‘unifying factor’ and an ‘integration rite’. ‘Normal’ pictures are important as a social support and to reconstruct an identity, whether at the individual or national level. These normal pictures, which have no pretensions of being art, are called ‘vernacular photography’. They were also important for the philosopher Roland Barthes (1915-1980) as an object of memory and as a testimony of what no longer is but what once was.[13] The psychological influence of (photographic) images was also taken into account by the psychologist Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007).[14] Through the influence of the philosopher Vilém Flusser (1920-1991) as well, (photographic) images were seen increasingly as a means of communication.[15] Semiotics, discourse theory and reception investigation became important fields of study. More emphasis was placed on active processes of signification through photographic images. Attention was also paid to the veracity and authenticity of the medium. Photography indeed refers directly to reality. In the last few decades of the twentieth century, the question of whether photography is art was no longer the most relevant. Photography is simply different from traditional art disciplines: such comparisons detract from its uniqueness. As a consequence of this shift in mentality, photo analysis models were developed by which instrumental photography could be classified.