Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lost and found

In surrealism there has typically been quite a lot of "found photography", but perhaps not enough in quantitative terms for it to be noted as a "stylistic" element for surrealism by the art historians. It has made more sense for those who give surrealism an immediate meaning in terms of methods and attitudes of appropriating the world; chance findings, sub-surface meaning, poetic atmosphere, strange juxtaposition, paranoic-critical method, vigilance towards the unusual, are an important part of popular imagination and therefore commonly found in anonymous creation. While "funny" websites are typically filled with "found photography" from the world of contemporary advertising and shrill colours, there is perhaps also a bit of a peak of interest in art books of found photography from older times, with black-and-white and certainly more inviting pictures. Odd street scenes, group portraits in weird settings and forming larger shapes, portraits with masks, various kinds of portraits and interactions involving animals and small children and juxtaposing roles, unusual nature phenomena, things that look like something else, involontary double exposures, still-lifes with weird constellations, etc. Often very enjoyable, and stimulating for the imagination. Especially when without ironic comments.

And suprisingly enough, a cheap one among them ("Found Photography" in the Thames & Hudson Photophile series) had an introduction where some French writer (named Anne-Marie Garat) discussed in completely reasonable terms the surrealist significance of found photographs! ("beneath the surface of ordinary appearances and the banality of everyday life, the world is full of ambivalence and uncertainty. Within the predictable order of things lies the potential for all kinds of adventures /.../ the bizarre photograph, which seems to go against all reason, uncovering unknown enigmas or perhaps giving us a sense of déjà vu, a mysterious, intuitive awareness of a world beneath the one we know, with all its menacing duplicity /.../ the unusual combination of elements creates a disturbing effect – what is seen is more than what is seen /.../ this quest for bizarre images may derive from a game we play as children: we see a face in a tree, a giant in a cloud, a landscape in the veins of a block of marble." She sounds like an outsider yet knowing what she is talking about, but it is indicated that she is perhaps not entirely innocent in this sense by the inclusion in the book of a portrait of Raymond Roussel and his mother?

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