Modernism and Post-modernism· a chart

Reflections on Modernism Vs. Postmodernism

Whilst I do not concur with some of the views of postmodernist thought, there are others that are intriguing and worthy of thought. This theme seems relevant as, as a modern photographer/artist the work that I or others produce will be in the tradition essentially of one or other movements i.e Modernist or Postmodernist. As a photographer I find myself leaning towards a mix of these two. I cannot discount the value of technical and accurate analysis in work and I do believe in universal principles therefore I am not entirely a post-modern practitioner. However, I also agree with the notion of challenging fixed assumptions through art work and exploring other possibilities.

There are two areas that I strongly disagree with. 1.

‘Postmodernist thinkers believe in going by superficial appearances, they believe in playing on surfaces and show less or no concern towards the depth of subjects.’

At times I get the gist of this, but I realise that as a model for art practice and life it does not inspire me. I find it more real and satisfying to delve into subject and not assume that superficiality is suitable as a means for providing a context for art work. I say this because I see that there is more inherent value in going deeper into fewer things rather being superficial about many.

2. ‘Postmodernists believe that morality is relative.’

I cannot agree with this view. I think that morality and relativity are two separate approaches to viewing things. Morality has as a basis from my point of view a code value or rather there are certain observable results that arise out of particular actions that are repeatable. Morality as understood as an external practice is also not the criteria that I personally abide by. I think and believe that morality is something internal but obviously has an effect on others in terms of how we behave and live.

Modernism Postmodernism
Modernism began in the 1890s and lasted till about 1945. Postmodernism began after the Second World War, especially after 1968.
Its aim was criticism of the bourgeois social order of the 19th century and its world view. Modernist painting is considered to have begun with the French painter Édouard Manet. The first use of the term postmodernism dates back to the 1870s. John Watkins Chapman referred to a postmodern style of painting which differed from French Impressionism. J.M. Thompson used the term to refer to changes in attitudes and beliefs in religion.
Low forms of art were a part of modernism. Simplicity and elegance in design are the characteristics of modern art. Postmodern art brought high and low culture together by using industrial materials and pop culture imagery. Postmodern art is decorative.
Modernism was based on using rational and logical means to gain knowledge. It rejected realism. A hierarchical, organized, and determinate nature of knowledge characterized modernism. Postmodernism denied the application of logical thinking. Rather, the thinking during the postmodern era was based on an unscientific, irrational thought process, as a reaction to modernism.
Modernism is based on European and Western thought. Postmodernists believe in multiculturalism.
Modernist approach was objective, theoretical, and analytical. Postmodernism was based on an anarchical, non-totalized, and indeterminate state of knowledge.
Modernist thinking is about the search of an abstract truth of life. Postmodernist thinkers believe that there is no universal truth, abstract or otherwise.
Modernism attempts to construct a coherent world-view. Postmodernism attempts to remove the difference between high and low.
Modernist thinking asserts that mankind progresses by using science and reason. It believes in learning from past experiences and trusts the texts that narrate the past. Postmodernists believe that progress is the only way to justify the European domination on culture. They defy any truth in the text narrating the past and render it of no use in the present times.
Modernist historians believe in depth. They believe in going deep into a subject to fully analyze it. Postmodernist thinkers believe in going by superficial appearances, they believe in playing on surfaces and show less or no concern towards the depth of subjects.
Modernism considers the original works as authentic. Postmodernist thinkers base their views on hyper-reality; they get highly influenced by things propagated through media.
Modernists believe that morality can be defined. Postmodernists believe that morality is relative.
The year 1939 is considered to have marked the end of modernism. In the 1970s, postmodern movement entered music. In art and architecture, it began to establish itself in the early 1980s. The exact year when modernism ended, and whether it ended in the real sense is debatable. It is considered that postmodernism started going out of fashion around the late 1990s, and was replaced by post-postmodernism which has developed from and is a reaction to postmodernism. Metamodernism is a related term that was first used by Zavarzadeh in 1975 to describe aesthetics and attitudes emerging in the American literature in the mid-1950s.


  1. [online]

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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