Research: canon fodder and the surrealists

Atget and the surrealists

Berger famously claimed that much of what past for art history and critique was essentially a mystification and heavy use and application of jargon to justify the intentions of the interested parties in relation to an art work or body of work.

The epigraphs provided by Godeau (1991) provide us with a similar strategy as that used by other art commentators that tend to obscure the objective value of an art work (or in this case photos by Atget) by relying on subjective interpretation based essentially upon desire for a certain outcome. Godeau argues broadly that this has been the case with the work of Atget by Szarkowski in bringing into the limelight the works of Atget and placing them high on a pedestal thus canonising the work.

The problems with this are numerous argues Godeau. In many respects the success of Atgets work was due to Berenice Abbott (1989) returning to America and in a sense exploiting the market by promoting the work of Atget. She purchased half of Atget’s collection (some 5.000 images) and as Godeau states, we would not of known about Atget possibly (and certainly he would not of reached canonised status) had it not been for Abbott and later, Szarkowski. (1991:35) [1]

I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea.” (Man-Ray, date unknown) [2]

Man Ray

Personally I often think of Man Ray as the Dali of photography. Man Ray was an affiliate of the Dadaist group that had as part of their mission to unsettle the conventional art world and its interpretation of life. One of the main uses was the photogram (Rayogram) and solorization techniques that would distort and disorientate the viewer giving rise to an incomplete and intentionally ambiguous open ended interpretation to the image. This was a far cry from the formers modernist and pictorial traditions that had dominated up to this point, the photographic world.



  1. Godeau, A. S. photography at the dock (1991) OCA copy.
  2. Ray, M. [online] [accessed, February 2020]

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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