Photo by Ron Jude from Alpine Star
One of the most exciting recent developments in photography, especially in certain photobooks, is what I call a literary impetus. By this, I mean photography that is interested in embodying certain literary qualities and forms.
This is showing up in wide range of work, from Ron Jude’s Alpine Star, which for me operates very much like contemporary poetry with appropriation and associative meaning, to the pseudo-journalistic collaborations of Alec Soth and Brad Zellar in their reinvention of the newspaper, the LBM Dispatch.
Photo by Charlie Simokaitis from Despite, Or Because Of
I see, for instance, strong connections to literature (think Samuel Beckett, Murakami, etc.) in the new work of Charlie Simokaitis, and I know he intends a literary quality. (It’s vital to see the books he’s composing, which is something I hope becomes available soon.)
Literature is just one of the forces that can inspire new ways of working within photography, as one art learns from another. In his recent blog post, Jörg Colberg calls for photographers to not only pay attention to writing, but to write themselves.
Whether we writing or not, (and I believe we should), as photographers we can draw from the innovative poetry and fiction that is just waiting to infect photography with new structures and systems for creating meaning.
I remember the excitement I felt reading Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, and recognizing that the poetry of the previous twenty years had suddenly shown up as an influence in fiction. Yet Auster’s novels could accomplish something different from what poetry could accomplish, even as it drew from the poetic tradition that informed it.
This is possible in photography today, and, in fact, I think it’s happening.
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