Ken Schles: What is Photography?

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Ken Schles: What is Photography?

Photography is a tool to make signs of significance. It brings aspects of the world into sharper focus while it deepens their mysteries. Photography both obscures and reveals as it liberates and enslaves. Gilles Peress says photography is the synthesis of three distinct elements. First there is the specificity of the technology—because the camera and the means to disseminate the image imprints upon the photograph its own characteristic way of projecting reality. Second there is the photographer who uses that technology to make a statement about being in the world. And last there is the viewer—because every viewer brings a particular understanding to a photograph, both as they experience it and as they interpret it. Villem Flusser said that the photograph can be a screen or a map—it obscures reality with an image of itself, or it can also lead you to understanding.

For me, photography is a tool to explore, discuss, and project a very specific kind of critical comprehension—neither denying the difficulties that comprehension presents nor submitting meekly to its weight. Taken together, we can say for certain that photography is the propaganda of everyday life.

Ken Schles, photographer

Photograph © Cory Rice

What Is Photography? Let's Find Out!

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