Apropos of two of Levi’s recent posts about materialism and fictions, I thought I’d share this excerpt from an interview with photographer Tod Papageorge. He’s responding to a question about the need for photography to have a moral responsibility, something Susan Sontag had suggested.

It’s always been puzzling to me that capacious minds like Sontag’s, to say nothing of those of almost every art historian, look at a photograph and see not a picture, but the literal world held in their palm. With that, they’re revealing themselves to be no more sophisticated than the proverbial tribesman who believes that a photograph made of him steals a piece of his soul. There seems to be no cure for this universal form of innocence, or ignorance, but it is, to put it mildly, frustrating to spend years working as a photographer and writer about photography and realise that this misunderstanding is as prevalent today as it was the day I first saw those Cartier-Bresson photographs—and recognised them as picture-poems.

Later, Papagorge offers a nice summary that I find compatible with the weird mereology Levi and I advocate: “Ontologically, a photograph is a unique kind of picture, but a picture nonetheless, one that has radically transformed the piece of the world it describes, whether for artistic or journalistic or any other ends, but (obviously) has not transported it out of its picture-state into some nebulous truth-state.”

published October 5, 2011


  1. dmf

    “my argument against the set-up picture is that it leaves the matter of content to the IMAGINATION of the photographer, a faculty that, in my experience, is generally deficient compared to the mad swirling possibilities that our dear common world kicks up at us on a regular basis. Thatâ??s all. Remember, T. S. Eliot made the clear, brutal distinction between the art that floods us with the â??auraâ? of experience, and the art that â??presentsâ?? the experience itself. ANY artist, I feel, must contend seriously with the question of which side of that distinction he or she is going to bet on in their work. Obviously, Iâ??m with Eliotâ??and Homerâ??in this, believing that the mind-constructed photograph almost necessarily leads to a form of illustration, the very epitome of aura-art”


  2. dmf

    a fellow fan of builders:


    Wittgenstein and Photography Exhibition at PandIS, University of Cambridge, July 2011.