Photography and its Impact
An exhibit is currently at the Museum of the City of New York on the photography of Mel Rosenthal who photographed the South Bronx in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. And there is a great companion piece on the exhibition and Rosenthal in today's New York Times.
This was time of tumult, violence and devastation in the South Bronx, and Rosenthal captures it with exceptional compassion towards the remaining residents. Rosenthal taught in his classes that it was essential to see the social impact of photography. He said he was “not an artist but a messenger.”
I think there is a great deal of truth in what Rosenthal says. His photography is mainly social documentary, but it can, I believe, be generalized. I have said that I view photography - all art, for that matter - as a form of communication among subject, artist, and viewer. As such, there needs to be some social - or at least, emotional - content. Photographs - or, all art - doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Nor should it exist solely for its own sake. (And I do abstracts.) It should say something, communicate something. The viewer should experience something. Since we are creating photography as humans, a spirit of compassion is the best training - and not only technique - for a serious photographer, whatever the subject, who wants to create meaningful photography.
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