Post Modernism

The body of work that comprises the Chimera project, without conscious direction from me, has fallen into the category of Post Modernism. It is therefore important that I better understand what both modernism, and post modernism is.

Photography is a modern form of image making, contributing to the development of modernism. Modernist photography captures the essence of today’s going on, images with the modern thoughts entrusted into them, along with the modern character sensed in the images. Not a lot of rule breaking, not a lot of playing about with the image, in a way just presented the way it was captured. ie Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams, I would argue is a modernist photographer as his images of landscapes are literal landscapes presented as black and white images. Although his use of filters to modify and enhance questions this assumption of the assumed reality.

Postmodernism is the name given to the defining artistic movement of the second half of the 20th century, it emerged as a cultural movement in the late 1960’s and 1970’s as a reaction to the ideals of modernism. Aspects of postmodernism in art and literature include surrealism, abstract expressionism, and the Theater of the Absurd. Postmodern photography is characterized by atypical compositions of subjects that are unconventional or sometimes completely absent, making sympathy with the subject difficult or impossible. Like other postmodern artists, the champions of postmodern photography contend that it is possible to ignore the “rules” and still create art.

Art critics and theorists gave the name “modernism” to the art, literature, and music created during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modernism was characterized by a rejection of previous artistic trends, such as Romanticism and a tendency toward realism. Postmodernism took this further by questioning standard definitions of “art” itself. Modernism and postmodernism were both controversial within the art world, and even the meanings of the terms themselves are the subject of debate.

One of the approach to post-modern photography was the recombining of one or more elements from within the existing culture, in particularly the mass media. In this use of intertextuality, the early work of Cindy Sherman was notable in her references to the film stills of trashy Hollywood films but numbered “Untitled Film Stills #11” to suggest they did actually refer to a specific existing film. As one writer noted… “In this semiotic game, the audience is given reference which spirals off to yet another representation, not to ‘reality’. itself.”

By the early 2000’s, critics were finding that postmodernism had varnished or gone into hiding as the fickle world of what is in, in “cultural fashion” moved on.  In many ways, it could be argued that postmodernism has gone mainstream and is everywhere, though combined with a neo-modernism or post-post-modernism (or popomodism) or whatever critics/art historians will eventually come up with.

However, photographers have continued to explore ‘photography as narrative’, ‘ banal / deadpan’ , ‘the ordinary and everyday’, ‘intimate photography’ and ‘ post-modern revivalism’.