Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Fine Arts

Department

Art

First Advisor

Dr. Robert Jensen

Abstract

A new class of photographs that relies on digital processes, best exemplified by the works of Gregory Crewdson, Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall all exhibit a ‘not quite right’ quality that calls into question some of the most closely held truisms of photographic thought. Through novel technological processes combined with the elements of the new photography—new scale, fabulist imagery, and implied narrative—these images challenge the nature of photography as a documentary process and, beyond that, the nature of what we understand to be ‘the real’ that is supposedly documented. A visual analysis of these images through the lens of Roland Barthes’ and Susan Stewart’s scholarship reveals truths about these images and about photography as a medium. What these elements, this ‘lack of rightness’, can tell us about photography and its position as documentary medium can help us better understand the nature of contemporary photography as a truly creative medium rather than a documentation of the real. These artists are engaging in a discourse of artifice, questioning the position of photographs as documents of how it was, revealing that not only is their work not a documentation of the world as it is, but that photography never was.

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