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New Topographics. Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (unbekannt)

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to the photographic recording in the sense of a simple list or bureaucratic registration. Concept artists ‹mime,› so to speak, different ways of using photography—such as e.g. scientific documentation, chronophotography, crime scene photography, illustration, the photo report, shutter photography— and in this way present—often ironically—critical analyses of these usages.

While Concept artists refer to the superficial banality of photography, conceptional photography, which appeared at about the same time as Concept Art, relies on its documentary quality, i.e. on the reproductive output and objectivity of the photographic medium. Within this context, the return to automatic recording means the greatest possible technical quality combined with the withdrawal of the photographer in favor of the object (this was formulated in the introduction of the exhibition catalogue «New Topographics. Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape » in a way that points the way ahead; [7] because it exemplifies this photographic attitude, the book by Bernd and Hilla Becher is particularly worth mentioning).


The photograph as an index

In the twentieth century, automatic recording was given an emphasis that went beyond the objectivity of photographic depiction. In the photographic theory of the time, the characterization of photography as a ‹copy of nature› was restated using the sign theoretical term of ‹indexicality.› [8] Indexical signs such as the smoke of a fire, footprints in the sand and the like have a physical—one could also say causal (cause and effect)—connection to their referent. In this understanding, the photographic image is a ‹trace› or the ‹effect› of the object that was photographed: a print of the rays of light thrown back from an object onto a carrier material that has been made sensitive to light with silver salt crystals. Thus the photographic depiction of an object is at the same time verification of its existence, even if this applies to a past moment. Roland Barthes' formula for the certification of a past present, which for him constitutes the nature—the ‹noema›—of photography, is: «That's the way it was.» [9] Of course this quality especially predestines photography for its use in investigative surveillance and

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