Week 3 - F64, Andy Warhol, & “Authenticity” by Diar Nejadeh

ansel-adams-yosemiteReflecting on this week’s discussion of Industrialization and Walter Benjamin’s work The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, I turn to two examples of famous works of art and artists to explore these topics.  The use of aperture in photography can be one of the most powerful tools in altering of course the amount of light that enters into the camera, but also the depth of field.  Several years ago in a course on digital photography, my teacher brought up the interesting example of the San Francisco based F64 group.  The group comprised of many different photographers but importantly Ansel Adams, who’s work I use as my image examples. The term f/64 refers to the smallest aperture setting on a large format cameras, which secures maximum depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life. aperture

ansel_adamsThe group used the small aperture in an effort to capture life as seen by the viewer, and this was exclusively expressed in the groups mission statement:

The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image, which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.

The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself.

Obviously F64’s works are not reproductions, but they attempt to reproduce what is seen by the view and many photgraphers utilize tools such as the aperture to alter the depth of field and add artistic elements. aphoto1

Recalling Benjamin’s work, we are reminded of the discussion of “aura” as the sense of reverence the viewer experienes in the presence of “unique works of art.” According to Benjamin, this aura inheres not in the object itself but rather in external atributes such as its known line of ownership, its restricted exhbition, its publicized authenticity, or its cultural value.  The work of an artist like Andy Warhol can be deemed “authentic” by many, but in respects to its method of production, Warhol used a silkscreen method and produced his works in his studio named “The Factory”, a commentary on industrialization:

In August 62 I started doing silkscreens. I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. When Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns.andy-warhol-marilyn

Andy Warhol used a photograph shot by Gene Kormon for a publicity shoot and in its most literal sense, Warhol’s Marilyn works were altered reproductions of an original photograph.  Much like photoshop today, Warhol altered color to add an element of “Pop Art” to his works.  This example of Warhol’s works is brought to pose he interesting dichotomy of a piece of art that in my opinion is extremely authentic in originality, yet in the words of Warhol, intended to seem mass-produced as if made on an assembly line. 



-Diar Nejadeh

Comments are closed.