Walter benjamin essay on photography

The mechanical reproduction of artwork has drastically changed the way in which we conceive, and therefore also create, Art. The concept of what authenticity is and the role of the artist himself have to be considered as well in order to understand how they have adapted to the new function that art has acquired following the advent of mechanical and also digital reproduction. As such, what we now call Art had a very different function then, and was closely linked to religion, magic and ritual.

Walter benjamin essay on photography

Cultic value is present when the existence or presence of something is more important than its actual display — as in religious artefacts.

This is the first of a pair of oppositions that Benjamin articulates — cultic value versus display value. Benjamin makes a clear case for how photography upsets the notion of the original and the aura of art.

But his best insights are reserved for his analysis of film. In particular, one of his most beautiful metaphors — and another oppositional structure — is in the way the magician versus the surgeon parallels the relationship between a painting and film.

This is worth quoting in detail: The stance of the magician healing an invalid by laying-on of hands differs from that of the surgeon performing an operation on that invalid.

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The magician maintains the natural distance between himself and the patient…the surgeon does the opposite: It moves in and out, can alter the duration of time, and alter space and points of view. The camera is such a potent force that the aura of the actor has no chance of surviving, the way it still does on a theatre stage.

My interest in this essay is in one of the oppositions that he sets up in order to demonstrate the conceptual differences between things normally seen as fairly similar.


A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it… In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art. This is most obvious with regard to buildings. Architecture has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction.

Art has its use as well although we know that there is a big difference in what use and function mean in architecture as opposed to art.

Walter benjamin essay on photography

That is, the state of distraction that is present when we experience architecture is caused by use. The way we are aware of the architecture of a kitchen is mediated by the fact that we are making toast and thinking about catching the bus so as not to be late for work.

When in front of a work of art, we generally choose to concentrate on it, to examine it, thereby giving it its space and our attention fully. You might, however, cease to concentrate on your original Matisse hanging in your living room after several weeks or months.

And you choose to stand before a building and consider it as art in a fully attentive and concentrated manner. However, these latter two examples are not how they are primarily meant to be apprehended. So while architecture may be taken in as art that is not its essential mode of reception.

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About Walter Benjamin and Art Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours.
Cinema Journal Download Now Suspensions of Perception is a major historical study of human attention and its volatile role in modern Western culture.
Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory Non-representational photography lives in this contested middle ground between material reality and photographic illusion — fact and fiction — first and second natures.
Walter Benjamin’s “Short History of Photography ” - Artforum International Andre Bazin and Roland Barthes share the view that photographs are objective records of reality.

This is a very simple observation and way of delineating a difference between two types of production and consumption — yet without saying one is better than the other.

They are simply different. Nevertheless, breath and ink are still wasted over debating whether architecture is art or a fine art practice. We can accept, however, that not everybody on the street would have read Benjamin.Description: Walter Benjamin was one of the most original cultural critics of the twentieth century.

Illuminations includes his views on Kafka, with whom he felt a close personal affinity; his studies on Baudelaire and Proust; and his essays on Leskov and on Brecht's Epic Theater.

Walter Benjamin's most famous and influential essay remains The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Walter Benjamin and the Work of Art is the first book to provide a broad and dedicated analysis of this canonical work and its effect upon core contemporary concerns in the visual arts.

HOME Free Essays Walter Benjamin’s account of social class and photography. Walter Benjamin developed a radical anti-protestant and anti-capitalism argument, which was chiefly instigated through the works of Max Weber (Lowy, ).

We will write a custom essay sample on Walter Benjamin’s account of social class and photography. Jul 01,  · While studies of Art History tend to discuss the challenge photography posed to painting, the influence of mechanical reproduction on the arts(all of them, even-and especially music) is far more far-reaching.

Probably the most famous analysis of this influence is Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". Aug 28,  · Walter Benjamin – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

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Notes: Benjamin’s essay changes dramatically depending on which translation you read. Given that it is not terribly long, it’s worth trying out a few different translations.

I recently bought the Penguin Great Ideas version, which is a new translation. Walter Benjamin’s essay “A Short History of Photography” is a landmark in the understanding and criticism of the medium, offering surprising new takes on such photographic pioneers as David Octavius Hill and Nicéphore Niépce and their aesthetic and technical benjaminpohle.coms: 1.

A Short History of Photography by Walter Benjamin