Essay: Currency of the Photograph: New Deal Reformism and Documentary Rhetoric
Berenice Abbot believed a “documentary value” to be inherent “in the photographic process itself and present in every ‘good photograph’”.
“The photographs are dense with connotations…Just as we see each detail within the meaning of the total photographic image which they them themselves compose, so we see every object both singly and coming together to form an ensemble..”
“The photograph seems to declare: ‘This really happened. The camera was there. See for yourself’. However, if this binding quality of the photograph is partly enforced at the level of ‘internal relations’ by the degree of definition, it is also produced and reproduced by certain privileged ideological apparatuses, such as scientific establishments, government departments, the police and the law courts. This power to bestow authority and privilege on photographic representations is not given to other apparatuses…”
“As Susan Sontag has stressed, photographs are objects of manipulation”
“specific premium put on ‘truth’ in realist work.”
“What defines and creates ‘truth’ in any society is a system of more or less ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution and circulation of statements. Through these procedures ‘truth’ is bound in a circular relation to systems of power which produce and sustain it.”