The Eye of the Machine – Camera and Lens

There is an interesting exhibition on in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. The Eye of the Machine – Camera and Lens attempts to catalog the various ways in which camera technology and technique have influenced the development of photography.

It was one of the better curated shows that i’ve seen there, pulling together a diverse sense of photography. There are a fair few famous names, even if the sampling of their work is limited. Obviously the Japanese photographers are better represented than they would be in a similar exhibition in Europe, but that’s a detraction (there is only one diado…)

The one thing that really jumps out at you is how many of the techniques that are commonly used today were purposefully developed (and given names) back in the 1950s. With such context most of what has followed feels like a re-hashing, but with new, and periodically, more interesting execution.

It is really hard to walk away from such an exhibition with the feeling that photography is a current and vibrant art form. The subjects, and levels of optical quality, maybe novel and interesting, but in terms of new artistic ideas, or new forms of expression it feels very much “done”. If you feel like a challenge, after you’ve looked at The Eye of the Machine, pop downstairs to the basement and look at the (junk) in the Japan Photographer’s Association Exhibition.

In such a context the move to video makes a lot more sense. Admittedly it’s very much not for me, and it feels that i still have unfinished business in the cliche factory of photography, but the context was illuminating.

As an aside, much to my amusement the section on what we tend to call ‘street photography’ referred to it’s proponents as ‘snapshot photographers’ … think it’ll stick? Any chance Mr. Kim will start running ‘Snapshot Photography’ courses? Yeah, i guess not too.

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