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Bernard Perrine sur la Critique Photo
Bernard Perrine par Yan Morvan
He's the most uncompromising. The biggest perfectionist. The most meticulous. And sometimes the most intolerant, too. He's Bernard Perrine. His writing is always incisive, always questioning, and the same is true for his most recent piece in La Lettre de l'Académie.
Photography Criticism, Outdated Before It Existed
Visual arts in general, along with music, literature and theatre, can pride themselves of a long and rich history of criticism. Photography and cinema, however, lack this heritage.
There are several reasons for this. They arrived relatively late, existing at first outside the art world, and despite this late arrival, were soon subjected to the same dictates of the art market and institutions. Because of its scientific origins, and because of its recognition by scientific authorities, it’s not surprising that the first critical discussions of photography came from the world of science.
A combination of optics and chemistry, photography was created during Nicéphore Niépce’s experiments with heliographs. But it was François Arago who, by demonstrating Daguerre’s process during an August 19, 1839, meeting at the Académie des Sciences,who introduced the invention to the world and pushed it towards the field of Science. The process developed by Hippolyte Bayard, presented to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, might otherwise have pushed photography towards the Arts.
As soon as its acquired this official status, critics were more interested in photography’s process than its creations, whether they intended to praise or condemn it. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres leveled attacks against the new medium, although he recognized its value: “Photography is beautiful, very beautiful, but you must not say so.” On the other side of the argument was John Ruskin, who was deeply impressed with the daguerreotype, and who at first praised its precision, which allowed the viewer to discover, “the neglected and the microscopic,” before later condemning, “this landscape photography, incapable of reproducing the colors of nature, in particular of the sky.”
Read the full text of this article in the French version of Le Journal.