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Video: The Case for Realism

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In this fun, fast moving 12-minute video we get a potted history of the art movement of Realism in painting and how it was affected by the advent of photography. It starts with the assertion that “when photography was invented many people thought painting would die.”
 
This is a very normal response it seems to the advent of the new, many people fear the death of the existing status quo. 
 
Obviously there are tragedies when what is new that is replacing the old isn’t better. But many times new technologies can live alongside the old, and like with painting and photography, they can influence and thrive alongside each other.
Abstract photography, for example, draws much influence and ideas from abstract painting. 
 
The art movement of ‘Photorealism’ has sparked amazing works of art, where painters have taken the realism of photography and used it to create painstaking, visionary paintings. 
 
(“Photorealism – a style of art and sculpture characterized by the highly detailed depiction of ordinary life with the impersonality of a photograph.”)
 
“Photorealism disrupted what people thought art should be showing us the often aggressively un-artful stuff of every day life.”
 
Painters like Don Eddy whose scenes of streets in New York look like beautiful photos, on closer inspection are lush, rich paintings made surreal by their almost-reality.
 
Or the sculptures of Duane Hanson, who created life sized sculptures of people in every day situations, shopping or pushing prams. The sculptures are compelling in their realness, but slightly unsettling when you realise they are in fact completely devoid of life.
 
This film also goes through the history of painters who hundreds of years ago were creating realistic scenes of life. Paintings like the emotional scenes of Caravaggio or the evocative scenes of rural life of Pieter Bruegal.
 
In the book Secret Knowledge the iconic artist David Hockney posits that for several hundred years painters have been using photographic tools, like lenses, mirrors and camera obscuras, to create visually accurate paintings depicting real life. 
 
Photography though, as we know, is not pure realism. It is an opinion, and moment of time taken from the constant flow of life. It is the result of a collection of decisions that the photographer has made, where to stand, the light, the lens and camera to use – and after all that, selecting the image, out of all the ones taken, to be shown to the world. Photography is highly subjective. 
 
“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” Gary Winogrand