On the Fictions of Contemporary Art Photography
Before the book can look beyond photography, it must look at photography itself. A bit like the “real” Martin Guerre who emerges just in the nick of time to stake a claim to his identity against the sustained deceptions of the trickster, chapter one intercedes as a more traditionally scholarly antidote to the essayistic fictions of the introduction, analyzing but ultimately assimilating and enacting the logic of duplication and imposture that cleaves the history of photography and predicts its dispersed inheritance in the present. The chapter is introduced by a close reading of two photographic series, An-My Lê’s 29 Palms and Gregory Crewdson’s Sanctuary. Visual records of simulations, their series present a reality structured by the logic of imposture. Documents of fiction, these two series nevertheless deliver a set of truths. For if they help to frame and focus a discussion of the photographic present, a moment when practices of staging and construction, often coupled with digital manipulation, undergird and animate a significant body of contemporary art, as, for example, in the work of Jeff Wall, Thomas Demand and James Casebere, they also set the stage for an examination of the historic claims of the medium.
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