Aesthetica Preprint, 88 (April 2010)

Emanuele Crescimanno: Photogeny: The Truth and Power of Photographic Images

Photography inaugurated a new way of making and conceptualizing art. Even before cinema, photography created the need to re-think the notion of art because of the high technical content of its images. Photography is, first and foremost, a way of looking at reality, of focusing on specific details that in the flux of ordinary perception would otherwise go unnoticed. The notion of photogeny (i. e., the aesthetic enhancement an object acquires through photographic representation) enables an interpretation of photography. When photographed, an object acquires characteristics that are different from those it possesses in reality and that depend directly on the expressive logic of the medium used to represent it. Mastering photographic technique requires paying attention to those fleeting details that, if well captured in a photo, make it photogenic.
The present study by Emanuele Crescimanno (e.crescimanno@gmail.com) analyzes the nature of photographic images foregrounding their specificity within the context of our "civilization of images". Crescimanno foregrounds key moments in the history of photography and focuses on the process that led to its emancipation from painting and to the development of a theoretical awareness that enabled the creation of distinctively photographic images. The possible completion of this process is discussed through an examination of the theoretical and photographic works of Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston, as well as through a discussion of photo portraits.