Allan Sekula
[Photographer, writer, and theorist, b. 1951, Erie, Pennsylvania, d. 2013, Los Angeles.]

 The dominant spectacle, with its seductive commodities and authoritative visual “facts,” could not exist without photographs or photographers…. We forget that most photographers are detail workers, makers of fragmentary and indeterminate visual statements. 
 [A] particularly obstinate bit of bourgeois folklore—the claim for the intrinsic significance of the photograph—lies at the center of the established myth of photographic truth. Put simply, the photograph is seen as a re-presentation of nature itself, as an unmediated copy of the real world. The medium itself is considered transparent. 
 As a mechanical medium which radically transformed and displaced earlier artisanal and manual modes of visual representation, photography is implicated in a sustained crisis at the very center of bourgeois culture, a crisis centered in the emergence of science and technology as seemingly autonomous productive forces. At the heart of this crisis lies the question of the survival and deformation of human creative energies under the impact of mechanization. The institutional promotion of photography as a fine art serves to redeem technology by suggesting that subjectivity and the machine are easily compatible. 
 A truly critical social documentary will frame the crime, the trial, and the system of justice and its official myths. Artists working toward this end may or may not produce images that are theatrical and overtly contrived, they may or may not present texts like fiction. Social truth is something other than a manner of convincing style. 
 In a technological sense, the most significant feature of the photograph is its reproducibility; the status of photograph as “unique object” had an early demise with Talbot’s invention of a positive-negative process. 
 Every work of photographic art has its lurking, objectifying inverse in the archives of the police. 
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