Photo: William Klein. Atom Bomb Sky, New York, 1955. 101.6 × 152.4 Size (cm). 40.0 × 60.0 Size (in). Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery.
The photograph has come into its own, going beyond the boundaries of the vernacular to claim its rightful place in the art world. While it has long been considered a machine in the age of mass reproduction, for more than 150 years, the artists who wield this tool have radically transformed the way we see the world.
It is not simply a matter of content but also context – the way they use the ability to capture an image in a fraction of a second and then take the ephemeral and transform it into the eternal. By transforming the world as we know it into something else, photographers are as much alchemists as they are artists. They eras the third dimension and restore life into something that is at once both simpler and far more complex that we may necessarily perceive at first glance.
The artwork on view at Art Basel in Miami Beach is the crème de la crème, looking at works made over the past century that have pushed the boundaries of visual language to change the way we look and think.
At a time when representation has taken on heightened importance, with the recognition that the human animal fundamentally perceives that “seeing is believing,” the photographers chosen for Art Basel in Miami Beach remind us that the photograph is equal parts historical document, an artifact, and evidence as well as the execution of innovative thinking, original ideas, and sheer visual splendor that will may stop you in your tracks and take your breath away.
Among the great talents currently on view are Crave faves Gordon Parks, Dawoud Bey, Pieter Hugo, Viviane Sassen, Cindy Sherman, Peter Hujar, William Klein, Man Ray, and Thomas Ruff, as well as legends including Marina Abramovic, Carolee Schneeman, and Dora Maar.
Taken as a whole, the best photographers at Art Basel in Miami Beach reveal the plasticity of photography is filled with as many possibilities for genius as painting, drawing, and sculpture. In this way, we can consider the democratization of the form, as digital photography has given most people on the planet the ability to create, distribute, and sell their work.
While some stalwarts bemoan the explosion of the form, rest assured photography will never die or become watered down. It is a language all its own, and one whose mass literacy will push the medium into new realms. A century ago, it wasn’t even considered an art – which goes to show just how far we have come, and how far we can go in our brave new world.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.