Continuing the historical journey of early photographic discourse, I’ve happened upon another gem which oozes with Deleuze’s (sorry- couldn’t resist…) thinking in chapter 3, “Image of Thought” in Difference and Repetition. I’ll not go into the details of D’s railing against common sense and good sense, presuppositions, representation and recognition, etc. Instead, I’ll just give a few snippets of an article, “Hints on Art,” by Peter Henry Emerson. Writing in the 1880’s, Emerson was a strong proponent for photography as an art form- in a multiplicity of styles. He established himself both as a photographer and a writer, and often judged photographic exhibitions, quietly and subversively shifting the photographic plane.
“Never compete for prizes for ‘set subjects,’ for work of this kind leads to working from preconceived ideas, and therefore to conventionality, false sentiment, and vulgarity.”
“Remember that the original state of the minds of the uneducated men is vulgar, you now know why vulgar and commonplace works please the majority. Therefore, educate your mind, and fight the hydra-headed monster – vulgarity. Seize on any aspect of nature that pleases you and try and interpret it, and ignore – as nature ignores – all childish rules, such as that the lens should work only when the sun shines or when no wind blows.”
“Do not call yourself an ‘artist-photographer’ and make ‘artist-painters’ and ‘artist-sculptors’ laugh; call yourself a photographer and wait for artists to call you brother.”
“Pay no heed to the average photographer’s remarks upon ‘flat’ and ‘weak’ negatives. Probably he is flat, weak, stale and unprofitable; your negative may be first-rate, and probably his if he does not approve of it.”
of course, Deleuze would seize on Emerson’s own dogmatic image of thought that he puts forward, so eager to label, to identify, with a medium and presupposed attendant ontology and ideology; eager to dismiss the poor sense of the average public, so knowledgeable and superior in his own good sense of aesthetic judgement.