Last night I went to a lecture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with my friend Patricia. The lecture was on photographic art and whether or not it can be considered Art with a capital "A." The first thing that crossed my mind was: Is there still a museum with a crisis about photography as an artform? The question is so dated, it seems to me, that we shouldn't even be asking it any longer.
But the crisis in photography has always been around, going back to the very moment of the invention of the medium itself. Early photographer quickly tried to mimic the painting medium that came before it, while other soon tried to stake out their own territories for the photographic. In the sixties the crisis shifted within the artworld from one form of photography to the next. John Szarkowski, the photographer and curator of the photographic department at MOMA, had, for the duration of his career, legitimized black and white photography as worthy of serious museum scrutiny. Now the crisis in photography became whether color photographs were in itself artistic. Color were mainly associated with the commercial world, and now that the like of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston were beginning to shoot in color within the Art context, the questions comes back once more.
Is Photography Art? Truthfully it shouldn't matter any more. But the discrepancies between what the photo world believe photography should entail, and what the artworld believe it is, is quite jarring. But if you ask most artists working with photographs today, they will tell you that it is just a medium for them to use, just like they can use graphite, video, or a piece of gum that they have chewed into a large ball and stuck in the corner of the gallery.
Perhaps one day the question will never be asked, and we will eventually get passed the complex that most people related strictly to the photographic has toward their own medium and its validity with the larger art context.