Sekula Chapter 1

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S.R. So, we are guests in the studio of Allan Sekula on the 7th of October 2004 ... I'm coming to the first question, and (..) to start the whole talking I want to ask you how and when did you come to your artistic practice, which is so interesting based on writing and photography?

A.S. As a student I was painting and then I was making kind of sculpture, doing some things that might be called actions and (..) this was in 1970/71. I started photographing to document performative works, and became increasingly interested in the evidentiary dubiousness of the photograph. And (..) over time that became a kind of autonomous interest of the photograph. But I think that was a time when certainly semiotics and structural linguistics were very much in the air.(..) And so the question of the relation between the photograph and its caption in new circumstances was something one could ... study, analyze, connect with the pre-existing discourse which of course emerged both in the 1930s and then again in the early 60s. And I really began to re-think the kind of institutional and sociological dimensions of the division of labour in cultural production. So, that if conceptual art was posing the problem of the relationship between the artist and the critic, and the, you know, kind of ... linguistic reception conditions of works of art, the relationships of works of art to linguistic propositions, if you opened up the field to think about the everyday uses of photography such as the press uses the photography, then you've had the question of the image-text-combination there and the writer-photographer-division of labour. (..) So in some ways it took me into questions that were very central to the problematics of visual art at that time but it also took me outside, into a broader world of media operations. So there was a kind of dynamic of inside and outside the artfield, that I think very quickly propelled me in a way and lead me to think how photojournalism worked, how the photographic picture magazine worked, the photographic book... and I learned more and more about photography through published sources being here on the westcoast there wasn't yet a highly regularized system of exhibiting photographs and collecting them in museums. If there was any place where that had been going on for some time it was in New York, and I didn't end up in New York until 1974 after I was out of school. So I encountered the text-image-relation in published sources; and I think that had a big effect on me. Ranging from picture magazines to books on photography, books using photographs... And in the context where the question of the visual reproduction was increasingly central in thinking about art.


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