Publishing a contemporary art magazine specializing in photography in 2015 is more relevant than ever. Simply think of all the magazines, galleries, exhibition centres, and events (Mois de la photo and photographic encounters of all kinds) that exist and are being created all over the world around the photographic image.
Of course, the time has past for debates over recognition of the artistic value of photographs, which now occupy a central place in contemporary art practices and are well integrated into museum collections. Many major museums have also developed collections that retrace different aspects of the history of photography. Nevertheless, it remains that the creation of a true photography museum – notably after the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography was reabsorbed into the National Gallery of Canada – seems a goal that is out of reach for our community. The recent foundation of a major photography exhibition and research centre at Ryerson University was therefore a red-letter event. That such an institution is rooted in an academic environment is very revealing of the growing legitimacy of the field of photographic studies in Canadian universities and the vitality of the reflection that photography has provoked.
The photographic image thoroughly permeates society, and comprehension of its recent evolution offers important challenges. The multiplicity of its states, statuses, and uses imposes a transversal reading – along the lines of the fields of cultural studies and visual studies – that allows for examination and cross-fertilization of the practices in the world of specialized art with those of professional fields (photojournalism and documentary photography at the top of the list, but also photography in the legal, scientific, and media fields) and with areas related to the personal and the vernacular. In addition, the digital mutation and multiplication of images, and their accelerated circulation on networks – and the unlimited possibilities for appropriation, transformation, and sharing that this allows – open up to a new state of the image fully distanced from reality that forces us to re-evaluate and relegitimize the fields of art and culture.
The current situation also gives us a glimpse of a new state of culture, within which art is more and more associated with entertainment, tourism, and financial speculation and its research dimension is swept away in a wave of questioning of the autonomy of fields of intellectual practice. Could what appears to be a threat to the future of art also be seen as a challenge, an opening? More than just defensiveness or resistance, our rereadings must encompass a rendering the complexity of situations and issues, re-exploring history, keeping common sites at a distance, and reinventing our ways of seeing. The diversity of practices of a contemporary art that has become omnivorous may clearly contribute to this. Many challenges are still ahead of us. Translated by Käthe Roth