Dickens would surely agree thatphotography is seeing its bestof times as well as its worst.The popularization of digitalcameras and smart phones has led photographydown from the artistic pedestal.Everyone is now a photographer, any time,anywhere – leaving less need to ponder thereasoning behind the image.
From late October through earlyDecember, 2013, the First Beijing InternationalPhoto Biennial, themed “Aura &Post Aura,” was held at the China MillenniumMonument.
“Aura,” a key term in Walter Benjamin’s(1892-1940) Artistic AestheticsSystem, has become a significant indicatorin differentiating classical art from modern.The latter has already lost the “aura”of classical art due to the emergence ofphotography and film.
“The digital technology revolutionhas brought dramatic changes to mediumof expression, creative concepts, presentationand means of communication in art,”declares Wang Huangsheng, art director ofthe Biennial and director of the Art Museumat the Central Academy of Fine Arts.“And such changes have gradually impactedour perspectives and attitudes aboutcontemplating and visual art, by which wemean by ‘post aura.’”
The dawn of the Post Aura era hasgenerated a new set of artistic values andstandards for art, turning fading technologysuch as photography, believed to bethe “lost aura” by Benjamin, into a newkind of aura. These exhibits showcase theglobal efforts of photographers in theiraesthetic pursuits and exploration of thenature of photography.
“Photography still works as a meansto observe and express reality regardlessof changes in the medium environment,”remarks Gu Zheng, curator and professorat the School of Journalism of FudanUniversity in Shanghai, “and it still servesas an important means to witness life andsociety. Chinese artists should work harderto find the best ways to channel its energyinto smarter observations and expressions.Photographers carry bigger cultural dreamsand greater responsibility.”