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The Pre-history of Street Film : Jacob Riis's 19th Century New York Slums Photos

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2017, 51(), pp.235-272
  • DOI : 10.17527/JASA.51.0.08
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Published : June 30, 2017

Lee dohoon 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this paper is to describe street photography as pre-history of street film. Street photography with various media from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century is one of the genres that reproduced the life of the modern metropolis. In particular, street photography that captured the rapid change of metropolis by using camera, has affinity with street film that will record a bright and dark side of metropolis as moving image. In other words, street photography was preparing the media, social, and cultural feature of street films. The affinity of street film and street photography can be defined by the conception of photographic image. according to Siegfried Kracauer, photographic image are related to memory and history rather than meaning, sign, symbol. He divide the photographic approach as realistic and plastic, and called a photographic approach in true sense of the word that is the plastic approach support the realistic approach. This photographic approach is similar to the manner historians approach historical material. Kracauer considered both of photography and history as the world before the metaphysical world: the lasting before the last. he regarded that place as awaiting waiting the restoration of materiality both in reality and in history. For Kracauer, photography be in charge of functions that capturing physical reality and ultimately putting the captured images in the position of history. When approaching the concept of photographic image, street photography is art which capturing physical reality of metropolis and accomplishing chance from instantly encountering event and things in street. In the case of Jacob Riis, who represents American street photography, he had approached New York slums in three ways. First, he inherited philanthropic and moral discours that dominated New York in 19th century. Second, he helped the public visually experience the misery of the slum through photographic practices such as slide show, publishing and photography. Third, he objectively recorded the life of physical reality of New York slums and poor people by using flashlight which was just invented at the time. By visualizing the lives of modern cities and providing them with experience in the public, Jacob Riis and his photographs can definitely be regarded as one of the pre-history of street film.

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