Interview with Professor David Bate
大衛·貝特教授專訪


ART.ZIP: I have to admit that the concept of studying photography in China still limits it to its techniques and commercial functions. Can you tell us what are the key concepts of photographic studies and what is the importance of understanding photography history and theory?

DB: Photographs are a crucial component in the way a society sees itself. The complex technological origins of photography in chemistry, optics (mathematics) and image composition has meant that teaching photography has inherited a rather technical orientation. Yet today it is possible to be a photographer with very little technical knowledge, or even none at all!

Automated cameras replace many of the skills that were taught before. Certainly, teaching the electronic components of photography are important as ‘how’ photographs are made, but the other important questions are ‘what’ pictures you make and ‘why’? What are they for, what is their purpose? This is not a purely technical question.

Most amateur photography is still governed by nineteenth century ideas of ‘good composition’. These ideas in photography, were first developed through reference to theories of European ‘pictorial’ painting, and worked out in Pictorialism, the first global movement of art photography. These ideas spread across the world from Europe and the USA in the late nineteenth century, along with the technology of photography. From this brief excursion into history, you can see that the history of photography as a history of ideas about photography is surely important.

These questions about what the photographs are being made for (and why) relate to this wider historical and cultural environment of photography, the history of ideas about photography, notably realism (journalism and documentary), of persuasion (advertising and propaganda) and all of these along with ‘personal expression’ in art. If education is to mean anything it is to develop a knowledge and understanding of the forms of practice that a student may encounter in day-to-day life. These practices form a general context for students to consider their work. By understanding the context, they can understand better how to act in it or even against it. Photographs appear within specific contexts, the family, the state, the media, the street, via different cultural institutions or even across all of these. These ‘contexts’ have an important relation, both in terms of the types of meaning given to photographs by them, but also in the image-language relations. Surely, to understand how photography is enmeshed in these different uses and functions, along with their histories, is a crucial part of photography education.

Theory is distinct from criticism. Theory attempts to identify structural features, whereas criticism is primarily evaluative, often personal and emotive rather than analytical. In this sense the general aim of theory is to establish how ‘meaning’ is communicated (or not) with photography and in particular how specific types of meaning are circulated by photography.

ART.ZIP: 我們不得不承認,中國攝影學習的理念仍然局限在其技術和商業的用途之上,您能告訴我們學習攝影理論的關鍵是什麽?同時,學習攝影史和攝影理論的重要性又在哪裡?

DB: 照片是一個社會自我認知方式的重要組成部分。攝影自發明起便涉及了化學、光學(數學)和圖像組成上的復雜技術,這就意味著攝影教學在一定程度上傳承了這一技術方向的討論。然而,如今人們並不需要很多的攝影技術知識便能成為一個攝影師,即便一無所知也沒有關係。

全自動相機的使用取代了過去攝影教育中代代相傳的技能培訓,當然,教授給學生有關相機電子元件的知識與教會他們“如何”拍攝照片同樣重要,但另一個關鍵的問題則是:你要拍“什麽樣”的照片?“為什麽”要拍?它們的用途是什麽,拍它們的目的又是什麽?而這些都再不是單純的技術問題了。

當下,大多數業余攝影愛好者的觀念都受到十九世紀“好構圖”標準的制約。這些攝影的想法最早是從歐洲畫意風格的理論中發展而來的,接著便在“畫意攝影”這個全世界第一次藝術攝影風潮中得到完善。這些思想隨著攝影技術的進步在十九世紀末期從歐洲和美國開始遍布世界。從這個簡短的歷史回顧中你可以看到,攝影理念的歷史作為攝影史的一部分亦為重要。

這些問題也揭示了照片制作的目的和原因,這都涉及到更廣泛的攝影歷史和文化語境之間的關係;以及攝影觀念的歷史。比如說代表現實主義的新聞和紀實攝影,或者是具有說服功能的廣告和宣傳攝影,以及伴隨其中作為攝影藝術的“個人表達”。

攝影教育的意義在於幫助學生在增長知識的同時,教會他們去理解日常生活中所遇到的不同形式的實踐。這些實踐形式最終組成了一個整體的語境,在學生考慮未來可能應用到某種實踐,或者當我們要求學生“你必須這樣去做”的時候提供更多的幫助。通過了解語境,學生可以更好地理解如何去利用它,或者是反對它。

照片產生在具體的語境中,比如說家庭、國家、媒體、街道、或者各種文化機構,甚至交叉在各種語境當中。這些“語境”之間都有重要的聯繫,不但在於它們所賦予攝影的意義類型,同時還包括圖像語言之間的關聯。當然,要了解攝影是如何發揮這些不同的用途和功能,以及了解這些相關語境的歷史都是攝影教育的重要組成部分。

攝影理論與攝影批評是截然不同的。理論試圖定義結構特點,而批評則主要是評價性的,相對於前者的分析性來說,攝影批判往往同個人和情感有關。從這個意義上說,學習攝影理論的目的在於確定攝影是如何同“含義”聯繫(或沒有)在一起的,特別是那些由攝影所傳播的具體類型的含義。


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