File:Bourdieu Pierre Photography A Middle-brow (file size: MB, MIME. PHOTOGRAPHY: A MIDDLE-BROW ART accompany most art historical studies of photography. be Bourdieu’s intention in this work to question the very . But Bourdieu and his associates show that few cultural activities are more structured and systematic than the social uses of this ordinary art. This perceptive and.

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In Nietzsche’s words, ‘The artist chooses his subjects. Then my children, underneath it. So, even if you have a really good sound system, a concert hall is going to be able to out-do it. Some contributions to the original French edition were not directly concerned with the theme of photographic practice and were therefore excluded from the English language edition. In fact, if the family function of photography can be fulfilled more or less completely and at different levels accord- ing to the income available, it is only ever accomplished in an occasional practice, which is generally lacking in intensity and 34 Parti indifferent to aesthetic ambition.

It would be an insult to the people who invited him. As a technology of solemnization or a festive technology, and always a technology for the solemnization of the festivity, photography becomes all the more necessary when, with the fragmentation of the grand solemnities, with the disappearance of the public signs of festivity which were formerly able to lend the sense of celebration the appearance of an objective foundation, the festivity whether a birthday or a saint’s day is more clearly than ever shown up as 28 Part I being voluntary decisoire and arbitrary because the family group is condemned to live as an autarky.

Want to Read saving…. In the absence of any authorities which could objec- tively define a hierarchy of types of practice and provide an unquestionable scale of the most conformist types of conduct, refinement and distinction can only be affirmed with regard to photography when they are opposed to vulgarity, and members of the upper classes can only make negative definitions, either by defining a good photograph as a ‘work that does not look like the work of anyone else’ or, in their aesthetic choices, follow the rule of ‘not taking simple tourist photographs’.

Each group bears within it a representation of the necessary quality of the practice which dictates the choice of camera and the extent of the equipment. It goes down nicely. But insofar as it provides at least a description of the meanings and values which photographers believe that they secrete in their activity, this psychology which, while promising an exploration of the depths, leads no further than the surface of things, is less unsettling than the psychology which, anxious to fulfil its brief, dives into the Freudian abysses of voyeurism, narcissism and exhibitionism.

Photography: A Middle-Brow Art by Pierre Bourdieu

If you’re not keen on it you ignore it. All that remains of Paris in J. When you don’t know much about it, certainly, you need lots of mechanical stuff. While the peasant rejects an activity that contradicts his system of values, and entrusts a specialist from outside the group with the task of carrying out a rite that involves the entire community, the urban family, withdrawn into itself, naturally entrusts a member of the family, usually the head of the family, with the task of carrying out this domestic cult ritual.

For some social groups, photography is primarily a means of preserving the present and reproducing moments of collective celebration, whereas for other groups it is the occasion of an aesthetic judgment in which photographs are endowed with the dignity of works of art. He observes their actions, their development, their man- ifestations, and he seeks to untangle their causes by using various tests, called experiments.

If the accumulation of consumer durables, the refrigerator, washing-machine or television, contributes to the reinforcement of the family unit, the acquisition of these standard products cannot satisfy the sense of intimacy as completely as the practice of photography, the domestic manufacture of domestic emblems.


In this way photography provides a privileged opportun- ity to observe the logic which may lead some members of the petite bourgeoisie to phootography originality in a fervent photographic practice freed from its family functions, while it may lead many members of the upper classes to refuse fervent attachment to a practice suspected of vulgarity by the very fact of its popularization. The locals might send cards with “Souvenir of Lesquire” and a picture of a drunk, or maybe “There’s good wine in Lesquire”.

Bourdieu rejected the idea of the intellectual “prophet”, or the “total intellectual”, as embodied by Sartre. A society momentarily dissolving, only to reform elsewhere but under wholly new conditions and with quite new elements, has not sufficient continuity to acquire a personal aspect, a history of its own, to which its members may feel attachment.

Thus, for example, inasmuch as one can satisfy the need for photographs without taking one’s own, even inasmuch as taking one’s own photographs can be seen as a luxury since, in the final analysis, domestic production more often supplements than re- places studio photography, mjddle is natural that camera-owners should become increasingly numerous as income increases. The reason that most enthusiasts purchase more expensive equipment is not that they are looking for better tools, but because consumer habits dictate that they should own what is better, claims Bourdieu.

In fact, when the intention to take up photography can be expressed more freely, and without explicit reference to financial means and expenses, the differences are again much more intense. Some women of very good family take photographs before the wedding, but it’s quite rare and it gets noticed.

The occasion of the journey honeymoon solem- nizes the places travelled through, and the most solemn among them solemnize the occasion of the journey. The bpurdieu practice of photography by millions of amateur photographers may seem to be a spontaneous and highly personal activity.

Photography: A Middle-Brow Art

This can be seen, for example, in the fact that the proportion of subjects who do not own a camera and who express the intention to buy one increases regularly as one moves from craftsmen and shopkeepers one in eight to manual workers one in six to industrialists and senior executives one in fiveto reach its peak with clerical workers and junior executives one in four. Photography thus owes its immense diffusion to its social function, but also to its own characteristics and, inter alia, the limits of its diffusion.

And in fact, as we have seen, cultural goodwill can be asserted in statements particu- larly among the middle classes without finally being embodied in actual behaviour. Strongly inclined to grant photography artistic status, and anxious, at least in their. No, but you are infinitely more likely to have heard of Mahler and perhaps even know some of his music if you are from the upper class than those from other classes are. Doubtless a concern that focuses only on the technical quality of the image may lead one to acquire quality instruments, but it develops on a different level from the refinement of the aesthetic quality of the image, with the result that, as we have seen, the most sophisticated cameras may be placed at the service of the most traditional functions.

If, to use the terms with which Durkheim characterizes the different types of suicide, one can describe the practice of these photographers as ‘egoistic’ or ‘anomic’, it is clear that it would be pointless to seek the causes or conditions of this dedication in the intrinsic characteristics of the statistical categories where they are most often encountered.

Although photography does not form a part of any institutional- ized educational system and does not to any degree contain the promise of immediate and direct social gain, and although, unlike more noble cultural activities, such as playing a musical instrument or going to museums, it is neither controlled nor even encouraged by example, the proportion of children taking photographs varies, in the different socio-professional categories, in a way identical to the proportion of photographers, apart from the fact that photo- graphic practice seems to be more habitual among the children of senior executives than among those of junior executives.


Because, while seeming to evoke the past, photography actually exorcizes it by recalling it as such, it fulfils the normalizing function that society confers on funeral rites, namely at once recalling the memory of the departed and the memory of their passing, recalling that they lived, that they are dead and buried and that they continue on in the living.

Of course, when you’re young you swap photographs; after you’re twenty-five your ideas change, you have other things to worry about. The purchase of expensive equipment seems to be determined more often by consumer habits leading to the purchase of only quahty products than by a qualitative transformation of the photographic intention; In short, the sophistication of the available means comes to photography from outside; rather than resulting from the appear- ance of new requirements produced by the practice of photogra- phy itself, it expresses a concern to conform to the broad group norm.

The experimenter who is faced with natural phenomena is like a spectator watching silent scenes. To conform to the norms of one’s class is therefore above all to refuse a vulgar practice and to deny the norms of the classes from which one wishes to distinguish oneself, thus depriving their behaviour of any meaning.

Ceremonial photographs are too solernn or too intimate to be shown in the space wheres everyday life goes on; they can only be displayed in the dining room, the drawing room or, in the case of more personal pictures, such as photographs of deceased parents, in the bedroom, along with the religious pictures, the crucifix and the hnis benit wood blessed on Palm Sunday. In contrast, among the petits bourgeois of the village, they take on a decorative or sentimental value: This perceptive and wide-ranging analysis of the practice of photography brings out the logic implicit in this cultural field.

The mother who has her children photographed can only meet with approval. There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Now, while there is nearly an endless number of remarkably interesting things that can be said about all of these kinds of photography, one of the areas that is often missed is the most popular kind of photography of all — amateur photography. But does this not amount to doing away with the sociolo- gical problem by providing as an explanation what sociology should be explaining? You have to take them, it’s more polite, isn’t it? The feature common to all the popular arts is their subordination of artistic activity to socially regulated func- tions while the elaboration of ‘pure’ forms, generally considered the most noble, presupposes the disappearance of photogrqphy functional characteristics and all reference to practical or ethical goals.

One of the pictures in J.

The good peasant of former times was as different from the ‘peasantified’ peasant empaysan- nitthe ‘hucou’, the man of the woods, as from the ‘gentrified’ peasant en-moussurit. The everyday practice of photography by millions of amateur photographers may seem to be a spontaneous and highly personal activity. In short, while photography may be seen as an art, it is only ever a minor art.