Jean Baudrillard

Above: A photograph by Jean Baudrillard (detail). Credit: Estate of Jean Baudrillard.

The World of Surfaces

We live in a generalized aestheticism. Any aspect of banality can make its claim to be aesthetic ... beyond that what remains is the appearance and disappearance of the raw object in a kind of obviousness. It-is-what-it-is and you have to take it just like that. The plunge into a world of surfaces, of the obvious. The obvious is not just beautiful in the artistic sense of the word; it's fascinating. I'm fascinated by the object that appears, that wants to appear. By object, I mean some matter, some light, a situation, a landscape, a silhouette perhaps--but not a face, no resemblance, no meaning or psychology. I must capture this object at the moment of its appearance before it takes on a meaning. And the lens constitutes a fantastic instrument for that, because it cuts you off from the world and puts you in direct transition with the object ... To get back to pleasure, for me, photography is also linked to the idea of travelling, to the flux of the city ...

Who is speaking? Atget in 1890? Eggleston in 1970? No. Actually it's Jean Baudrillard talking about why he photographs in 1990--a century after Atget. The thought process is identical to Atget's though (and Eggleston's). The urge to simply document the object as it appears--in all its supreme and fascinating banality/strangeness ("radical enigmaticness"). This urge in photography seems to transcend all artistic movements and trends, and so comes close to being a self-evident pillar of photo-practice; a continuously refreshed creative aim that has remained unaltered down through the history of the medium, up to and including our Instagram-smartphone epoch.

(11 February 2019)