GRE Reading Comprehension

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Source: NO2

Picture-taking is a technique both for annexing the objective world and for expressing the singular self. Photographs depict objective realities that already exist, though only the camera can disclose them. And they depict an individual photographer's temperament discovering itself through the camera's cropping of reality. That is, photography has two antithetical ideals: in the first, photography is about the world and the photographer is a mere observer who counts for little; but in the second, photography is the instrument of intrepid, questing subjectivity and the photographer is all.

These conflicting ideals arise from a fundamental uneasiness on the part of both photographers and viewers of photographs toward the aggressive component in "taking" a picture. Accordingly, the ideal of a photographer as observer is attractive because it implicitly denies that picture-taking is an aggressive act. The issue, of course, is not so clear-cut. What photographers do cannot be characterized as simply predatory or as simply, and essentially, benevolent. As a consequence, one ideal of picture-taking or the other is always being rediscovered and championed.

An important result of the coexistence of these two ideals is a recurrent ambivalence toward photography's means. Whatever the claims that photography might make to be a form of personal expression on a par with painting, its originality is inextricably linked to the powers of a machine. The steady growth of thesepowers has made possible the extraordinary informativeness and imaginative formal beauty of many photographs, like Harold Edgerton's high-speed photographs of a bullethitting its target or of the swirls and eddies of a tennis stroke. But as cameras become more sophisticated, more automated, some photographers are tempted to disarm themselves or to suggest that they are not really armed, preferring to submit themselves to the limits imposed by premodern camera technology because a cruder, less high powered machine is thought to give more interesting or emotive results, to leave more room for creative accident. For example, it has been virtually a point of honor for many photographers, including Walker Evans and Cartier-Bresson, to refuse to use modern equipment. These photographers have come to doubt the value of the camera a an instrument of "fast seeing." Cartier- Bresson, in fact, claims that the modern camera may see too fast.

This ambivalence toward photographic means determines trends in taste. The cult of the future (of faster and faster seeing) alternates over timem with the wish to return to a purer past—when images had a handmade quality. This nostalgia for some pristine state of the photographicenterprise is currently wide-spread and underlies the present-day enthusiasm for daguerreotypes and the work of forgotten nineteenth- century provincial photographers.Photographers and viewers of photographs, it seems, need periodically to resist their own knowingness.

Question List: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

According to the passage, interest among photographers in each of photography's two ideals can be described as

  • A rapidly changing
  • B cyclically recurring
  • C steadily growing
  • D unimportant to the viewers of photographs
  • E unrelated to changes in technology

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