Academic journal article Afterimage

Fictional Photography: Constructivism in the Novel

Academic journal article Afterimage

Fictional Photography: Constructivism in the Novel

Article excerpt

Constructivism in relation to artistic and architectural movements commenced in Russia before the time of the October Revolution in 1917 and became most influential afterward. The movement dismissed *'pure" art in favor of an used as an instrument for social purposes, specifically [he construction of a socialist system, and it encouraged mechanical art as a new dynamic. Consiruelivism as an active force lasted until around 1934 when it fused with Dadaism and Other Styles, having a great deal oft effect on developments in the art of the Weimar Republic and elsewhere and influencing the Hauhaus movement. In an and architecture, the imponant features of Constructivism included geometric abstraction and bold graphic design, It eschewed mysticism and held that art should celebrate technology. Photomontage dominated in photography and the movement is associated with Alexander Rodchcnko, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Man Ray. The motifs of Constructivism have sporadically recurred in other an movements since.

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One of its dominant themes was propaganda, which might be construed as myth-making, changing reality, or altering facts to suit a new end. Certainly in photomontage this is the case, where elements were taken from different sources and combined to give new results in order to encourage alternative ideas. Another characteristic of Constructivism in art, which shows itself to the viewer, is that some part of the process is visible in the picture. In photography, for example, the edge sprocket holes of the film might appear in the final print, a reflection of the photographer might be included in the subject matter, or a shadow of the photographer might be included in the subject matter, or a shadow of the photographer holding the camera might stretch toward the center of the picture.

So in arguing that Constructivism can be applied to literature, it could be said that novels that feature such characteristics as providing multiple representations of reality, representing the natural complexity of the real world differently, and providing multiple perspectives and representations of concepts and content--all of which are characteristics of Constructivism in art--are Constructivist novels. The aspect of Constructivism that shows its process in the end product is seen in some novels as well. To expand this characteristic to Constructivist literature, we might say we can see where the author has been influenced by something in history, for example, and as in the case at hand, from one of photography's histories. The most obvious example of this is the inclusion of photographer E.J. Bellocq in several novels set in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. (1) The astute reader, aware of Bellocq's work and Mark Holborn's 1996 monograph, will detect its influence on several novels including David Fulmer's Chasing the Devil's Tail (2001) and Rampart Street (2006) and Friedrich Turner's Redemption (2006). This part review, part analysis of the use of photography as a trope and a theme in novels seeks to expand the work already achieved by others. (2)

Arguably, after painting, the next oldest art form to influence our culture is fiction writing, following logically from the oral tradition that pre-dated it. Within the many genres of fiction available in the twenty-first century (crime, romance, thriller, and so on) there are references to various features of photography in many books. Herein is an evaluation of the subject matter of sixty novels where the story encompasses at least some aspect of photography. These aspects include a major or minor character as a photographer; the placement of a photograph or set of photographs as a narrative device to drive the plot; and/or the subject of photography in general, aesthetic, or esoteric terms. The importance of the photography, or aspects of photography, that do appear in the stories ranges, and in some cases is quite trivial. …

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