The cultural impact of photography on modern society is significant, Walter Benjamin understood this and highlighted the impact it had, “so powerfully was everyone affected by the unaccustomed clarity and the unaccustomed fidelity to nature of the first daguerreotypes” (Benjamin, W. (1931). A Short History of Photography.
pg.512.) The core of my analysis will be on his essays on “Little History of Photography” and “The Work of Art in the age of mechanical reproduction” which further develops the thoughts and concepts of Walter Benjamin in regards to photography.In Walter Benjamin’s essay on “Little history of photography” he contemplated the cultural consequences of this medium on a global scale, The essay introduces multiple new concepts that are further explored from another of his writings “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, the text provides a much needed insight into the influence that photography had as a new emerging technological advancement as well as exploring the new emerging genres and individual artists of this new medium such as David Octavius Hill.The concept of the aura is further explored and evolved in his essay titled “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, the essay provides insight into the influences that photography gave as a new medium, With this reading benjamin brings the concept of the “aura”, a term which can be seen in both readings and is central to his thoughts on photography as it challenges other traditional mediums with its use of replication. I will further divulge into these concepts as well as bring relevance to them by relating them to photographic examples.Benjamin primarily focuses on portrait photography throughout his texts.
Benjamin understand the importance of the beginning days of photography and the significance of the cultural impact that it had on our society.He notes that early portrait photography was first perceived as mysterious but as well as impressive.Though most writings on the subject of photography from the nineteenth and twentieth century tend to be focused on the use of the medium as an art form, primarily focusing on its aesthetic contribution to the arts, Benjamin notes the effect that photography has had on the arts and the culture surrounding it.”the far less questionable social fact of art-as-photography was given scarcely a glance. And yet the impact of the photographic reproduction of artworks is of very much greater importance for the function of art than the greater or lesser artistry of a photography that regards all experience as fair game for the camera.” – Benjamin, W.
(1931). Selected Writings Volume 2, Part 2. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Pg 520Benjamin is saying here that photography as a medium does create equal opportunity for accessing and contributing to traditional arts such as other mediums but photography as a new emerging medium has the ability to change the ways in which we as a society perceive the traditional arts, it challenges the concept of the spectator and the work of art.”The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” – Benjamin, W. (1936).
Was the first instance in which Benjamin introduces the concept of the Aura.The term “Aura” was created to define the one time experience in which you view a certain object. It describes the event in which a person views an object that cannot be reproduced, it accounts for the strong emotional reaction of the spectator towards this unique and one of a kind object, what elicits this emotion from the viewer is the existence of the work itself as well as the time and space in which the object occupies, its authenticity and unlikeness to anything else is what draws in its viewers.