The Ontology of the Photographic Image by Andre Bazin

In The Ontology of the Photographic Image, Bazin outlines what has historically been expected from the plastic arts and how these expectations are similar and different to the what is expected of cinema. Bazin believes that the basis of the plastic arts is to act as insurance policies whose main goal is to preserve in an artificial manner the “bodily appearance” or more broadly physical reality in a certain time ( Bazin 9).  The purpose of plastic arts has transitioned according to Bazin from “survival after death, but of a larger concept, the creation of an ideal world in the likeness of the real, with its own temporal destiny” ( Bazin 10). In this way photography offered something different than what painting and other plastic arts where capable of doing. ” For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man” ( Bazin 13). Bazin sees this absence of man as a good thing. He sees photography as being able to actually be able to create, not just provide a substitute for other things. Bazin declares that photography is “clearly the most important event in the history off plastic arts” ( Bazin 16). I thought how Bazin examines cinema through these other art forms  was interesting because he seems to have a sound investment in the photographic image being superior to them, but also of a different nature. He states that ” Photography can even surpass art in creative power” ( Bazin 15). Bazin says that photography is a reality of nature, or as he puts it “an hallucination that is also a fact” ( Bazin 16). I guess his phrasing confuses me here, he  says earlier  that “photography forms an image of the world automatically without the creative intervention of man” ( Bazin 13).  When he characterizes film as a hallucination it makes me think it is more closely related to a perspective on reality, more so than an automatically created image without interference. How does Bazin reconcile the two ideas? Or is he just looking at two different ends of the photography creative capability spectrum? On one hand photography is able to capture without creative intervention and on the other hand it is capable of creating its own reality or hallucination that acts as fact.

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