The Appropriation of Found Photographs
Some artists create artwork from discarded photographs they have found in second-hand shops. They use a process known as appropriation, which involves combining two or more existent objects into a single work of art. These artists transform these types of old photographs to produce new, eye-catching and intriguing artwork.
Philosopher, Walter Benjamin, explains that artwork possesses an aura, an impression of aliveness, a certain quality that can only be experienced when viewing the artwork in person at its specific location. He argues that removing the artwork from its context will cause the aura to be lost. But can the aura be regained by artists who work with found photographs and create new narratives using appropriation?
Artist John Stezaker uses discarded film stills from the mid – 20th century and collages them with old postcards to create unique imagery centred around the subconscious mind. He described the found images he finds fascinating as having a “strange sensation of its aliveness.” These types of artists build upon the original history by adding an element, creating a new aliveness or aura and meaning to a once-discarded photograph.
Artist Penelope Umbrico is interested in the mass collective and creates her artwork by combing photographs she has found through image-sharing sites online. Physical photographs are not the only ones being lost; digital images being posted on the internet can also become lost in this virtually endless exchange of imagery data. This shift from physical to digital highlights change in what we do with our photographs today. But what happens to digital image’s aura, is it lost?
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