Max Kozloff on Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography @ TATE Etc.
The camera has always been a socialised instrument, well equipped to describe shifting behaviour, environments and manners. Of course we rely on it to give a specifically factual account of them. Inevitably, situations change, but this testimonial function of photography remains constant. Before the advent of Photoshop, whatever the circumstance or event, be it impromptu or staged, there could be little doubt that the camera recorded it through an act of witness. Its observational power would appear to have served as a fixed, credible reference to realities that fluctuate indefinitely. Over the past few decades, however, we’ve come to understand that a scene may be filtered through photographic motives other than, or at odds with, the purpose apparently intended. The facts are delivered, but their content has to be reckoned with freshly, and on uncertain terms.