Old documents, new documents

MoMA New Documents press release February 1967
From Page 1 of MoMA’s press release for “New Documents” exhibition of 1967

Though of course they wouldn’t have known it at the time, The Museum of Modern Art’s 1967 exhibition, New Documents, organized by John Szarkowski and featuring the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand, became one of a handful of truly landmark exhibitions in photography’s history.

And so it is with some measure of amusement that one notes the human frailty contained in this facsimile of the original press release for the show. With the typewriter just about clickety-clacking in our ear as we look at the Courier type, the after-the-fact insertion of the demonstrative pronoun “this” in fact demonstrates, by following the exception-that-proves-the-rule precept, the care with which these old documents were prepared, back in the day. One questions whether this sort of dodo markup will be understandable in another generation or two from now.

Allow me to use Stephen Shore to put a fine point to it:

There seems to be a greater freedom and lack of restraint. This is analogous to how word processing affects writing: one can put thoughts down in writing, even tangential thoughts, with a minimum of inner censorship, knowing that the piece can be edited later. The other side of this lack of restraint is greater indiscriminancy. Here’s a tautology: as one considers one’s pictures less, one produces fewer truly considered pictures.

Stephen Shore quote from “A Conversation with Stephen Shore,” by Jörg Colberg, Popular Photography, September 24, 2007

One Reply to “Old documents, new documents”

  1. The last comment is interesting. Elsewhere, I’ve heard editors complain about the increasingly bloated manuscripts that have become standard. No more Flauberts rolling about on the floor sweating and biting the carpet, looking for the perfect word. And regarding photographs, I know for certain over half my iPhoto collection would be thrown out if it were printed.

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