Does photography take away the authenticity of art? That is, does an image of an artwork take something away from the original? Walter Benjamin focused on this question within his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which was published in 1936. The question intrigued me and made me think of my own images of art. By having these images, did it somehow take away from the piece?
Benjamin explains that there is an importance in the authenticity, or as he calls it the aura, within art. For instance, an original statue had a history. People might have come to it to pray or it may have been a part of something bigger, like belonging on top of a church. But a reproduction of the statue doesn’t have the same element of time and space as the original. Photography and film are both a reproduction of the original. You may not get the full experience within a photograph as one may have seeing the art in person.
So will art lose its sacred aura and “disappear” because of its many reproductions? No, I don’t believe it will. Photography is not a means that causes art to lose its authenticity, but rather it recreates an experience. In a way, this promotes the art and inspires others to go see it.
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