Present-day, the meaning of the term magic realism varies depending on the art form being described. Its meaning has altered over the past century and yet maintains aspects of its original use. The term was first in a title role with visual arts critic Franz Roh's book published 1925 Nach Expressismus: Magicher Realismus: Probleme der neusten europaischen Malerei (After Expressionism: Magical Realism: Problems of the newest European painting). Roh's magic realism was meant to emphasize that the autonomy of the objective world around us was once more to be enjoyed; the wonder of matter that could crystallize into objects was to be seen anew (Roh).
[...] One critic of Wyeth's representational work claimed that it is “formulaic stuff not very effective even as illustrational ‘realism.'” This critic missed the fact that from formula and from persistent style there can emerge “elaborations, shifts, epiphanies.” In my documentary work, which I do consider very separate from my personal work, I am exploring the “formulaic stuff” in order to find the alterations that can make realism into something more. The still-photographic documentary canon is a repetition in style and approach. [...]
[...] Although the link between exceptional documentary photography and magic realism may seem tenuous, I do see it's potential. It is very difficult to apply the term magic realism to photography of any kind; perhaps because it seems that every kind of photography may be capable of being magic realism. Since the meaning of the term has come to encompass so many definitions, there is an argument for many kinds of photographs to be considered as magic realist photographs. In my photography, I truly want to infuse the logical even world with something as illogical as a state of mind, an imagination. [...]
[...] When I decide to shoot there is usually one object or subject which catches my attention; I make an alteration to the one thing I can control in the scene based on how it seems capable of carrying magic into the scenario. I pick only one non-technical element to control in the photograph: it is the position of or gesture of an object or of a subject. This positioning is usually a small adjustment from how the subject or object was already in the situation. [...]
[...] I see some one or some thing in the real scene and alter it to make it express an element of magic realism. In my photographs, I do not try present the horrible side of the world in the crudest manner and in all its minute detail” as Neue Sachlichkeit painter Otto Dix (Roh). Dix chose to use alterations to real scenarios in order to make political and social commentaries. His early concerns lay with commentary on the society of the Weimar Republic and later with the brutality of the war; in such an environment, he was not concerned with the subtleties capable of being expressed in representational language. [...]
[...] In Andrew Wyeth's 247 portraits of his neighbor Helga Testorf painted in secret from 1971-1985, there is not obvious psychological study of the subject, but more of an extensive study of her physical landscape”(Corn). Her physical landscape, the real matter of her, begins to show subtle changes in her mood, her character, her psychological state. I am looking to ensure that everyday scenes from life are imbued with the poetic mystery of a psychological or even spiritual state. In 1948, when Wyeth painted his neighbor afflicted with polio in Christina's World, he remarked that she was “limited physically but by no means spiritually.” In his endeavor to portray her, he expressed that his “[challenge] was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.” While it is debatable whether or not the painting does do her bravery justice, it is less dubious that the painting creates a sense of an enigma surrounding her. [...]
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