In her classic text On Photography, Susan Sontag claims that photographic seeing has to be ‘constantly renewed with new shocks, whether of subject matter or technique, so as to produce the impression of violating ordinary vision.’ For Sontag, photography represents a kind of ‘extraordinary vision’ – a perception that continues to inform a great deal of photographic criticism. The past decade, however, has seen the emergence of a different kind of photographic aesthetic. This work demonstrates a fascination with the everyday, a preoccupation with the vernacular, a banal, rather than an extraordinary vision. This essay examines the banal as an aesthetic category – a motif and a mode of reception – and looks critically at the embodiment of the ordinary that lies at its heart.
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