Saturday, 28 June 2014

Two llttle known episodes about Cartier Bresson

Cartier-Bresson has probably been the most influential photographer of the 20th Century, that is how the French and I see it anyway. :)

So there was recently this huge exhbition in Paris called 'Le Siècle de Cartier-Bresson'. And a documentary of the same name was released by ArteTV, which I encourage you to get here (in French on uTube. Poor definition though). 

Thirty years earlier, int the 1970s a seminal interview in English was taken by the NYTimes: 'There are no maybes'. It is perhaps even more interesting, because HCB, who had learned his English in Cambridge, probably gave a more succint but forceful version of his life events.

 I remember how he tells his encounter with Ghandi. At some point Ghandi pointed at HCB's book, at picture of a man looking at a corbillard, and adorned coach carrying a dead man. 'Why? What is it?' Ghandi asks.
 And HCB says: it is a picture ot the famous French writer Paul Claudel. 'He was a Catholic you know, so he was meditating about death.' Henri says.
And so Ghandi shakes his head, and says: 'Ah, Death! Death, Death…' A day later he was assassinated.

 Here you will find his portrait by HCB and below the announcement to the crowds by Nehru that the Mathama has died. Not a great picture, but a v. moving one. Just a day had lapsed between the two!  Just the same, from portraitist HCB had become his reporter self again.

Nehru announces Ghandi's death

It has been argued by Roland Barthes that photography  is intrinsically, intimately connected with death. He makes the example in his 'Camera Lucida', of corpses recomposed by their families to look if they were alive. Those were the first commemorative photos, and among the first ever in the 1850s. Photography here is about embalming the dead, as if they were mummies.

In his photobook 'the Decisive Instant,' that has just been reprinted in NY with its original cover by Matisse, HCB goes on that a photog must take a shot just before the actor vanishes and the moment is lost irretrievably.

Barthes goes on making his same point: a picture might be interesting by what it shows about the surroundings, and that is the Studium.
 But without the Punctus, the meaningul intstant, a picture will be just that… Interesting. How many millions of pictures do we know in social sites that are just that?

That is because every instant of life is intimately connected with ideath. This concept of the instant nature of reality is the same of buddhism.
Therefore it is no surprise, that HCB quoted the Zen and the Art of Archery by Herrigel. One can take one shot only and it must be the perfect one. 

And yet he goes on musing, for all your considerations about the scene, the geometry of it, the symmetry, and the way its characters relate to each other, you must let your intuition play in that single instant that is a shot. Never intellectualize. A  photo lives and dies in a single heatbeat.

Fom the French interview Henri appears as an incredibly bookish character, like a true French Intellectuel. Son of a textile industrialist he went to Lycée Fénélon, the best of the best. See Wikipedia about him.  He was introduced to painting by his uncle, but then had courses by well known Lhote, an academic painter, but dropped him when he found him too stuffy.

He describes how he followed the Surrealist first meetings at cafe' La Coupole  to the point that he considered himself a Surrealist. It is a precious information because it allows to see his pictures under a different light, notably those strange compositions of people emerging from holes.

Children in Toledo, 1944, Spain

 It also explains his stance against colonization, which the Surrealists abhorred. 'In Africa I have seen the 'Heart of Darkness' he famously said, about his first trip. And hence his stance in India and in China:

A Eunuch, by the Forbidden City, China

But then came a day when his business partner at Magnum, Robert Capa,  told him: 'you know, Henri you can't go on telling people that you are a surrealist photog. You will get no assignments. People will always confine you like a plant in a hothouse. You must introduce yourself as a photoreporter only.'

That explains also many of HCB later understatements, although there is no doubt that he was a great artist. Remember also that Capa had had his scrapes with death : take his picture of the Republican soldier  hit by a bullet? Isn't it another decisive instant, if it were one? Again Barthes' Punctus.

Now the second episode. Before founding Magnum with Capa, HCB had been a prisoner in a Nazi camp, which almost killed him by exhaustion. He had evaded and then joined the Resistance as a photographer. Those were perhaps his true beginnings.

Some years later HCB had to take portraits of a famous poet, Ezra Pound. I have an immense respect for him as one of the few who was ever able to decode Guido Cavalcanti's 'Donna me prega' canzone, a 1350s poem with all the rituals of Courteous Love. 

 'Donna me prega' is one of the most complicated pieces in the Italian language. (Here's an essay about it from Cambridge). A ray of Light carries the image of the beloved through the pupils of the eyes, and from there hits the intellect and the heart. It's a photo theory, from the 1200s.

Pound translated Cavalcanti in Old English in his 'Essays', but first he had to explain his choices and unlock all the secrets of  the Medieval canzone, he an American, and a self taught at that! His own Italian Cantos are a thing of beauty.

Now HCB goes to the appointment with the poet and discovers a wreck of a man. Pound had been a prisoner of war too, but of a different kind. American soldiers, his fellow citizens, had put him in a cage for months as a wild animal, for his dealings with Mussolini, which he admired. Hence he had become a countryless man.

Now about their meeting, opinions diverge. Martine CB mentions that the interview lasted half an hour and HCB took only a few pictures, HCB recalls he spent two hours with Ezra, and he took only 6 pictures.

Both concur that nobody spoke a word. So you must imagine the scene: two prisoners of war meet, but their different sides prevent any comradesship, so they don't speak a word.

Imagine also Pound, a great poet, a very cultivated man, who according to HCB, seemed to have come to a point where by his silence he showed he despised everybody and everything.

Ezra Pound, one year before his death

HCB must have registered this, and so made use ot the silence to jot  the crevices of a destroyed man. One year later EP was dead. So instead we have those precious pictures of a great man.
 Note that in portraits too there are decisive instants. Note that HCB  concern for geometry and symmetry is completely absent. A human face is death delayed.

And now to lighten up. The booklet 'The Decisive Moment' was never called that! In the French original edition, it was called: 'Images a' la Sauvette' (stolen images), and that puts HCB in a long tradition of Paris strollers, flaneurs, including Lartigue, Doisneau and Brassai. 
Certainly HCB had a typical Surrealist concern for sexuality. Imagine HCB's tall self looking with aloofness at the goodies:

Martine CB's legs

That particular school of ironic, unassuming but cosmopolitan  street shooters, could never have existed without the streets of Paris,  and their 'joie de vivre'.  Ah, to simply take a walk along the boulevards and the winding cobbled streets of bawdy Monmartre! Their very strange topology and dead ends evokes psychogeography

 Then the Nazi came and destroyed the very spirit of it, but HCB never forgot his light footed approach in the new kingdom he had been appointed by Magnum, Asia. 'You must understand the Chinese, he said, they are very traditionalist, but not unfriendly'. He took some *very* different aspects of Asia.

Sing-Song girl, China

Women in Srinagar, 1949, India.
 In 1956, with Krutschev putting an end to Stalinism, HCB was also the first Westerner to be allowed to freely photograph in Moscow, showing that Russians where not bloodthirsty monsters, 'but people like you and me'. 

That reportage landed Magnum a LOT of money' he gloated. The first years of Magnum had been financed basically by betting on horses, under the advice of their concierge. Ghandi of course was another scoop.

Please enjoy the two video recollections here and fetch yourself  'The Decisive Instant' with Matisse cover drawings, the first re-print in 60 years! (thank you TOP for pointing this up). If you buy it  you won't regret it, it won't break the bank.

Now you can download the French interview 'Le Siècle de Cartier-Bresson' from ArteTV, full quicktime version, here (warning, some 250 MB). Worth having if you speak French.

Or see  'The Decisive Moment' in English, uTube version, here.

Mind you, they are different recollections, and they are both original versions. HCB was bilingual, another interesting trait. Research now shows that bilinguals have twice the language centers, and that the brain therefore ages less. His recollections are indeed very clear headed, and funny  in both languages.

Sometimes it would be nice to do a deconstruction of HCB's more surrealist pictures. If you know about one, send the links in the comments or by mailbox. However I think we are breaking new ground here :)

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Bridge of Science

The Bridge of Science, Rome, by me. With the Panasonic 14/2.5, an inexpensive competitor to the PanaLeica 15/1.7.

Maverick lenses - the Panaleica Summilux 15/1.7 for m4/3

It is an Urban Legend among m4/3 users that no matter what, Panasonic and Olympus don't succeed in making a sharp lens around the the 17mm (35 mm eq.) focal.
It seems that the legend is now hitting again the prestigious Panaleica 15/1.7.

DPR readers complained that the Oly 17/1.7 was not sharp enough, and now a comparison at DxOmark is showing that the Panaleica, while a bit better, is not by much. 
Note that the lens is not exactly cheap: some 600 USD, and 620 Pounds in the UK! It does have a very pretty bokeh, a nice colour and tone signature, it is resistant to flare, but  the Sharpness or Death Gang are deaf to these niceties. OTH commercial sites are waxing lyrical:

Photography Blog review

But, well, they are commercial sites.

Note that at the edges of the 17mm, the Panny 14mm/2.5 and the 20mm/1.7 have no such problems, they are considered very sharp by the same crowd.
IMHO user samples speak for themselves. From a DPR user, Zilver, the 15mm at 1.7, and 4.0 respectively (open the piccie in a new page to get the larger shot):
Check the foliage in the foreground and compare with the buildings in the backround, especially at the edges. There is a considerable difference between the two shots. 

The problem seems to occur at infinity, less so at short distance. See this pipe pictures at DPR by Eastvillager:

here f/1.7 is OK. Curvature is less important in the center, and at close range.
So what happened? Both in the case of the Panaleica 15/1.7, and in the case of the Oly 17/1.7 curvature problems have been mentioned by the reviewers. That points a finger to firmware correction being insufficient.
Let me explain the general case. Lenses are curved, and thus give a curved image, but their projection on the sensor must be rectilinear, as in a Mercator Map, reflecting a Globe.

You have two ways of doing that: to associate a concave lens to the convex main one - to simplify things.  Or to use firmware correction, like you do when you want to straighten a fisheye. That is exactly what happens in my 14/2.5. 
I remember a reviewer showed that the FOV before correction is 11mm (in RAW) and narrows to 14mm after correction. 
That means that edges have been cut away by the manufacturer because they were fuzzy.  See the m43photo review of the 14mm.

In m4/3 the problem is compounded by the short Distance to Flange, which gives less elbow room for correction, the geometrical problem being more severe.
Finally this gives me a cue about what might have happened. With its high optical standards Leica might have imposed to Panasonic to use as little firmware correction it could.

As a result, to keep the lens small Panny left some geometrical distortion uncorrected. I say this because the same has been argued about the Oly 17/1.8.  If you look at the edges, it's not that the pixels are distorted, but they are out of focus! That is to say that because of geometrical distortion in a WA you cannot have both the center, and the edges in focus!

Now the ideal of the old 4/3 was always to be 'even across the frame', but the distance to flange was double what it is in m4/3. More restrictively, they never attempted to go below f/2.0.  With a wider aperture,  focus problems increase.

The Panny GX7 with the new Panaleica 15/1.7. Yummy!

To get back to the Panaleica 15/1.7 there is no sharpness problem at f/4, but there is one at 1.7, at the edges. Close range is OK.  So what does it tell about the use of the lens? 

The 30mm eq. should be fine for Street Shooting. It should be fine for low light Interior Portrait shooting. Its good bokeh should be nice for the occasional flower, but it's not so good for Landscape, unless you stop it down.

This in my view is a minor letdown, but certainly I won't sell my ultrasharp 14/2.5 (see shot in the post above), nor my Sigma 19mm/2.8 which is quite sharp full open. 
I bought both for a song, I am v. happy with them.
If I didn't have them, then perhaps I would consider the Panaleica 15/1.7, but mainly for its lovely colour and tone signature. My lenses are less filmlike in their results, more digital, although I can use Olympus art filters to overcome the coldness of digital rendering.

Sharpness for me was never a fixation. Good to have, but not decisive. As HCB famously said:
"I'm always amused by the idea that certain people have about technique, which translate into an immoderate taste for the sharpness of the image. It is a passion for detail, for perfection, or do they hope to get closer to reality with this trompe I’oeil? They are, by the way, as far away from the real issues as other generations of photographers were when they obscured their subject in soft-focus effects." -- Henri Cartier-Bresson

Reviewers say that the lens  is well built in light metal, and that the aperture ring is a godsend, but only on Panny cameras. With Olympus it doesn't work. m4/3 is a Standard of sorts - oh well...

Post Scriptum

 Jordan Steele whose opinion I value has a different explanation, here, after looking at  the differences between RAW corrected and uncorrected images, which I didn't do. 

 He argues that indeed the lens has a lot of curvature and that the fuzzy edges are due to over-correction by FW. The conclusions are much the same, although the reason is different. Panasonic dealt with curvature, the same it did with the (now) much cheaper 14/2.5 pancake.

I still think that Panny should have ignored bokeh requests, and make instead an f/2.8 outstanding lens.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Message for Navigators

I have now completed more or less my short history of  modern photography.
Necessity arose in order to suggest new ways of shooting, both in opposition, or in continuation to what has been done.

New generations of shooters flood forums that clearly have little or no notion of it. Landscapes, portraits "pets & brats",  rarely we see more than that, but I hope I showed there has been more to it in Photography, and  its 'young' 170 years.

In parallel, I tried to give an update about the cameras which offer more in new ways of shooting, aka mirrorless, without any brand preference.

For personal reasons I must now leave for a couple of weeks.

My intention is then to make a long deserved feature on Henri Cartier-Bresson, and some little known aspect of his photography, complete with two seminal video interviews.

OTH another feature on technology will cover the budding wearable glasses, like Google Glass, the inexpensive Chinese clone, and an Olympus patent about it. Some forsee that it will be the next big thing in Photo, perhaps displacing other viewfinders. Certainly they will bring us closer to 'automated seeing'! How will we cope with it?

Photokina and new introductions will loom larger afterwards, so there will be new rumors to cover.

A poll in the right column will let me know how things have gone until now. Please help yourselves to it.

I suspect I am followed by a string of happy few, that weave a small web across the continents, notably from the East, and that reminds me to avoid the cardinal sin of being Western-Centric, or so I hope.  East of where, indeed? Welcome, friends.

A feature about the birth of pictographic languages both in the Egyptian Desert and in Asia, might clarify the ancestry of writing by images, and hence of Photography that, according to HCB, is 'Just an automated way to take sketches' :)

Meanwhile the column on the right will keep updating itself, presenting you with what is cool, day by day.
If you like what you see a small donation, or a sponsored buy through the Amazon search box on the right, might give me a seriously needed boost. You can also get Lucy Lippard's Dematerialization of the Art Object from there.

Per Speculum in Enigmate, by amalric in Rome.

Never say never. There is a big gap between Conceptual Art and today. As Photo became the main media for Art, people guessed that 'anything goes'. Responsible for this negative attitude, a falsely democratic one, was Postmodern Photography, which piggybacked on French postmodern philosophers to claim that 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. You can see some examples at the Tate Liverpool where an exhibition of the same name was held as recently as 2013, Check the weird piccies.

Instead I'll argue with Umberto Eco, that there are Limits to Interpretation and that NOT anything goes in Photography, or the Arts.

On the gear side we'll probably have the first user reports of the Panaleica 15mm for m4/3, and that Strange Beast with top resolution, the Sigma Quattro.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Photography, and the The Dematerialization of the art object

The latter is the title of the famous book by Lucy Lippard, by which in 1972 she gave the first intimation about a new movement in art which encompassed concept or idea art and such diverse labels as minimal, body art, land art.

After Mark Rothko and Nyman's Field Colour painting, while Warhol was closing with hyperrealism the decade of Pop art, painting and the use of canvas seemed to have reached the bottom of the barrel.

 As Lippard mentions artists seemed to have the need to reach out of New York, out and away from the incestuous closed loop  of galleries, critics and museum curators. Some headed to the Nevada desert, others did performances on roofs or in  run down apartments, and others, like On Kawara started mailing postcards from every part of the world.

Where do cameras and photography fit in in such movements?
According to David Bate, the medium was so instrumental in documenting conceptual performances, that it opened the doors of the Tate Gallery in 2003 to  content related photography.

Lucy Lippard in 2011
But was there ever Conceptual Photography? In 1975 I was working as a shop assistant in one of the main conceptual art galleries, the Sperone & Fisher in Rome. I guess that Sperone had got affluent by selling Warhol's litographs to Count Panza di Biumo, who was assembling a mighty collection of postwar American artists in his castle in Turin. Sperone introduced him  to a whole new stable of artists whose expressive means where ideas, and not canvas or scupltures.

Those of course had to be documented in order to be sold, and therefore the final work often took the aspect of photos. Of prices I had no idea, I was simply in charge of sending invitations for the openings, and allow visitors to take a tour.

Jan Dibbets'Sea at Fischer. You can see at the same time what you have in front of you as well as what you have in your back.

By my personal recollection the artists that were more related to photography as content were Dutch Jan Dibbets, working on perspective illusions, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who were crossing countrysides in order to achieve some project. 
 Hamish Fulton pictures have a romantic flavour even if issued from an iron determination:

Hamish Fulton

Richard Long, Connemara.

As for Dibbets, this is how the NT times recorded his
'Work from Perspective Correction, Land and Sea Horizons, and Windows':

“The camera records something quite different from what we see. There are no rectangular formats in nature, only in art (paintings, sheets of music or poems, windows, ravioli), and only if we choose to look at it that way. For Perspective Correction, My Studio I, 1: Square on Floor, 1969, the earliest work in the show, Jan Dibbets drew an upside-down trapezoid (in relation to the camera) on his studio floor and took a photograph (the work) so that the trapezoid, distorted by perspective, appears to be a square. It’s difficult not to think of it as a square, and no reason not to, despite the inward-slanting walls. In a way it is a joke about the preeminence of the picture plane in contemporary art, whereas, of course, the perception of Renaissance perspective still prevails, or at least still resides, or better yet is still the place where we and the artist reside. Despite the square, our eyes take us into depth to the windows and their light. There are windows within a window presaged by another window. Without really destroying our illusions, the artist has interrupted reality, or intervened to almost imperceptibly create another reality, something in the back of the mind that forces us to accept both realities. The artist introduces himself (takes control?) by making a square out of a trapezoid in his own studio. The trick is an elementary one, a wan display of the human imagination. But it suggests something more elemental, in itself and in works to come.” - Donald Goddard

“Jan Dibbets’ series “Land And Sea Horizons” juxtaposes photographs of dunes and ocean, each mounted in different shapes and formats. The viewer sees simultaneously what would be in front of and what would be behind him in a real landscape. This experience is further stimulated by the fact that although the panels are pieced together in different ways, the horizon line always remains level and constant .

What I found fascinating was the difference of approaches to 'Art' once the canvas had been left behind.

Gilbert and George usually portrayed themselves as romantic gentlemen in the search of Goddess Art: 

"How can one be fully with art? In other words, can art be experienced directly in a society that has produced so much discourse and built so many structures to guide the spectator? Gilbert & George’s answer is to consider art as a deity: 

“Oh Art where did you come from, who mothered such a strange being. For what kind of people are you: are you for the feeble-of- mind, are you for the poor-at-heart, art for those with no soul. Are you a branch of nature’s fantastic network or are you an invention of some ambitious man? Do you come from a long line of arts? For every artist is born in the usual way and we have never seen a young artist. Is to become an artist to be reborn, or is it a condition of life?”  With a good dose of humor, “the human sculptors” suggest that art needs no mediation. Because artists refer to a higher authority, no curator or museum is to stand in the way. 

Meanwhile Bernt and Hille Becher were achieving a classification of German Industrial Archaeology. I was never interested in morphological classification, but they certainly started a trend in Industrial Archaeology, while the Ruhr German industry of the 1950 was going to the dogs, furnaces and smelters. Method can be visually striking, and useful too.

From these I learned the importance of having projects, even before starting to shoot. 

Conceptual Art was never really the same thing of Photography. In the beginning it was an Art & Language thing, dedicated to clarifying which objects and activities might be defined as Art. 
 Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner were among the most proeminent in using writing and dictionary definitions to frame a definition of Art. 
Joseph Kosuth. Definitions.
It was Kosuth, a squat blonde always dressed in black like a clergyman, who was to develop the theme of Art as Idea. It made my head spin, since it used high level formal logic:

"The nature of art should be the main concern of artists. Remaining within traditional categories of painting and sculpture, however, obstructs such inquiry since these artistic categories are conventional and their legitimacy is taken for granted. Thus these categories should be disavowed, regarded as anachronistic, useless, even detrimental, to artists."

This main line of argument leads Kosuth to reconsider the history of modern art as it is conventionally narrated, and to dismiss the relevance of artists such as Edouard Manet, Paul Cezanne, and the cubists, whose work as art he deems valid only on morphological grounds, that is, only insofar as they remained tied to the medium of painting. 
Instead Kosuth champions an alternate canon of art—one that is characterized by the subversion of the old classifications—represented by his understanding of the legacy of Marcel Duchamp. 
J. Kosuth
Kosuth brackets off and expels any questions of a referential dimension from his theoretical model, concluding that “art’s only claim is for art. Art is the definition of art.” (Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, Alexander Alberro, Blake Stimson, MIT Press)

I admired Kosuth's consistency but I wasn't fully convinced of Art self-referentiality. Every time that painting or poetry had chosen such a way, l'Art pour l'Art, in the long history of Art there had been a loss or a defeat. OTH I agreed that Art could not be defined anymore by the use of the canvas.

Meanwhile Sol Lewitt and Carl Andre, made geometrical installations which dealt with space visualization of abstract or mathematical projects. I met most for dinner and they were a simpatico bunch despite their ambitious projects. A bolding bespectacled intellectual type of New Yorker the first, and a sturdy rail worker, as he had been, the second.

Carl Andre, installation.
Sol Lewitt, installation.
The one I sympathized most was fellow citizen Alighiero Boetti, making maps of World with flags and lettering tapestries, weaved in Afghanistan, where he had spent years. He had an Afghan butler and was living in a large empty flat facing PIazza Trastevere, a haven for dropouts and addicts. He himself was not above opium, and had an intelligent, dissolute air like some dropouts I had met in India.
In fact he didn't make his tapestries but actually ordered them, from thousands miles away.

Two tapestries by Alighiero Boetti
An Italian group around critic Germano Celant and Arte Povera had in some ways anticipated the American side of Conceptual Art.
With Fabro, Zorio, Merz and Boetti himself, Celant had put together a nice group of artists who sold in Germany. In Italy abandoning the canvas was still considered in poor taste. 
Differently from the Americans they always kept a tactile aspect to the works and refrained from purely verbal definitions. Unfortunately there was nothing for photography there, but to document the works.

Mario Merz, Fibonacci's progression.
In fact the issue if the camera was a significant or indifferent addition to the artist has been adressed by Marcel Duchamp in NY 40 yrs. before, at the 391 gallery of Stieglitz and Steichen.
M. Duchamp. Large Glass.
"In a letter to Alfred Stieglitz (22 May 1922) Duchamp, having noted photography's displacement of painting, suggests that photography itself may one day be replaced: "You know exactly how I feel about photography. I would like to see it make people despise painting until something else will make photography unbearable". By 1922, the success of photography as a medium of mechanical reproduction was already challenged by the emergence of other media, such as cinema. Photography's "fidelity" and "originality" as artistic reproduction, however, will eventually face the greater challenge of its mass reproduction and circulation in print. Thus, while photography calls into question the autonomy of painting as a medium for artistic reproduction, it may fall victim to the reproductive technology that first made it possible.
M. Duchamp, Hour

It is this particular "fatality" of an artistic medium, its vulnerability to technical conditions, that fascinates Duchamp, particularly with regard to painting and sculpture. The viability and legitimacy of these media, identified with classical conceptions of art, are at stake in Duchamp's exploration of their putative "end," or rather, "death." - Unpacking Duchamp, Art in Transit, Dalia Judovitz, UC Press)

Now let's see some early examples of this seemingly chaotic 'Idea' or 'Concept' movement, and their relation if not to photo, to visual art. It might help in this very moment mass photography by the billions seems to obliterate any structure or intention.
Sol Lewitt
Sol Lewitt (1967):

 "I will refer to the kind of art in which I am involved as conceptual art. In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman. It is the objective of the artist who is concerned with conceptual art to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator, and therefore usually he would want it to become emotionally dry. There is no reason to suppose, however, that the conceptual artist is out to bore the viewer. It is only the expectation of an emotional kick, to which one conditioned to expressionist art is accustomed, that would deter the viewer from perceiving this art."
Indeed Lewitt invited other people to draw lines for him according to plan, i.e. not touching.

Sol Lewitt
In this sense a preset camera is the perfect machine for making conceptual art while postprocessing is only a residue of painting.

Meanwhile On Kawara in 1967-68 kept sending from Brasil to Lucy Lippard dozens of postcards at regular intervals with his longitude and latitude - "a kind of reassurance that the artist does in fact exist. At the same time they are totally without pathos" L.L.

In those early years C.A. could easily be related to other genres, provided that they avoided the canvas, like Body Art  or Land art. In an 1969 Interview  Robert Smithson stated some interesting concepts.
Deborah Walter:  "By working wih different materials, Smithson challenged the artistic meaning and the artistic act. Since he stopped painting, he had shown preference for raw material – such as soil, minerals, and rocks – instead of anything refined such as oil or acrylic paint.

R. Smithson, Asphalt Rundown.
"Perceptions of presence and absence, existence and non-existence, past and present are constantly being called into Smithson’s works. Not only in his sculptures but also in every other media he had used. He was interested in aspects of time, space and changes, natural history and geology. These were current in his texts and art, which actually could barely be separated. Smithson was concerned with habitual frames and limits of art. Though most his sculptures relied on documentation (photographs, maps and texts), there was no secondary media of presentation but they all existed simultaneously. 
Smithson's Jetty
His photographs, for instance, are an alert to the idea of constant changes, evidences of past, remaining pieces for the future. Smithson’s photographs registered and preserved a moment in time whilst the sculptures would eventually vanish. The photographs registered the sculptures, the ephemeral. As an artwork, the site-specific acquired the quality of what could not be maintained, kept, or sold. The art critic Craig Owens stressed that “the site- specific work becomes an emblem of transience, the ephemerality of all phenomena; it is the memento mori of the twentieth century”.

Unfortunately Smithson was to die young in 1976, so we have relatively few works of this interesting if ponderous artist. Most of people never saw in person his works made in distant places, but only the photographs. Again the forensic aspect of photography, giving proof of a reality which can't be seen.

Meanwhile Joseph Beuys was assurging to first magnitude, with its ecological Pieces, like Eurasia

 Interview with Willoughby Sharp:

 "The origin of the flow of information comes not from matter, but from the “I”, from an idea. Here is the borderline between physics and metaphysics: this is what interests me about this theory of sculpture. Take a hare running from one corner of a room to another. I think this hare can achieve more for the political development of the world than a human being. By that I mean that some of the elementary strength of animals should be added to the positivist thinking which is prevalent today. I would like to elevate the status of animals to that of humans".
No wonder that witnesses described Beuys as sweating, and exhausted at the end of his performances!

For me the work of Beuys has kept by far being the most enigmatic of all, perhaps because it had a shamanistic side dealing with animals and their energy, and therefore is not easily translated into words. Perhaps I am still wordcentric after all.
Meanwhile Lawrence Weiner kept publishing small books, with definition essays, at Aaschen, in 1970:
to the sea
on the sea
from the sea
at the sea
bordering the sea
to the lake
on the lake
from the lake
at the lake
bordering the lake
They needed no art object anymore, and not a even photo reproduction.
 I remember Weiner's country preacher appearance, due to a long beard and his shabby dressing, in funny contradiction with the exactness of his statements.

As Deborah Walter comments about the use of words:
"Conceptual Art literature bears a thoughtful contribution on narrative, authorship and reception. Artists often refused the taxonomy of poets, for their literature was to promote new readings ahead of artistic demarcations. The presence of words emphasized the opacity of language in two ways: in both its plastic, solid characteristics and the amplitude texts could reach. Language in Conceptual Art also contributed to the questioning of the long-lasting art object; it suggested a less alienated social function of art and artists, and it turned viewers/readers into active participants in the reading of art. Thus, language became a revolutionary tool in Conceptualism having an important effect in the arts to come."

There was also room for non verbal and metaphysical action however, like in Peter Huchinson's Dissolving Clouds:

P. Hutchinson, Dissolving Clouds
"Using Hata Yoga's technique of intense concentration and pranic energy it is claimed that clouds can be dissolved. I tried it on cloud (in square) in photographs. This is what happens. "This piece happens almost entirely in the mind"

Photography plays the usual role of silent witness, as a proof of reality of a kind.

Meanwhile Hanne Darboven went on with her writing projects of covering notebooks, and even books, with permutations of numbers or letters:

A dizzying experience I can swear, but v. little for photography.

A bit different William Wegman's Parrot-Crow, an image betraying expectations

"At first glance, this photograph appears relatively straightforward: a stuffed parrot is positioned on a pedestal, illuminated by dramatic, ominous lighting. Upon closer inspection, though, it becomes clear that there is a sight gag occurring in the background. The shadow cast by the parrot is not the parrot’s own, but rather that of a crow. The photograph functions, on one level, as a visual joke, delivered with William Wegman’s characteristic deadpan irony. At the same time, by demonstrating how a photographic image is not necessarily a “true” transcription of reality, Crow engages in a distinctly postmodern critique of traditional assumptions about the photographic medium." (Withney Museum of American Art)

As conceptual Art unfolded, so did the new interpretative techniques of semeiotics. Interestingly ithey are here applied to British photographer Victor Burgin, who was also a conceptual artist:.
From: George Dillon, Art and The Semiotic of Images:

Victor Burgin, Zoo

"Though pictures are quite different from texts of natural language, they are not wholly different, and many have sought parallels between the two media. Like texts, most pictures are composed of parts, though the parts are bits of image (and perhaps words) arranged on a surface. When the various shapes in a picture wash and flow and blend into each other and the background, they do not seem very much like words, but when they have crisp edges, as for example in the Dada photomontage introduced here, they have attracted the term "word" and their arrangement likened to a syntax."

As for me, in a pictographic context such as this blog, I consider the whole as a Rebus, a puzzle which is to be decoded by relying both on image and word. Words can also be uncoupled from pictures in a  détournement (diversion):

Victor Burgin, Office at Night

Note the interesting pictographic interpretation of the picture in the left side.
This detournement of images (Diversion), the changing of the function of the image by text was also made in the same years by Internationale Situationniste, a political and art avant garde that led to May 68 in Paris. 
As for Photography it is difficult to know what it got from the Conceptual trend. Perhaps the need of consistency and the need of a project even before starting to shoot. Photography like Cinematography is lucky to have a direct link with reality, even if it sometimes seems fettered to it, I can always go back to it, while painting is always at the risk of being waylaid by abstract ideas.
As a movement Conceptual Art cast a net much wider than I have described. There are tons of other interesting artists.We are lucky to have this, for further consultation online.
Conceptual Art was really an international movement, the last attempt at globalization by photographic paper, or by fax, before  the WWW really began. It broke down the gallery-critic- museum closed circuit, but only to return to it as photos and videos. 
It was also the Art of the Vietnam War, in that it destroyed the idea of a Western-centric Art, and yet confirmed it again. Only the WWW has succeeded in making photo and Art acephalous and centerless, although Museums still exist. But are they relevant anymore?

A reconditioned comic strip by Internationale Situationniste. 
Photography is a young art, in fact the youngest, with a fairly good nexus with reality, given by its non interfering, automated nature. Why waste it?  Instead use it for controlled experiments, if you want to better understand  the nature of reality. Self referential Art will never provide an answer.
Finally, for videographers I would like to add this ingenious performance made by Dan Graham in 1969, Two Correlated Rotations.
 Is it a way to overcome subjectivity, by presenting simultaneously two points of view, each performer having a camera.

"2 super 8mm films. Two cameramen each hold cameras so that their viewfinders are extensions of their eyes and visual fields. They begin facing each other one foot way. They walk in counter spirals, the outside performer moving gradually outward while the inside performer walks inward approaching the center. Their aim, which is still in the sate of a learning process, is to as nearly as possible be continuously centering their cameras (and eyes) view on the forntal eye position of the other. Geometrically the rotation of the performers' encks and also of their path walked keeps the camera/eye sight lineof both cameras' images along the axis of the horizon line of the 360 surrounding space; the line of sight of both cameras' images when the cameras are facing each other passes through the center of the spirals and the interior of the 360 topological spatial enclosure."

I suppose that today you could repeat the performance in digital, and see what is happening in real time on a large video monitor split in two. Media get improved but good ideas live on.

I can also see a surrealist scene where two camera holders meet on a country road, and start circling around each other, and sniffing at each other like dogs, with their zooms like snouts. A dialogue a' la Beckett ensues, and they end up comparing cameras and features, until one comes up with the idea of having a pint at a nearby pub. :)