In “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” Walter Benjamin defines a work of art’s “aura” as the “significance [that] extends far beyond the realm of art” (104). He maintains that the uniqueness of the aura can only be created by human hand and admits that, as we move forcefully into a world controlled by technology, we steer further and further away from this originality of art.
I am wounded by the idea of the “aura’s present decay” (105). I cannot get past this melancholia. That the “uniqueness” of art is fleeting breaks me. After reading Benjamin, I have developed a newfound distaste for the ease of reproducibility in photography. After having taken two traditional black and white photography courses, I formed an admiration of the darkroom. I loved my ability to take a negative, distort it, and print it over and over again in different ways. I reveled in my ability to produce.
However, Benjamin has muffled my delight. My pleasure in developing, what I thought was a process of creation, if I look at it through the eyes of Benjamin, must be seen as a means of destruction—as the ruining of the aura.
As I work further with photography, I want to challenge Benjamin and find a way to cling to the aura, even with the use of technology. I want to believe that the “aura” of art can exist beyond the means of producing it. I think that the aura must exist in the creators mind as well, not just in the art that he/she produces. I cannot accept that the aura is in its final descent, and, as a student exploring the art of photography I look to disprove and prevent this downfall by clinging to the idea that the aura can succeed as long as it does not slip away from the artist’s mind.