Still Searching…

The conditions governing the digital world have led to a radical diversification not only in photography but also in the theory that underpins it and the history that is written about it. Photographic media and forms are incorporated into complex tech technological, capitalist and ideological networks; the experts who are conducting scholarly research into the role of photographic images thus come from very different disciplines. The expansion of the discourse surrounding these images is also reflected in Still Searching…, the blog on photographic theory that was initiated by Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2012 and which subjects all aspects of photography and its role in visual culture to interdisciplinary scrutiny. The bloggers invited to the online format operate at the forefront of research and enhance our awareness of current issues that are relevant to photography.

Blog series: Now Return My Story, and Wipe My Mouth with Bread

25.04. – 30.06.2023
Now Return My Story, and Wipe My Mouth with Bread

This series – titled Now Return My Story, and Wipe My Mouth with Bread – will reflect on the images produced and circulated to commemorate the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. This year marks the 29th year since the beginning of the killings, which took place over a period of  100 days between the 6th of April and the 16th of July 1994, where an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsi and a number of moderate Hutu were slaughtered. Although the exact figure is unknown, official Rwandan government documents estimate that the number of people killed in the genocide is 1,074,017, of whom 93.7 percent were Tutsi. Kwibuka starts on the 7th of April every year.

i. Kwibuka, the 'remembering'

Tuesday, 25.04.2023
<div>Early in the day on the 7th of April, as we in Rwanda wake into the paroxysm of collective mourning, an editorial exercise begins to take place online. The mood is measured, careful. No pretty girls dancing on TikTok, no rappers spitting lines, no comedians – no music, no laughter. </div>

ii. Babonana, we see each other

Friday, 05.05.2023
<div>We continue with the theme of a counter-archive. What does it mean, and in what ways is it empowering, to witness the construction of a counter-archive, alongside public performances of grief and articulations of loss? By counter-archives we mean alternative sources, and resources, which allow the expression of a counter-narrative that conventional archives cannot, in many respects, accommodate. </div>
Blog series: Very Long Tables: A First Sounding of Photography of the War in Ukraine.

Annette Vowinckel | 20.05. – 30.06.2022
Very Long Tables: A First Sounding of Photography of the War in Ukraine.

Since the end of February, the news and social media have been flooded with images of Ukraine. Some were taken by professional photojournalists working for agencies such as Associated Press, for newspapers such as The New York Times, or as freelancers. Some were taken by Ukrainian citizens and posted on Instagram. Others were taken by presidential staff photographers. Over the next weeks, my blog series will examine such images—ranging from everyday snapshots to official records of events, from traditional documentary photographs to memes and TikToks—against the backdrop of visual war rhetorics and image circulation.

Photo Politics: Ukraine vs. Russia

Friday, 20.05.2022
<div>The current war in Ukraine was launched by Russia in February 2014, with an attack on Ukrainian territory and the subsequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. From February 24, 2022, the Russian offensive reached new heights, with simultaneous strikes by the Russian Army on the north, east, and south of Ukraine, and moves to take Kyiv. </div>

Zelensky vs. Putin

Wednesday, 01.06.2022
<div>Since the start of Russia’s most recent offensive in Ukraine, the respective presidents have been in the public eye, worldwide, in various settings. Putin is usually aspiring to look very much the statesman, wearing a suit and tie, and seated at a desk or a table.</div>


Wednesday, 15.06.2022
<div>Photojournalism has a long tradition of showing atrocities. We have seen images of wounded soldiers, bombed-out civilians, human remains, and sometimes, imminent death. Since February, we have seen many more. The first I remember is that of four Ukrainians lethally shot while trying to escape from the city of Irpin. </div>

Visual Storytelling

Thursday, 30.06.2022
<div>Since February, the number of photo stories and photo diaries from Ukraine has multiplied. Some of them have been compiled by professional photojournalists, others by amateur photographers who felt an urge to show what was happening in their cities and villages. These photo reports give us insights into the daily life of a society at war. </div>

The War’s Visual Waif: Loose Ends

Wednesday, 13.07.2022
<div>Most of the pictures from Ukraine that I have seen since the end of February are easy to label. “Propaganda,” “atrocities,” “destruction,” “resistance,” “daily life,” “heroes,” “scoundrels,” or “government communication” would be suitable tags. Some pictures that I have encountered, however, are harder to place, and they must remain loose ends in my blog series. </div>
Blog series: Zombie Photography: What Is the Photographic Image Still Doing?

Andrew Dewdney | 01.11. – 20.12.2021
Zombie Photography: What Is the Photographic Image Still Doing?

This contribution to Still Searching… is based upon the argument of my book, Forget Photography (Goldsmiths Press, 2021). The blog series is an opportunity to share some of the thinking of Forget Photography and hopefully engage in a broader dialogue about the current state of the politics of the image. The central paradox I explore is that, at a moment when photography is being technically replaced by screens, algorithms and data flow, photographic cultures are proliferating like never before. Photography is everywhere, but not as we have known it: for some time it has been an undead, a zombie, in which the established language, thinking, meanings and values of photography now stand as an obstacle to grasping the new condition. I argue that the very term photography is a barrier to understanding the altered state of the default visual image, but understanding the nature of those barriers remains a puzzle. The blog series is haunted by a pervasive problem: which is that the photographic image in computational culture continues to function as a system of universal representation, which underwrites a capitalist social formation. The persistence of a system of representation operating in a non-representational computational mode of reproduction is a paradox, and something I explore further in what transpires in this exchange. Over the course of my contribution, which is structured around three cold cases – investigations into the mortal remains of photography –, I will focus upon what keeps the logic of representation in place, how it intersects with the exhaustion of democratic politics and the inwardness of socialist organisation and how image circulation reinforces hyper-individualism and the pursuit of identity politics.

Prologue: The Undead of Photography

Monday, 01.11.2021
<div>At the workstation, I notice that printed photographs are few and far between in my environment, partly because I am in a temporary residence and away from the city and my library. But even then, I reflect upon how my physical image world has shrunk over the years, and how analogue photos have been put out of sight. No pinboard of cluttered images, no framed prints, no image books on the small writing desk.</div>

Cold Case No. 1. Modernism: Photography in the Morgue

Tuesday, 16.11.2021
<div>The undead are beings in mythology, legend, or fiction that are deceased but behave as if they were alive. Seeing photography as the undead or the figure of the zombie is a thought experiment, aimed at producing a new critical perspective on contemporary visual culture. It is an act of constructive criticism, involving a temporal shift, a trick of sorts, or a kind of distancing device. </div>

Cold Case No. 2. Heritage, History and the Archive: Photography’s Mausoleum

Tuesday, 30.11.2021
<div>Cold Case No. 2 is an investigation into the condition of the digitised photographic image from the perspective of forgetting photography. This is a very big case file, and this blog entry can only touch upon certain facts. </div>

Cold Case No. 3. Post-photographic Melancholia: Nationalism and Identity

Wednesday, 22.12.2021
<div>This is the last in this series of cold cases for <em>Still Searching...</em> My overall aim has been to animate readers to argue and debate the polemic of <em>Forget Photography. </em>Forgetting photography is a thought experiment and a critique of photographic theory and culture. Forgetting is a strategy enabling a view of photography from a future present. Photography is no longer continuous with the mode of image production and circulation; rather, it is finally a historical medium of heritage. </div>
Blog series: Black Aesthetic Strategy: Images that Move

Rhea Storr | 20.07. – 15.10.2021
Black Aesthetic Strategy: Images that Move

‘When an image speaks, it voices itself to an other, an internal to external relation. Like any voice, the aesthetics of the speaking image give tone and timbre to its language. Aesthetics is the form which gives voice to the content of the image. Images not only speak but move between/against/alongside themselves. The image on the move has agency in the way that it circulates and speaks in relation. An image might have many voices for its differing movements and for each new voice it deploys an aesthetic strategy.

By describing a series of aesthetic strategies, I want to consider how the production of an image influences the way it moves, where aesthetics gives agency over circulation. For good reason, images of Black bodies are often examined at the point of consumption, the point at which an image becomes an object. What I will develop instead is an argument for the centrality and manipulation of form at the point of production.

The aesthetic strategies which will be proposed here – redaction, affect, dislocation, construction and errantry – are by no means exhaustive or prescriptive. They are intended as a guide for making, a means for moving which resists the voicing of images on behalf of Black bodies by treating the Black body like a ventriloquist’s dummy… A strategic approach is particularly important to the representation of Black culture, as the voicing of Black bodies is mired in photographic traditions which seek control or to render them invisible. The aesthetic strategies proposed here offer a lexicon to voice images by Black voices with agency in their representation. Not only are they useful for the Black experimental cinema which will be considered in the coming weeks but can be employed by others with a desire to move similarly; image-makers in diaspora, in minority, under oppression or working counter culturally, etc.

And so we move.


Tuesday, 20.07.2021
<div>Christina Sharpe’s <em>In the Wake</em> describes redaction as ‘seeing and reading otherwise; toward reading and seeing something in excess of what is caught in the frame’. Sharpe describes Black redaction as ‘wake work’ caught in the aftermath of the slave ship, intrinsic to the histories of transatlantic chattel slavery. The wake is an ode to Black life in the face of Black death. </div><div><br><br></div>


Wednesday, 04.08.2021
<div>Edouard Glissant proposes errantry as a non-monolithic formation of identity. Errantry is produced through an engagement with the other on unmeasurable terms. It is a form of wandering which is chosen rather than enforced, a privilege rather than an exile. Errantry cements relation, rather than self-determination or nationalism. </div><div><br><br></div>

Dislocation / Relocation

Tuesday, 31.08.2021
<div>Dislocation/relocation describes diasporic movement. We can understand Black diaspora as a dispersal of peoples brought about by a myriad of factors, not least transatlantic slavery and its subsequent reverberations. In short, the enslavement of Black people is responsible for many Black diaspora movements between Europe, Africa and the Americas. </div>


Wednesday, 22.09.2021
<div>Affect as a Black Aesthetic Strategy can be a way of inducing movement in others. A product of two bodies in relation, visual and sonic material has the power to evoke emotions within us through the cinematic screen. Theorists such as Sianne Ngai have identified the inadequacies of affect theory when applied to racialised bodies. When affect theory is applied to images of Black life, it can easily become charged by a power dynamic predicated on hypervisibility without power, a simultaneous foregrounding and total dismissal of Black life.</div>


Wednesday, 13.10.2021
<div>Construction is not a precise term for a Black Aesthetic Strategy. As I wish to define it here, it simply refers to the way that an image is made. It is not to be confused with constructivism as philosophical theory (although construction as I am defining it, does similarly concern the way that we gather and represent knowledge).</div>
Blog series: Image Capital

Estelle Blaschke | 17.02. – 22.06.2021
Image Capital

In her blog series Image Capital, Estelle Blaschke seeks to sketch out the idea of photography as capital, ranging from metaphors of photography as currency and the broad spectrum of logistics and infrastructure to the attribution of social, epistemic or monetary value to photographs. What happens if we begin to shift the perspective towards the “economy” of photography, an aspect regarded all too often as a side effect? How productive is it to link the impulse of making photos to terms and concepts like “value”, “capital” or “currency”? How does it help us to understand today’s practices? And how might it help us to rethink past developments? The aim of this series of posts is to look at contemporary practices through the lens of these concepts, as complex and vague as they are, and to relate them to historical instances and existing writings in the field of photography studies and beyond.

In Abundance

Wednesday, 17.02.2021
<div>We take photographs, we collect them. We edit, exchange, store and sell them. Sometimes they are discarded or simply forgotten. All these actions change photographs and shape the way we deal with them. They also increase their value or reduce it.</div>

Customer Data, Plans, Bonds, Checks, Books, Journals …

Wednesday, 10.03.2021
<div>The idea of replacing an object with its visual representation, thus creating mobile images that could move and be moved freely and easily, also became relevant in another field: the modernisation of administrative procedures and the expansion of bureaucracy in the course of the twentieth century. </div>

The Business of Data Protection

Wednesday, 07.04.2021
<div>The effort to establish photography, especially in the form of microfilm, as an information technology was grounded in the hope that it could mobilise all sorts of original material that – as was the case with engineering plans – contained layers of information so dense that the content was impossible to translate into codes and thus needed to be preserved as an image. </div>

New Data Products

Tuesday, 22.06.2021
<div>The fusion of image data and metadata, which marks a paradigmatic shift in the recent history of photography, is the reason and foundation for the diverse harvesting and mining technologies based on images that are so pervasive in contemporary computing.</div>
Blog series: Snaps from a Queer Angle

Susanne Huber | 05.08. – 30.09.2020
Snaps from a Queer Angle

Queer perspectives – artistic, academic, activist or otherwise – are gaining increased attention within institutions and public forums engaged in art and (visual) culture. Emerging from a subcultural environment, i.e. often through minority groups and in opposition to prevailing positions in both theory and practice, this momentum is a precarious, at times even contradictory event. Queer discourse poses a substantial challenge to normative structures of the supposedly common, not offering final solutions or relief while being vulnerable to appropriation, commodification, and domestication. This attitude of taking a specific point of view finds an equivalent in the visual form of photography. Through constant artistic or curatorial framing and reframing, however, the medium offers a particular affinity to queer endeavors. Directing the gaze to queer subjects or rendering queer ways of seeing and perceiving thus takes advantage of the inherent qualities of photography as a projective apparatus. This blog series sets out to explore the manifold angles and separate layers by and on which queer leverage might break with the confines of normative frames and perspectives.

Nurture the Seed

Wednesday, 05.08.2020
<p>In 1973, the US-American artist Duane Michals completed an inconspicuous series of photographs, its title stating the simple assertion that <em>Things Are Queer</em>. The beholder is confronted with nine small black and white photographs, arranged in a grid-like pattern. What ‘things’ are being addressed here remains obscure, however, as well as how their supposed queerness might be enacted.</p>

Act and Position

Friday, 21.08.2020
<p><span>Following up on the previous discussion of how <em>Things Are Queer</em> as part of the first entry of this blog series, Duane Michals’ artwork can be interpreted as an appeal to the beholders to resist falling into the trap of essentializing reason. Rather than identifying any certain object <em>as</em> queer, the viewers were invited to explore perception beyond recognition, thus dissolving the narrow framework of expectation. Michals’ critical dismantling of the reception process indeed prevents us from ascribing the attribute ‘queer’ to the responsibility of<em> the Other</em>. </span></p>

Framing Queer, Queering Frames

Wednesday, 09.09.2020
<p>“There is no non-violent way to look at somebody” proclaimed the title of Wu Tsang’s solo exhibition, which ran at Berlin’s Gropius Bau earlier this year. If this act of looking is captured, as photography is notoriously capable of doing, we are confronted with a multitude of problems. Potential pitfalls loom in the functional design of the medium: An imbalance of power between subject and object of the gaze, the affirmative reinforcement of prevailing views as much as the potential exposure of vulnerable targets to violent looks and oppressive regimes. <a><br /></a></p>

Many Pictures Make an Image

Monday, 21.09.2020
<p>A snapshot, if Merriam Webster may be allowed to provide a provisional reference, can be described as “1: a casual photograph made typically by an amateur with a small handheld camera,” and/or “2: an impression or view of something brief or transitory.” As it turns out, this blog series takes a quite literal approach to its title.</p>