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: 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>