Still Searching…

From 2012 to 2023, the discursive blog format of Fotomuseum Winterthur subjected all aspects of photography and its role in visual culture to interdisciplinary scrutiny. The approximately 50 bloggers that contributed to Still Searching… discussed photographic media and forms within their complex technological, capitalist and ideological networks and negotiated some of the most pressing and relevant questions surrounding photography.

Blog series: Unlearning Decisive Moments of Photography

Ariella Azoulay | 06.09. – 31.10.2018
Unlearning Decisive Moments of Photography

In her series of statements, Ariella Azoulay will depart from the common theories and histories that present photography as a sui generis practice and locate its moment of emergence in the mid-nineteenth century in relation to technological development and male inventors. Instead, she proposes to locate the origins of photography in the “New World,” in the early phases of European colonial enterprise, and study photographs alongside early accounts of imperial expeditions. The posts have their origin in Ariella Azoulay’s forthcoming book Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (New York: Verso, 2019).

Unlearning the Origins of Photography

Thursday, 06.09.2018
<p>Imagine that the origins of photography go back to 1492.</p> <p>What could this mean? First and foremost, that we should unlearn the origins of photography as framed by those who were crowned its inventors and other private and state entrepreneurs, as well as its association with a technology that can be reduced to discrete devices held by individual operators. In <em>The Civil Contract of Photography</em>, I proposed to displace photography’s origins from the realms of technology to the body politic of users and reconstruct from its practices a potential history of photography.</p>

Unlearning Images of Destruction

Monday, 17.09.2018
<p>To take this excursion to 1492 as the origin of photography—exploring this with and through photography—requires one to abandon the imperial linear temporality and the way it separates tenses: past, present, and future. One has to engage with the imperial world from a non-imperial perspective and be committed to the idea of revoking rather than ignoring or denying imperial rights manufactured and distributed as part of the destruction of diverse worlds. In order to clarify this trajectory, I will start with a few photos taken in different times and places, which I propose to explore alongside early accounts of imperial expeditions.</p>

Unlearning Expertise Knowledge and Unsettling Expertise Positions

Friday, 28.09.2018
<p>Through this combined activity of destroying <strong><em>and</em></strong> manufacturing “new” worlds, people were deprived of an active life and their different activities reduced and mobilized to fit larger schemes of production and world engineering. Through these schemes, different groups of governed peoples were crafted and assigned access to certain occupations, mainly non-skilled labor that in turn enabled the creation of a distinct strata of professions with the vocational purpose of architecting “new” worlds and furnishing them with new technologies.</p>

Unlearning Imperial Rights to Take (Photographs)

Tuesday, 09.10.2018
<p>The millions, whose photographs are taken, are not referred to in any meaningful way in the histories and theories of photography. Beaumont Newhall’s <em>The History of Photography</em> is a paradigmatic example. His fourth chapter, for example, is titled “Portraits for the Million.”</p>

Unlearning Imperial Sovereignties

Wednesday, 24.10.2018
<p>Cameras are a product of imperialism’s <em>scopic</em> regime. However, imperial rights are not fully inscribed in the device. The unifocality of the camera and what Aïm Deüelle Lüski calls its verticality partition the space where it is located into what or who is “in front of it” and what or who is “behind it.”</p>