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: Processing

Sean Cubitt | 05.03.2017 – 19.04.2024
Processing

The photographic image introduced a radical new proposition about representation. Drawing, painting and printmaking required prolonged contemplation of subjects. The long exposures of early photography seemed to parallel that durational encounter. But the appearance of the snapshot changed that. The photogram was an isolated moment singled out that provided a new aesthetic and a new ethical quandary about the instant seized abruptly from the flow of time. The moving image may be seen as an attempt to heal this trauma in the flux of time, but one that created new modes of temporal alienation. Digital imaging, still and moving, alters the conditions of the photogram, bringing it closer to the processing of scientific instruments. In his blog series, thinking ahead of a proposed new avenue of research into the aesthetic politics of truth, Sean Cubitt draws on thinkers from Flusser to Badiou to consider the changing nature and function of time from the decisive moment to data visualisation.

Problems of Happy Images

Monday, 30.01.2017
<p>I ended my <a href="https://www.fotomuseum.ch/de/explore/still-searching/articles/29961_image_after_2_from_truth_to_ethics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last post</a> with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone.</p>
Blog series: Institutions and the Production of ‘Photographs’

Elizabeth Edwards | 15.09. – 31.10.2016
Institutions and the Production of ‘Photographs’

In her blog series, visual and historical anthropologist Elizabeth Edwards will scrutinize the processes and mechanisms of institutional collecting. Why and how are photographs acquired by institutions and what are the implications for the photographs that get curated? And what happens when non-collections are brought into the remit of ‘history of photography’? Edwards will discuss assumptions, categories of description and hierarchies of values that shape the management of collections and look at how the new historiography of photography is being articulated in museums and galleries. Finally, she will consider the impact of digital technologies on the way in which photographs are constituted as both historical objects and ‘collections’. What are the effects on institutional assumptions and practices, and what does this do to a history of photography and its articulation in public space? 

Exhibiting the New Historiographies

Thursday, 13.10.2016
<p>Which history of photography is told in museums? We are familiar with the usual parade of nineteenth-century photography such as Linnaeus Tripe, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, and then that of the great masters of the modernist canon who repeatedly adorn our gallery walls in some shape or other. These of course have their interest and their merits and such exhibitions have done much to raise the public sense that ‘photography is important.’ But what of the social history of photography, the photography that worked within people’s lives – those millions of humble and unremarkable photographs which mattered to people and which constitute the majority of photographs?</p>
Blog series: Images without Viewers

Jodi Dean | 05.01. – 29.02.2016
Images without Viewers

2016 kicks off with a new blog series by political theorist Jodi Dean, “Images without viewers“. Until the end of February, Dean will reflect on the repetition and circulation of images in communicative capitalism. In today’s digitally networked communication practices, photographs and images are incorporated and blended together with speech and writing, a process designated by Dean as “secondary visuality” (akin to Walter Ong’s “secondary orality”). How do mass personalized media involve “secondary visuality,” and what are the political repercussions? What does it mean when images are less for view than they are for circulation?

Images without Viewers

Wednesday, 06.01.2016
<p>My seventeen-year-old daughter, Sadie, and her friends use Snapchat, sharing snaps upwards of forty times a day. Sadie tells me that their conversations are “just pics with short captions.” The pic is typically a selfie of a stupid or ugly face (“look at my fucking forehead!”). Receivers respond with another ugly face and a funny retort (“YOU LOOK LIKE A KLINGON”). Sadie and her friends also post “stories,” stitched together photos and videos from their daily lives. Sadie says her stories are mostly “about my sick life” (“sick” apparently means good, fun, cool, or desirable in some inchoate sense).</p>

Images without Viewers: Emoji

Monday, 18.01.2016
<p>A smiley face streaming tears of joy was the <a href="http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/word-of-the-year-2015-emoji/">Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 word of the year</a>. That an emoji is not a word didn’t matter. Or, better, it is what actually did matter. “Face with tears of joy” was chosen to mark the fact that images are taking the place of linguistic expression of feelings and ideas. They are blending into, merging with, and displacing words and sentences in digitized personal communication. Visuals accompany and absorb text just as physical gestures augment oral communication. Multiple, repeatable, and generic images are less “of” than they are “for”– for circulation in the rich media networks of communicative capitalism.</p>
Blog series: Exceptional Position of Photography within the (Art) World

Walead Beshty | 15.04. – 31.05.2012
Exceptional Position of Photography within the (Art) World

Walead Beshty, the internationally known photographer, professor and writer who lives and works in Los Angeles, will be blogging for us until the end of May 2012. Beshty’s concern is the exceptional position of photography within the (art) world today. Why is it “that a medium that was born less than two hundred years ago, in the midst of the industrial revolution, would be the primary contemporary vehicle of the western pictorial tradition?” In his blog series Beshty will “sketch out this theoretical problem, and reexamine the assumptions associated with that loose collection of practices and theories that we call the photographic, and attempt to propose broader, and perhaps more dynamic tools through which to understand it. This process seems best begun with a discussion of the functional construction of the category of photography.”

Toward a Museum of Convention

Saturday, 19.05.2012
<p>Last week’s post concerned itself with the academy as a mode of distribution for aesthetic discourse and how the inclusion of art within higher education has the potential to shift the understanding of intellectual research and debate, specifically by forcing intellectual discourse to come to terms with its own monetization. Before going further, I think I should address what I mean by the use of the phrase “aesthetic discourse.” I mean not only that which is written or spoken about aesthetics (this is really secondary, and significant only when it shifts the conditions of aesthetic production). But primarily I mean communications or debates that happen through aesthetics.</p>