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: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary

Jorge Ribalta | 01.06. – 15.07.2014
Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary

Jorge Ribalta’s blog series draws inspiration from the title of the fourth volume of Immanuel Wallerstein’s landmark series on the modern world-system. Rather than a theoretical or philosophical discussion on the nature of documentary photography, the blog series proposes a historical understanding of documentary practices in photography, and specifically during the Cold War. Ribalta’s point is that the rise of documentary rhetoric and discourses in the prewar era reflected the need to provide a visual tool for the representation of the working class and its new agency in mass democracy. But histories of photographic modernism, mostly a postwar construction largely determined by Newhall’s contribution, offered specific “liberal” versions of the emergence of the documentary discourse that had long-lasting effects. For example, the hegemony of the FSA documentary overshadowed the rest of the 1930s documentary experiences, particularly that of the Worker Photography Movement. In the 1950s, the large shadow of the monumental The Family of Man invisibilized or re-signified other documentary experiments, like Italian Neorealism or Paul Strand’s photo book projects, just to mention two examples. In both cases, prewar and postwar, centrist liberalism is triumphant. In other words, liberal humanism seemed to be an unsurpassable discursive and ideological horizon in postwar photographic avant-gardes and its historical narratives. The blog series brings to discussion some ideas and intuitions dealing with the humanist condition of postwar documentary photography and its problems.

Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: A Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary Photography

Sunday, 01.06.2014
<div>Hello world! This is my first blog. I’m not a blogging person and I confess I’m feeling uneasy about the vulnerable improvisatory condition that blog writing involves, a kind of performative public conversation open to doubts and suppositions and maybe to banality :)), rather than solid demonstrative writing. But, anyway: let’s try it.<br><br></div>
Blog series: Marvin Heiferman

Marvin Heiferman | 01.11. – 15.12.2013
Marvin Heiferman

In his blog series, Marvin Heiferman will take a broad look at the medium as it is changing and being redefined, and consider the issues in and around the medium that are provocative. Rather than understanding photography as a medium in crisis, as some people seem so eager to suggest, Heiferman sees photography in the midst of being re-imagined – this is will be his starting point to look at and talk about over the course of his blogging period. He will use news reports and stories about topical images, events, and issues in visual culture as the basis for taking a weekly look at how photography and our relationship to it are changing. He will link to stories, write about the issues that they raise, and invite readers to take an active role in the discussion. 

Photography, She Said, Makes Me Nervous

Tuesday, 03.12.2013
<div>Decades ago, when I wanted to be a painter and also needed a job, I thought it might be good to get some hands-on art world experience. I went to a number of galleries to inquire if there might be any positions and—in the era before MFA, museum studies, and arts administration programs made that crazily competitive—was hired by Harold Jones, the founding director of LIGHT Gallery, which had recently opened on Madison Avenue. Harold, who had spotted me looking at shows there previously, took a chance, hired me, and in ways I still marvel at, changed the course of my life.<br><br></div>
Blog series: The Relation between Photography in General and Photographs in Particular

David Campany | 15.04. – 31.05.2013
The Relation between Photography in General and Photographs in Particular

During the next six weeks, our “blogger in residence” David Campany will write about the intricate relations between words and pictures, but also about the difference between thinking about photography in general and thinking about individual photographs: “The general and the particular. This is not unusual. The split has haunted photography at least since it became a mass medium and modern artistic medium in the 1920s. … When photographs are discussed in their absence, under the name ‘photography’ let’s say, the writer is more likely to take liberties with them than if they were there on the page/screen. The writer is also more likely to generalize.”

Backwards and Forwards

Thursday, 02.05.2013
<div>For many years I have been looking through the back issues of the 20th century’s illustrated press. Magazines, journals, newspapers. It is really impossible to write or teach the history of photography without doing this. The <em>Sunday Times Magazine</em> from March 24, 1968 carries, among other things, Don McCullin’s celebrated black and white images of soldiers in Vietnam - one throwing a grenade, another lying dead with his possessions spilling out.</div>

Popular, not Populist

Monday, 27.05.2013
<div>My apologies for the extended silence. I have been putting the finishing touches to a book about the relation between popular culture, art and photography, which will also be the subject of this blog entry.<br><br></div><div><br><br></div>
Blog series: What We Talk about When We Talk about Photography

Aveek Sen | 01.03. – 14.04.2012
What We Talk about When We Talk about Photography

Until mid-April, the current blogger Aveek Sen will “open up the discussion on photography towards a realm of the promiscuous – a word I steal from the lexicon of sexuality to use in relation to the creative process. By the ‘creative process’, I do not mean simply the making and showing of photographs, but the entire web of relationships that connects looking, thinking, reading, listening, remembering and everyday life. I believe that photography is most richly nourished by its promiscuous liaisons with the other arts and with certain kinds of art/music-haunted experience. I will focus particularly on literature (especially fiction and poetry) and cinema, using specific works to build up a way of thinking about photography. Moving the discussion beyond the Barthes/Benjamin/Sontag trinity that dominates writing on photography, I want to use other works of art as starting points for reflection and debate, blurring the conventional distinction between theory and practice.”

Photography and Witnessing

Thursday, 22.03.2012
<p>I was looking at a collection of photo-essays on jail experience, militarization and the death penalty called <em>Art as Witness</em>, edited by the “photo-artist”, Parthiv Shah, and a teacher of journalism, Sana Das (Tulika Books: New Delhi, 2010). It had begun as an “ambitious and elusive project” called “Art as Activism“ at Amnesty International, India, involving “artists, writers, advocates, film-makers, activists, journalists, police officers and professionals”.</p>

The Grid and More

Saturday, 07.04.2012
<p>In 1985, the American photographer, William Gedney, copied out a passage in his notebook from the English writer on landscape, Nan Fairbrother: “The shapes we make for ourselves are geometrical, and the background of civilised life is more or less rectangular. Our rooms and houses are arrangements of cubes, our doors and windows, furniture and rugs, books and boxes – all their angles are right angles and all their sides are straight.”</p>