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: 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? 

The Spectre of the Digital

Thursday, 20.10.2016
<p>I finished my last post thinking about shifting notions of ‘importance’ and ‘relevance’. This has, in part, been driven by digital technologies and the financial, socio-political and ethical pressures on institutions to give access to their collections, and in ways that connect to contemporary users. Likewise the massive and ever-increasing swirl of images in circulation is, of course, digitally-based, raising very real questions about the very nature of ‘photography’.</p>
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.

After Liberalism

Tuesday, 08.07.2014
<p>One of the most idiosyncratic yet unrecognized trends of the 1970s is how it was precisely then, when the prewar documentary culture from the 1920s-30s began to appear in a new light. Besides the Walker Evans retrospective at MOMA in 1971, which I mentioned in the previous post, the decade started with a series of seminal monographs on the FSA and the 1930s documentary, including Jack Hurley’s <i>Portrait of a Decade</i> (1972), Roy Stryker and Nancy Wood’s <i>In this Proud Land</i> (1973), and William Stott’s <i>Documentary Expression and Thirties America</i> (1973).</p>
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. 

A Moving Target

Friday, 01.11.2013
<p>Using <em>Still Searching</em> as a shared space, what I hope to do over the next six weeks is both to stimulate a dialog and extend a project I’ve been working on lately, which involves taking a broad look at photography as the medium itself is in the midst of transformation. To that end, watch for links I’ll post periodically to online news reports and timely stories about provocative images, events, and issues in visual culture.</p>