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.
Anne McCauley | 01.02. – 15.03.2015
Politics and Artistic Expression: Paul Strand
Until March 15, Professor Anne McCauley will discuss the difficulty of reconciling politics and artistic expression, with a particular emphasis on the career of Paul Strand.
The Problematic Politics of Paul Strand
Reading Strand’s New York Photographs: City Hall Park
The Politics of Urban Planning: Strand at Midtown
Rear Windows: Strand’s Backyards
Beyond Paul Strand: What Can Radical Photography Be?
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.
Paul Strand after Margaret Mead
Excursus: Politics of the Victim
George Baker | 01.06. – 15.07.2013
George Baker will write around the idea of thinking or theorizing “photographic relationality.” We think of photography, so often, in terms of what Rosalind Krauss called a “theory of gaps”: the photograph as an operation of visual isolation, framing, cropping, freezing an object as a motionless specimen. But the vaunted “doubling” in which photography has been involved is also the creation of a relationship; the photograph’s “indexical” tie to the world a bond or affective tie more than a simple technical effect, and one that still needs further thought and description. Touching upon specific photographs and photographers, pushing forward from the implications of select contemporary artistic practices engaged with photography, I want to think about the relational status and potential of photography over its longer history. I want to write a set of speculative entries on the photograph as an image-couple more than the photograph as image-double – theorizing photographic linkage over technological reproducibility as the central promise of photography today. A set of entries imagining an affective theory of photography, building upon thoughts on photography and love from Roland Barthes to Eduardo Cadava.