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 – 20.06.2024
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.

Image + After 2: From Truth to Ethics

Wednesday, 18.01.2017
<p>In my last post I argued that the gradual move of photography from random scatters of molecules to formal grids marks its assimilation into formal modernity. Before leaping to this conclusion, it is important as well to reflect on photography’s place among scientific instruments, one of the major ways it was understood in its early period. <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/I/bo3710110.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Peter Galison</a> makes a distinction between image and logic as two principles of scientific observation.</p>

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: Photography and the Language of Things

David Cunningham | 15.05. – 14.09.2016
Photography and the Language of Things

Until the end of June, David Cunningham will reflect on some current debates around photography and what Hito Steyerl terms “the language of things in the realm of the documentary form”. The blog will examine what seems in such debates a widespread desire to withdraw from representation altogether, whereby the image becomes (to borrow Steyerl’s own citation of Benjamin) “without expression”, not a representation of reality but “a fragment of the real world”, a “thing just like any other”. Engaging with the history of a certain avant-garde that lies behind this, the blog will then pose some questions concerning the political as well as ‘aesthetic’ implications of such a thought of the photographic image.

If Things Could Speak

Monday, 13.06.2016
<p>“What if things could speak? What would they tell us? Or are they speaking already and we just don’t hear them? And who is going to translate them?” It is such questions that Hito Steyerl suggests, in her 2006 article <a href="http://eipcp.net/transversal/0606/steyerl/en">“The Language of Things”</a>, are posed in an essay written ninety years earlier: Walter Benjamin’s posthumously published “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”. Here, Steyerl argues, the great German philosopher and critic “develops the concept of a language of things”, where “there is a language of stones, pans and cardboard boxes. Lamps speak as if inhabited by spirits. Mountains and foxes are involved in discourse. High-rise buildings chat with each other. Paintings gossip”.</p>

If Images Could Speak

Friday, 17.06.2016
<p>In a recent contribution to the collection <em>Documentary Across Disciplines</em>, based on a series of events held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin between 2010 and 2014, Christopher Pinney begins his essay, entitled “Bruises and Blushes: Photography ‘Beyond’ Anthropology”, with a quotation from Barthes’ <em>Camera Lucida</em>: “Society is concerned to tame the Photograph, to temper the madness which keeps threatening to explode in the face of whoever looks at it”.</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.”

Conventions, Conditions, and Practices of Photography Conceived as a System of Relations

Saturday, 14.04.2012
<p>As works of art have increasingly embraced the polysemy of images—to the point where the question of what a particular image depicts has become all but minor in the discussion of contemporary art—what we generally describe as photography continues to be understood as primarily depictive (and to that end as a transparent medium) and taken in unitary terms (i.e. taken as discrete pictorial worlds rather than as objects in an expansive aesthetic distributive system).</p>

The Question of a Medium's Identity

Monday, 30.04.2012
<div>Last week, I attempted to draw forward a peculiar thematic in photography criticism and theory and the parallel instability of the term “photography.” At its base, a technology that has such a variance of instrumental applications and contextual meanings presents some intractable problems for art historical discourse, and its preference for discrete objects over more broadly systemic social or epistemological conditions. <br><br></div>
Blog series: Photographic Realism, an Attempt

Bernd Stiegler | 15.01. – 29.02.2012
Photographic Realism, an Attempt

In his blog series Photographic Realism, an Attempt, Bernd Stiegler will introduce six different aspects of photographic realism over the course of his six-week blogging period. The intention is to explore options beyond familiar theoretical trajectories, such as the indexical nature of photography or photography as social documentary. At first glance, these will perhaps seem quite removed from the fundamental question of realism. Each concept is one perspective among many and is definitely intended as a more or less provocative thesis. At second glance, each has the potential — this is the central hypothesis — to open up a wide field of theoretical questions and related topics. Each is an invitation to discuss.

Practice

Sunday, 05.02.2012
<p>Up until now photography has perhaps been conceived too much in terms of images, and its social function has been neglected. But ultimately it is the way photography is used that affirms or negates its realism. In talking about photographic realism, one should not talk about the images but about photographic practices. Practical application decides the function of photography and defines its epistemic fields of reference. It decides about good and evil, conviction and rejection, images and their meaning.</p>