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.
Steve Edwards | 07.09. – 05.11.2017
The Fire Last Time: Documentary and Politics in 1970s Britain
In a time of crisis and increasing anti-capitalism, Steve Edwards considers the meeting of the political Left with photography in Britain in the 1970s. Edwards insists the fortunes of documentary and the visibility of social class are entwined. Beginning from a discussion of the critical fortunes of documentary over the last 30 years, he looks at the interest in Brecht and the fall out from the so called neo-Brechtian moment. In the process, he re-evaluates theories and practices of documentary, engaging with a range of documentary work; conceptions of skill and collective production and women and labour.
Undocumented: ‘Intensification, Contraction and Localization’
Brecht’s UK Tour
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?
Patterns of Collecting, Institutional Mind-Sets and the Problem of Hierarchies
The Presence of Non-Collections and the Challenge of Photographic Ecosystems
T.J. Demos | 01.05. – 15.06.2015
From the beginning of May until June 15, T.J. Demos (professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, and director of the Center for Creative Ecologies, at the University of California, Santa Cruz) is planning to engage with the relation between photography and ecology, specifically thinking about the so-called anthropocene and its limits and problems, and how these are negotiated and positioned photographically.
Welcome to the Anthropocene!
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.
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.
Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: A Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary Photography
Paul Strand after Margaret Mead
Excursus: Politics of the Victim
Heart of Darkness
Abigail Solomon-Godeau | 16.04. – 31.05.2014
Starting on April 15, 2014, the American art critic and professor emerita Abigail Solomon-Godea, will reflect on a selection of the exhibitions (i.e., the particular) viewed in the past couple of weeks and try to distill, or extract, something that might count as some valid generalities about photographic practice and photographic discourse in their current manifestations.
Boundary Problems: Addressing History in the Image
A Tale of Two Mapplethorpes
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.”