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.
Safiya Umoja Noble | 06.12.2017 – 31.01.2018
Digital Infrastructures of Race and Gender
Till the end of January, Safiya U. Noble explores the intersectional ways race and gender are embedded in digital infrastructures. Noble suggests that logics and structures of race are a matter of network and platform design, which encode values that cannot be divorced from the digital. To open, she investigates the erosion of humanities and social science courses from the education of engineers, and suggests that the erasure of sociality impacts conceptions of technology’s promise. Later in the series, she explores other dimensions of the social stack and how race and gender are embedded in contemporary conceptions of the digital.
The Problems of Profiting from Internet Pollution
Robots, Race, and Gender
Sean Cubitt | 05.03.2017 – 02.10.2023
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.
Problems of Happy Images
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 Commodities Could Speak
The Liberation of Things
Jodi Dean | 05.01. – 29.02.2016
Images without Viewers
2016 kicks off with a new blog series by political theorist Jodi Dean, “Images without viewers“. Until the end of February, Dean will reflect on the repetition and circulation of images in communicative capitalism. In today’s digitally networked communication practices, photographs and images are incorporated and blended together with speech and writing, a process designated by Dean as “secondary visuality” (akin to Walter Ong’s “secondary orality”). How do mass personalized media involve “secondary visuality,” and what are the political repercussions? What does it mean when images are less for view than they are for circulation?
Images without Viewers
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.
Geo-Engineering the Anthropocene
Melanie Bühler | 16.03. – 30.04.2015
Ideas about the Contemporary Role of Photography within Digital Culture and Artistic Practice
From mid-March till the end of April, Melanie Bühler’s blog series will address a number of ideas about the contemporary role of photography within digital culture and artistic practice. She will also examine the role of digital photography within the context of photography as both an artistic medium and a specialized discipline and explore how networked photographic practices are reflected in the work of contemporary artists.
Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Selfie
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?
Ekaterina Degot | 01.11. – 15.12.2014
Photography versus Contemporary Art
Until December 15 the curator, writer and professor Ekaterina Degot will explore some of the paradoxes inherent to the complex relations between photography and so-called contemporary art.
Photography versus Contemporary Art: The Case of the Lecture Performance
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
Geoffrey Batchen | 15.09. – 31.10.2012
Photography and Dissemination
Photo thinker Geoffrey Batchen will write about photography and dissemination:
“The theme of my contribution to Still Searching is inspired by Walter Benjamin’s famous essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility’ (1935-36). Or, rather, it is inspired by the striking absence of discussions of reproduction and its effects in the literature about photography since this essay first appeared. So I guess I am searching, in the first instance, for the reasons for this absence, given that Benjamin’s essay has been made compulsory reading for a generation of students and is one of the most cited in serious texts about the photographic experience. But I am also interested in beginning to explore the ramifications of photography’s relationship to reproducibility for our understanding of this medium’s history. How has reproducibility manifested itself in photographic practice and experience? What have been the effects of these manifestations? What kind of history would have to be written to encompass these questions? The invention of this history—of a mode of representation capable of doing justice to these questions–is ultimately what I am ‘still searching’ for.”