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: Photography and Migration

Tanya Sheehan | 06.03. – 30.04.2017
Photography and Migration

The photographic medium has played an important role in the movement of people, objects, identities, and ideas across time and space, especially in the human crossing of geographical and cultural borders. Scholars have shown how cameras documented, enabled, or controlled such forced or voluntary movements, while photographers have attempted to put a face on immigration around the world, making visible its associations with transition, displacement, hardship, and opportunity. In this blog series, Tanya Sheehan reflects on the relationship between photography and migration in the twenty-first century by considering photographs in the global migration crisis as well as within her own local, community interventions. Framing her discussion are keywords in photography and migration studies: diaspora, refugee, (im)mobility, and border.

Border

Thursday, 20.04.2017
<p>An edge, boundary, or line of demarcation. Few concepts feel as critical to the contemporary discourse on migration as <em>border</em>, for every migrating subject must navigate a physical, political, or conceptual divide. Especially thick structures govern my own country’s national borders, whose markings, surveillance, and protection are the subjects of current debate. Soon they may be fortified at high costs, as US President Donald Trump has issued <a href="https://www.dhs.gov/executive-orders-protecting-homeland" target="_blank" rel="noopener">executive orders</a> proposing the construction of a new border wall between the US and Mexico.</p>
Blog series: Processing

Sean Cubitt | 05.03.2017 – 24.02.2024
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.

The Mass Image

Thursday, 09.02.2017
<p>I wrote in <a href="https://www.fotomuseum.ch/de/explore/still-searching/articles/29982_problems_of_happy_images" target="_blank" rel="noopener">my previous post</a> that individual images use the unavoidable division between being and appearance to create negative images of the world, and thereby to create glimpses of happiness as the opposite of the world we inhabit. That seems to be as true of individual prints or photographs as it is of unique paintings and drawings. But can the same be said of images in the mass?</p>
Blog series: The Status of the Image in Digital Culture

Ingrid Hoelzl, Rémi Marie | 01.03. – 30.04.2016
The Status of the Image in Digital Culture

The current blog series are co-written by image theorists Ingrid Hoelzl and Rémi Marie. Until the end of April, they will reflect on the status of the image in digital culture. They will examine the shift from the humanist to the posthumanist programme of the image, in line with the shift from the geometric paradigm of the image (based on the linear perspective) to the algorithmic paradigm (introduced with digitalization). Hoelzl and Marie will discuss the central idea of their book Softimage (2015), the image as a software, and reflect on the status of the image in the age of autonomous machines – the postimage.

Softimage and Hardimage

Monday, 04.04.2016
<p>PS to our previous blog, <a href="http://www.fotomuseum.ch/en/explore/still-searching/articles/27022_on_the_invisible_image_and_algorithm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)”</a>.  As a friend suggested, we should have imagined Paglen’s photo of a secret military base in the so-called top-secret lab run by Sergey Brin “in an undisclosed Bay Area location”: here is the place for thinking about secrecy. In fact, Google seems intentionally to be creating an atmosphere of mystery around “a pair of otherwise ordinary two-story red-brick buildings about a half-mile from Google’s main campus” <span class="frzfn fn"><span class="marker">1</span><span class="text">Brad Stone, “Inside Google’s Secret Lab, Google X’s Silicon Valley Nerd Heaven – America’s Last Great Corporate Research Lab”, <em>Bloomberg.com/news</em>, 29 May 2013, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-22/inside-googles-secret-lab">http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-22/inside-googles-secret-lab</a></span></span>. It is impossible to find much information on Google (sic!) apart from two journal articles. In the one published in <em>The New York Times</em> in 2011 we can read: “It’s a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you’re eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.” <span class="frzfn"><span class="marker">2</span><span class="text">Claire Cain Miller and Nick Biltonnov, “Google’s Lab of Wildest Dreams”, <em>The New York Times</em>, 13 November 2011.</span></span></p>
Blog series: Is Photography Over?

Trevor Paglen | 01.03. – 15.04.2014
Is Photography Over?

Starting on March 1, 2014, the American artist, Trevor Paglen, will write about the world of “seeing machines” – from iPhones to facial recognition algorithms to automated military targeting systems – and what they mean in terms of 21st century photography.

Seeing Machines

Thursday, 13.03.2014
<p>In my last blog post, I sketched out some of the ways that traditional photography theory and practice seems to be at a standstill. Contemporary revolutions in photography, from omnipresent digital picture-taking to the advent of hundred-billion image repositories have prompted some practitioners, theorists, and critics to ask whether “photography” (at least as it was once understood) “is over.” I noted that the question has arrived at an ironic time – how could photography be “over” at the exact moment in history that it has achieved an unprecedented ubiquity?</p>

Scripts

Monday, 24.03.2014
<div>In the last post, I proposed that 21st Century “photography” has come to encompass so many different kinds of technologies, imaging apparatuses, and practices that the kinds of things we easily recognize as photography (cameras, film, prints, etc.) now actually constitute an exception to the rule. I proposed a much broader definition – <em>seeing machines</em>. <br><br></div>

Geographies of Photography

Friday, 11.04.2014
<div>Over the last few weeks I’ve been laying out some ideas about what photography has become, and have begun to articulate some of the ways I use to think about it. In previous posts, I wrote about replacing a more conventional idea of photography with the idea of seeing machines and put forward the idea of “scripts” to begin understanding how seeing machines function, i.e. how they act upon the world. I wrote about scripts as being the range of activities that a seeing machine “wants” to do, and the range of possibilities that those “wants” facilitate, and the range of possibilities that are foreclosed. <br><br></div>
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. 

Photography, She Said, Makes Me Nervous

Tuesday, 03.12.2013
<div>Decades ago, when I wanted to be a painter and also needed a job, I thought it might be good to get some hands-on art world experience. I went to a number of galleries to inquire if there might be any positions and—in the era before MFA, museum studies, and arts administration programs made that crazily competitive—was hired by Harold Jones, the founding director of LIGHT Gallery, which had recently opened on Madison Avenue. Harold, who had spotted me looking at shows there previously, took a chance, hired me, and in ways I still marvel at, changed the course of my life.<br><br></div>

I, It, We, and They See You

Friday, 13.12.2013
<div>In <em>Blue Nights</em>, a 2011 book in which Joan Didion struggles to come to terms with her daughter’s death, she relates how, when she was briefly hospitalized herself, doctors urged her to undergo a medical procedure:<br><br></div><div><em>I recall resisting: since I had never in my life been able to swallow an aspirin it seemed unlikely that I could swallow a camera.</em><br><br></div><div><em>“Of course you can, it’s only a little camera.”</em><br><br></div><div><br></div>
Blog series: Modernist Revisitations

Claire Bishop | 15.09. – 31.10.2013
Modernist Revisitations

Claire Bishop is blogging about ‘modernist revisitations’ – or, in her own words: “Sometimes it feels as if every art magazine I open, and every exhibition I visit, features at least one artist whose work earnestly addresses ‘failed utopias’, who is fascinated by ‘Modernist movements and collectives’, who is committed to ‘the re-enactment of historic high Modernist principles’, or who is drawn to ‘forgotten Modernist constructions that have crumbled over time’. Why this incessant retrospectivity? Are these revisitations in any way political, a response to the limitations of postmodern eclecticism? Or should they be viewed more critically, as an avoidance of contemporary politics by escaping into nostalgia celebration of the past? My blog hopes to raise some questions about the ubiquitous genre of modernist utopias in contemporary art.”

Displaying Research

Friday, 11.10.2013
<p>Last week I promised a discussion of Goshka Macuga, whose new show at Andrew Kreps Gallery is yet another example of the retrospectivity trend I’ve been tracking in these blog posts. Macuga’s work synthesizes a number of points that addressed in previous weeks: the obsession with modernism, the archival character of contemporary installation art, and the display of information and research.</p>
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.

Reflection

Sunday, 22.01.2012
<div>A second approach for considering photographic realism is to define photography as a “reflective medium.” In a theoretical context, this term (“Reflexionsmedium”) featured prominently in Walter Benjamin’s dissertation <em>Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik</em> (The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism). Benjamin writes, “Reflection constitutes the absolute and constitutes it as a medium” (“Die Reflexion konstituiert das Absolute und sie konstituiert es als ein Medium”). <br><br></div>