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: Future Histories

Steffen Siegel | 23.04. – 15.07.2020
Future Histories

In his blog series “Future Histories,” Steffen Siegel discusses various problems of older and more recent historiographies of photography – and how to go beyond them. Photographic image-production and the medium’s historiography share almost the same age. However, compared to photography’s innovative or even revolutionary visual strategies, the forms of writing about its history have remained surprisingly traditional. Photography Studies always have been a nomadic enterprise within an interdisciplinary environment. Nevertheless, there is a risk of taming these research activities by adopting models and genres from other academic disciplines. This blog series is an invitation to discuss the following questions: How can we arrive at new ways of reflecting on photo history? How can we create a bigger picture without just writing another compendious book? Thus, how can “Future Histories” lead to different ways of representing the medium’s history?

Leaving the Book Behind

Tuesday, 30.06.2020
<p>When I started writing this blog series a couple of weeks ago, we all were busy with very different things than photography and photo history – and we still are. The current pandemic is shaping our lives in previously unimaginable ways. In the strict sense of the word, there is no photograph of the virus itself. Yet, in this current situation, photography plays anything but a minor role: Pictures are currently an especially important tool for our day-to-day orientation.</p>
Blog series: Processing

Sean Cubitt | 05.03.2017 – 20.05.2024
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 I: Photography as Print and as Scientific Instrument

Monday, 09.01.2017
<p>There is a well-known theory on the left concerning British history known as the Nairn-Anderson thesis named after two of its protagonists. Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson traced the peculiarities of the British state to the failure of the country to complete its revolution. Perhaps something similar has to be said about photography. At many points in its history, photography has been on the brink of revolutionising the very concept of the image; and yet the old still maintains its place – like the British monarchy.</p>
Blog series: Institutions and the Production of ‘Photographs’

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? 

Exhibiting the New Historiographies

Thursday, 13.10.2016
<p>Which history of photography is told in museums? We are familiar with the usual parade of nineteenth-century photography such as Linnaeus Tripe, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, and then that of the great masters of the modernist canon who repeatedly adorn our gallery walls in some shape or other. These of course have their interest and their merits and such exhibitions have done much to raise the public sense that ‘photography is important.’ But what of the social history of photography, the photography that worked within people’s lives – those millions of humble and unremarkable photographs which mattered to people and which constitute the majority of photographs?</p>
Blog series: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary

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

Sunday, 01.06.2014
<div>Hello world! This is my first blog. I’m not a blogging person and I confess I’m feeling uneasy about the vulnerable improvisatory condition that blog writing involves, a kind of performative public conversation open to doubts and suppositions and maybe to banality :)), rather than solid demonstrative writing. But, anyway: let’s try it.<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. 

A Moving Target

Friday, 01.11.2013
<p>Using <em>Still Searching</em> as a shared space, what I hope to do over the next six weeks is both to stimulate a dialog and extend a project I’ve been working on lately, which involves taking a broad look at photography as the medium itself is in the midst of transformation. To that end, watch for links I’ll post periodically to online news reports and timely stories about provocative images, events, and issues in visual culture.</p>