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.
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.
The Return of the Real (Again)
If Images Could Speak
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.
François Brunet | 15.01. – 28.02.2014
Starting on January 15, 2014, the historian of images and American culture, François Brunet, will tackle the following questions in his blog series: Why are portraits relatively neglected in the history of images, and how can we approach them today? Can we consider or treat photographs, in general, as historical documents, and what does this mean today, particularly in the face of mounting visual skepticism? And what do we make of the circulation of images in writing histories of images and history in general? How does one study, narrate, illustrate circulation?
Meet Billy the Kid (On Portraiture, Two)
George Baker | 01.06. – 15.07.2013
George Baker will write around the idea of thinking or theorizing “photographic relationality.” We think of photography, so often, in terms of what Rosalind Krauss called a “theory of gaps”: the photograph as an operation of visual isolation, framing, cropping, freezing an object as a motionless specimen. But the vaunted “doubling” in which photography has been involved is also the creation of a relationship; the photograph’s “indexical” tie to the world a bond or affective tie more than a simple technical effect, and one that still needs further thought and description. Touching upon specific photographs and photographers, pushing forward from the implications of select contemporary artistic practices engaged with photography, I want to think about the relational status and potential of photography over its longer history. I want to write a set of speculative entries on the photograph as an image-couple more than the photograph as image-double – theorizing photographic linkage over technological reproducibility as the central promise of photography today. A set of entries imagining an affective theory of photography, building upon thoughts on photography and love from Roland Barthes to Eduardo Cadava.
David Campany | 15.04. – 31.05.2013
The Relation between Photography in General and Photographs in Particular
During the next six weeks, our “blogger in residence” David Campany will write about the intricate relations between words and pictures, but also about the difference between thinking about photography in general and thinking about individual photographs: “The general and the particular. This is not unusual. The split has haunted photography at least since it became a mass medium and modern artistic medium in the 1920s. … When photographs are discussed in their absence, under the name ‘photography’ let’s say, the writer is more likely to take liberties with them than if they were there on the page/screen. The writer is also more likely to generalize.”
Photography and Photographs
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.”
"Form is henceforth divorced from matter."
Photography and Authorship
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.”
Notes on Photography and Loss
Aveek Sen | 01.03. – 14.04.2012
What We Talk about When We Talk about Photography
Until mid-April, the current blogger Aveek Sen will “open up the discussion on photography towards a realm of the promiscuous – a word I steal from the lexicon of sexuality to use in relation to the creative process. By the ‘creative process’, I do not mean simply the making and showing of photographs, but the entire web of relationships that connects looking, thinking, reading, listening, remembering and everyday life. I believe that photography is most richly nourished by its promiscuous liaisons with the other arts and with certain kinds of art/music-haunted experience. I will focus particularly on literature (especially fiction and poetry) and cinema, using specific works to build up a way of thinking about photography. Moving the discussion beyond the Barthes/Benjamin/Sontag trinity that dominates writing on photography, I want to use other works of art as starting points for reflection and debate, blurring the conventional distinction between theory and practice.”