Authors, Sophie Berrebi
5. The Production of Documents

“In history everything begins with the gesture of setting aside, of putting together, of transforming certain classified objects into ‘documents.’ This new cultural distribution is the first task. In reality it consists in producing such documents by dint of copying, transcribing, or photographing these objects, simultaneously changing their locus and their status.” 1

In The Writing of History (1975), Michel de Certeau criticized the perception of documents and archives as dormant sources waiting to be collected and interpreted by historians. more

Published: 08.04.2013
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4. Another Threshold

Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Emile Zola, from 1868, currently on view at the Royal Academy in London in the Manet: Portraying Life exhibition is usually interpreted as a testimony of the friendship between the artist and a writer who was one of his strongest supporters in those years. The painting shows Zola seated sideways at his work table, surrounded by papers, objects, and pictures that point to this relationship, and, it has been noted, to Manet’s own tastes: a decorated screen on the left, a pamphlet bearing Manet’s name on the desk, and above, in the top right corner of the picture, a Japanese print and a lithograph of Velasquez partly concealed by a reproduction of Manet’s own Olympia. It is to these last three objects I would like to direct my attention, in order to think about a technological and aesthetic threshold a century-and-a-half back that may or may not serve as a model for the relationship between analogue and digital photography today. more

Published: 28.03.2013
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3. The Opacity of Photography

One of my students recently declared she believed there was nothing to learn from Flusser’s writings on photography. For her, digital technology expanded the possibilities of photography well beyond what Flusser described as the pre-defined program contained within the camera apparatus. The same went for the idea of the impenetrability of the “black box,” which seemed ludicrous in today’s context of widely shared technical astuteness and the infinite possibilities offered by photo-editing software. If Flusser’s work certainly appears dated in some ways, as Walead Beshty suggested in one of his posts on this blog, discussing the 1986 essay “The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object,” other texts, notably the lectures given in Arles in 1984 that were later re-worked into the book Towards a Philosophy of Photography, are still well worth reading. more

Published: 21.03.2013
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2. Welsh Water

One of the pictures that I always come back to when thinking about object photography is a black and white image by the artist Jean-Luc Moulène entitled Bi-Fixe, 7 September 2003. It shows two PET bottles of mineral water from Wales sold under the brand Ty Nant, which have been laid flat onto a medium-colored background and photographed directly from above so as to avoid distortion. more

Published: 11.03.2013
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1. Platinum Blondes and a Bearded Lady

“The grammar of cinema is a grammar uniquely its own.”

Jean Epstein

I remember once being fascinated at the discovery that the silky, almost-white, blond hair of many Hollywood stars from the Golden Age was only an illusion, – a contraption developed for the silver screen. The ability of platinum blond to reflect light endowed actresses clad in shimmering gowns with a radiant halo, bestowing upon them an enticing inaccessibility. more

Published: 01.03.2013
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