Authors, Sean Cubitt
09.01.–05.03.2017
7. What Do Databases Want?

For the last post in this series I have left myself an absurd challenge: to find a way of thinking through the mass image – that single, vast portrait gathered together from every digitised photo (and every mode of image capture) into one monolithic picture of the world in the accumulated databases of social media, surveillance systems, medical and scientific collections and all the other repositories of unregarded photographs. more

Published: 02.03.2017
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6. Assembling Photographs

Looking at animals is like looking at photographs. Or at least, looking at familiar animals like dogs and cats and horses is like looking at photos. They offer themselves up to us, but they expect us to respond as well. Pictures are the same. As W.J.T. Mitchell asked some years ago, whenever we try to get something from images, we should also ask “What do pictures want?” There is a yearning for comprehension on both sides. There is so much each can understand about the other, but only so much. more

Published: 22.02.2017
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5. The Image Withheld

All that distinguishes a photo as image and a photo as component of the mass image is the simple act of attention. Among all the billion images uploaded, stashed or discarded, only a tiny few secure even a few moments of active contemplation. more

Published: 15.02.2017
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4. The Mass Image

I wrote in my previous post 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? more

Published: 09.02.2017
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3. Problems of Happy Images

I ended my last post with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone. more

Published: 30.01.2017
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2. Image + After 2: From Truth to Ethics

In my last post I argued that the gradual move of photography from random scatters of molecules to formal grids marks its assimilation into formal modernity. Before leaping to this conclusion, it is important as well to reflect on photography’s place among scientific instruments, one of the major ways it was understood in its early period. Peter Galison makes a distinction between image and logic as two principles of scientific observation. more

Published: 18.01.2017
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1. Image + After I: Photography as Print and as Scientific Instrument

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. more

Published: 09.01.2017
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