Tag, digitalization
2. On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)

First we want to specify a point concerning the last sentence of our first post. In his “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, published in French in 1990 (that is, a few years before the launch of the first public web browser), Deleuze opposes the old disciplinary societies as analyzed by Foucault to the present societies of control. He writes:  more

Published: 18.03.2016
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1. Image and Programme

As an attentive reader has pointed out to us, the word ‛programme’ appears in our book Softimage within a family of terms: algorithm, software, computation, processing, programming. If these terms, all gravitating around digitalization, seem almost interchangeable, we are in fact using the term ‛programme’ in a larger yet very specific sense, that of the programme of the image, or the image as a programme, which is not a condition that emerged with digitalization, but one that dates back to the Renaissance. Our first blog will explore the way the programme of the image develops in the 15th century in an intricate relation with the political programme of the time and the birth of the humanist episteme. more

Published: 04.03.2016
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5. Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Installation Shot

Having reflected on the selfie and how it connects to the canonical qualities attributed to the analogue photograph, in this last blog post, which concludes my series of posts for the “still searching” blog, I will discuss the installation shot as a second example of how traditional values associated with the classic photographic image continue to live on as part of online culture. more

Published: 27.04.2015
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3. Online Image Behavior, Where Photographs Live Today

Whereas the relation between reality and representation was a key concern of classical photography, now, as photography has become digital, the focus has shifted from this single relation to a multiplicity of relations that extend from a photograph. Value is no longer primarily derived from the special relation between the object in front of the lens and the way it is depicted in the photograph, but it is generated by the multiplicities of image visualizations and variations branching off from the initial moment of capture.1Part of this value is also accrued through the generation of metadata. This is the central point of Katrina Sluis and Daniel Rubinstein’s paper titled “Notes on the Margins of Metadata; Concerning the Undecidability of the Digital Image.” In this article, the authors claim that meaning and consequently value is not generated “through indexicality or representation but through the aggregation and topologies of data.” Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis (2013) “Notes on the Margins of Metadata; Concerning the Undecidability of the Digital Image,” Photographies 6 (1), pp. 151–158. http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/6238/1/DR_KS_Notes_on_the_Margins_of_Metadata.pdf When uploaded, as the artist Kari Altmann aptly describes this process, “the image might aim to move more anonymously in a swarm of similar content. more

Published: 08.04.2015
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2. What I Talk about When I Talk about Photography

If one thinks about photography in medium-specific terms, digitization actually hasn’t introduced any significant challenges to the essence of the photographic moment. Cameras and iPhones that produce digital photographs still contain optical lenses that record light from which an image is generated.1The lenses of the digital devices presently used may have regressed in terms of quality, as Hito Steyerl argues in her text “Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise,” and consequently the process of creating an image increasingly relies on algorithmic computations based on a network of visually proximate images. Nevertheless, the optical lens continues to be a necessary component in the creation of a photographic image, despite Steyerl’s convincing argument that algorithms co-write the photographic image by comparing it to already existing images. As such, photography becomes speculative and relational. Hito Steyerl, “Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise,” in e-flux journal #60 (December 2014), http://www.e-flux.com/journal/proxy-politics/. What has changed, however, is the process of image creation that directly follows from this moment. Whereas analogue photography registered light on paper and in this way created an image, digital photography translates light into data out of which an image is calculated. more

Published: 30.03.2015
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1. Introduction

For this blog, I will address a number of ideas about the contemporary role of photography within digital culture and artistic practice. With the photographic image having become firmly established as the predominant form of online image, photography is now an increasingly pervasive mode of cultural production. As a result, it is important to explore the role of digital photography within the context of photography as both an artistic medium and a specialized field that has emerged over the course of the last two centuries.

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Published: 16.03.2015
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5. Photography versus Contemporary Art: What’s Next?

We have reviewed several aspects of the highly competitive—even love/hate—relationship between contemporary art and photography. Is there anything left to say? Perhaps something about the future of both. They will hardly be able to avoid each other. more

Published: 16.12.2014
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3. Photography versus Contemporary Art: The Case of the Lecture Performance

There is less and less photography (and photographers) in contemporary art exhibitions, but more and more photographs. The photograph is a lens through which we see the contemporary world, which comes to us always already reproduced. Almost every static image we see these days is technically a photograph, since even art critics rarely cross paths with original paintings. In a contemporary art context, photographs abound in “research installations” and archival displays of all sorts; they are shown as a sequence of slides; they appear as stills in films. But recently, they have even begun to star in performances—for instance, in the increasingly popular genre of “lecture performance.” more

Published: 28.11.2014
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2. What Works in the Photo Book World Today and What no Longer Works?

The photo book market faces the same challenges that most markets are facing these days. This includes overproduction (or "overpublishing," as we call it in our world), a shrinking customer base in the main markets (Europe, USA), changing distribution channels, discount wars, and competition from other media (e-books, online information, print on demand), to name just a few. The competition of the Rencontres d'Arles festival can serve as an example for the current overflow:

All the photo books that were submitted to the book award competition at Rencontres d'Arles, 2014. Only two of them will win awards.

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Published: 23.09.2014
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1. The Current Scene of Photo Book and Art Book Publishing, As I See It

Welcome to everyone following this blog!

I am not a theoretician, nor overly intellectual, nor an art historian, nor a regular writer – just a manic art book publisher who, after 25 years in the business of making art and photography books, has taken a break to consider the years gone by. I am taking a deep breath of freedom now, granting myself the time to indulge my curiosity about our world in general, and that of art and photography in particular, as this was the world to which I have devoted my life during the last decades. So, for a while, I will change my position of an insider to that of an outsider, to explore a different perspective and new ideas. more

Published: 14.09.2014
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01.03.–15.04.2014
2. Seeing Machines

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? more

Published: 13.03.2014
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1. Is Photography Over?

A few years ago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art held a conference about photography – for a photo conference, it had the odd title “Is Photography Over?.” Curators Sandra Phillips and Dominic Wilsdon posed the question as a challenge to panelists, audience members and the world at large. The two-day symposium was an attempt to shake up conventional institutionalized discourses about photography and to be an opportunity to think about what, if anything, has “changed” about photography over the last decade or so.

From my point of view, the fact that the world’s leading photo-curators would even pose such a question turned out to be more illuminating than most of the symposium’s content. Wilsdon and Phillips’ provocation reflects a deep-seated uneasiness among photo-theorists and practitioners about the state of their field. more

Published: 03.03.2014
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01.11.–15.12.2013
1. A Moving Target

Using Still Searching 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. more

Published: 01.11.2013
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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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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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5. A Look Forward

In my last post, I want to have a look at the challenges that may arise from the increasing use of both still and moving images by photographers. The first is, of course, whether photographer is still an apt term to describe these practitioners, or whether “digital camera artist” and “digital camera art” would not be more adequate terms – thus signaling a certain discontinuity and a distance to those who wish to artificially preserve  a certain type of photographic traditionalism and all of its attendant trappings. more

Published: 19.02.2013
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1. The Shifting Relations of Still and Moving Photographic Images

The debates on the advent on digital photography in recent years have largely focused on the question whether the digital turn has essentially altered the nature of photography, and whether digital photography could indeed, strictly speaking, still be considered photography at all. Inherent in these queries was naturally the question of the respective validity, superiority, or inferiority, of digital and analogue photography. more

Published: 14.01.2013
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15.09.–31.10.2012
5. A Subject for, a History about, Photography

My previous posts have explored the various ramifications of photography’s reproducibility, pursuing the way this attribute disseminates the photograph, securing, dispersing and dissipating its identity in about equal measure. I have suggested that this pursuit considerably complicates the traditional representation of photography’s history, undermining any narrative based on single artists or single prints or indeed on chronology or purity of medium—undermining, in other words, much of the traditional infrastructure of published histories of photography. more

Published: 17.10.2012
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2. "Form is henceforth divorced from matter."

My first post considered photography in the context of its dissemination within consumer capitalism, a context that, I suggested, secured the medium’s presence within modern culture even while dissipating its identity, thereby making possible the very thing it also makes impossible. This contradictory character, in Benjamin’s view a key aspect of the political economy of capitalism and therefore of photography too, is embodied in every aspect of the photographic experience. more

Published: 23.09.2012
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2. Notes on Photography and Loss

On the long flight from Los Angeles to London I undertook last week (which at the time of this posting going live, I will be completing in the reverse) I reread “The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object” by Vilém Flusser. In it Flusser asserts that “We are witnessing a cultural revolution”, a revolution consummated by digital images (what he refers to as “electromagnetized photos”) where “one can see how information abandons its material basis,” threatening to usher in “a society dominated by uncontrolled apparatus… thrown back into the terror of blind, absurd automaticity, into a pre-cultural situation.” more

Published: 23.04.2012
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1. Conventions, Conditions, and Practices of Photography Conceived as a System of Relations

As works of art have increasingly embraced the polysemy of images—to the point where the question of what a particular image depicts has become all but minor in the discussion of contemporary art—what we generally describe as photography continues to be understood as primarily depictive (and to that end as a transparent medium) and taken in unitary terms (i.e. taken as discrete pictorial worlds rather than as objects in an expansive aesthetic distributive system). more

Published: 14.04.2012
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15.01.–29.02.2012
5. Form

Form might seem to be the absolute worst candidate as a means of reflecting on and mapping out photographic realism. But isn’t this simply a reflexive response based on an interpretive tradition that associates form with simulation and the formless snapshot with the captured moment as evidence? On the one side is an entire tradition extending from the difficulty in controlling the overwhelming richness of details in the early phase of the medium, to snapshots, press photography and social documentary. On the other is the opposite, an approach working with controlled, well-composed images (such as those of Rejlander or Peach Robinson), the golden mean, or painterly parameters. One the one side is the unpredictability of the moment, which for this very reason is perceived as being “realistic”. On the other is the imperative to control form, which is therefore viewed as “art” and not as “nature” or “reality.” more

Published: 13.02.2012
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4. Practice

Up until now photography has perhaps been conceived too much in terms of images, and its social function has been neglected. But ultimately it is the way photography is used that affirms or negates its realism. In talking about photographic realism, one should not talk about the images but about photographic practices. Practical application decides the function of photography and defines its epistemic fields of reference. It decides about good and evil, conviction and rejection, images and their meaning. more

Published: 05.02.2012
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2. Reflection

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 Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik (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”). [Walter Benjamin, Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik, ed. Uwe Steiner, p. 39.] He continues: as the absolute, reflection is a “metaphysical credo” (“metaphysisches Credo”) that claims to be the “interpretation of all things real” (“Deutung alles Wirklichen“)[p. 67]. What for Benjamin is the absolute, is, in my opinion, replaced by the concept of the real or realism in photography. more

Published: 22.01.2012
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