Photography: ACI Pt. 7

Photography in the age of electronic imaging. The rise of digital photography and imagery has raised many questions. It has been seen as a threat to the “truth” of photography. Fears that the ability to manipulate and generate imagery would destroy our trust in photographic imagery. However this trust is only partial, photography is perhaps always a manipulation. Even if it is just the framing of segments. Prehaps we should trust those producing the images (if they deserve it) rather than images themselves? History has seen figures disappear from its images. Stalin’s old friends vanishing. Or a baby repositioned, or a posed solider fighting for the republic? Is this another kind of truth? This was all before the digital “threat”. Is this another angle on the representation vs art debate? It’s an element that depends on the intention? Digital is different from film, from analogue. The way it functions as a transcription or a conversion. The manner in which images are tied to materials or freed by binary? The storage of photography, a move from biscuit tins to hard drives. Photographs that are no longer printed but are stored in perhaps vulnerable formats. Family history lost as technology changes? The freeing of the camera from the limits of 36 exposures. The preciousness of the single frame replaced with the shotgun opportunities of the memory card. The rapid display and transmission of images. The depth of silver prints reaching back into the paper and the surfaces of inkjet.

The digital may affect some photographies, undermining the “truth” but in others it opens up new opportunities. Also there has been a rejection of the digital and returns to other photographic practice, alternative printing methods, pinholes, homemade cameras and combinations of digital and alternative methods. As a reaction.

Cyanotype negative taken with a long exposure in a shoe box and magnifying glass camera, scanned and inverted.

These can all add and enrich the practice allowing it to develop in new directions, new experimentations. Can. There is an element to purpose and intent too.

Digital imaging is in some ways a different beast. It is removed from photography, although photographic style images can be created, and the elements confused. Adverts for products in impossible situations, products that do not yet exist.What makes photography? In order to exclude it would be good to define it? The recording of light vs the manipulation of pixels?

The number of cameras in the world has grown at a rapid rate. The camera phone and CCTV eye views us almost constantly. A massive image data base is constructed by us all. Are there too many? However the fact cameras are so available has severely undercut the arguments about truth. Light and affordable cameras have given the citizen journalist a new power. Almost instant truth. Images from 7/7, from protests, from war and all the elements of documentary photography. The news worthy. This has been mentioned earlier in the blog. These elements replicate other periods in photography’s history and have been embraced by artists and photographers. The camera phone and surveillance has been embraced and examined and used. They are points of discussion.

The digital image is very convenient. It can be transmitted around the world with ease. A large number of images can be stored in a small area. The archival needs are different. This fits in well with the role of stock photography. Image banks have secured a number of historic archives. This could be an opportunity to open up these images to a wider range of viewers. But they can also diminish the items, edit them, only providing certain photographs . This is an issue for archives and libraries the world over. Reductions. Photographs can also reduced as physical objects. Sometimes only the image is preserved. Not the back or the physicality of the image, marks, wear and tear, notes and stamps. Is this a loss? No longer a question of photography but of history? Is this a difference between image banks and archives?

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Filed under July 2011, Readings

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