The Photographic Image in Digital Culture – Edited by Martin Lister

(770.1LIS in CSM Library)


This is a brief summary of some of the ideas that I gleaned from the book. It is very useful for the digital perspective in comparison to the analog. It even discusses whether the topic of digital versus analog is an appropriate discussion.


I’ll phrase them as a series of questions:


Post-photographic era: 


New technological procedures are being anxiously seen to undermine a practical tradition of visual representation. I wouldn’t pinpoint this as luddite per se, but perhaps a nostalgic view of photography and its advancements. The photographic image has been transported into the culture of hypermedia, virtual worlds and interactive global communication – it has become a completely different language in comparison to the photographic image in the gallery. This new spectrum-like arena for the photographic image might be viewed positively, as the analog photograph gains new meaning and historical relevance.


Traditionally the photographer is viewed as the ‘trained and knowing eye’ with the camera as an extension of this knowing body. The products of this entity is then fed into the audience to take a critical perspective of – the bourgeois model of art . The audience of the now takes a different role altogether with the shift towards a more participatory culture. (Good journal to read on this: Peter Brüger: The Negation of the Autonomy of Art by the Avant Garde) Digital photographs are accessible to manipulate, to disseminate and to re-contextualise. ‘Instead of focusing attention upon the photograph as the product of a specific mechanical and chemical technology, we need to consider its technological, semiotic, and social hybrid-ness; the way in which its meanings and power are the result of a mixture and compound of forces and not a singular, essential and inherent quality.’


What if we create a critical (digital) space for the picking apart of photographs uploaded about an event?


The reproducibility of the photograph has been superseded by the technology of simple appropriation. The journey an image takes from chemical photograph to its techno-social circulation is one that undergoes hyper-mediacy and complex translation. Just as a chemical photograph undergoes calculated modification in the darkroom or post-production, a digital photograph (or a translated chemical photograph) undergoes a less calculated form of modification through weaving its way through the internet. Both paths show a parallel to being a progressive/regressive assembly of thoughts and activity, but one on a personal (photographer) level, and one on a multi-contextual (participatory consumers) level.


 I do not view the social aspect of photography as undermining the importance of photography but rather as a different medium of expression altogether. The photograph, after all, still has its place in the gallery. The photograph in cyberspace is within a different context, along with the Internet’s implications. ‘The medium is the message.’ (Marshall McLuhan)


What if we documented the degradation of a photograph in relationship to the journey a photograph takes on the net? Like the tracked history of reappropriation of an image. Perhaps use Google analytics?


The photograph of today is seldom experienced alone, ‘they are embedded and contexted [sic] in other sign systems. Primarily, these are those of the written word, graphic design and institutional connotations.’ These relationships between photographs alter their meaning. 

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