Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence

Daniel Palmer, ‘Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence’, pp.47-65, in:

Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. Article Press, Birmingham, UK.

p.47

The history of photography is also a history of automation.

p.48

Needless to say, the primary aim of automation is to reduce human labour time (related to a secondary aim of removing human error). Indeed, certain kinds of cameras today – such as those designed to identify car number plates – need no regular human operator at all.

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The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object

Vilém Flusser. ‘The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object: An Essay on the Ontological Standing of Photographs’ Leonardo, 19:4, 329-332, 1986

p.329

The Latin term ‘objectum’ and its Greek equivalent ‘problema’ mean ‘thrown against’, which implies that there is something against which the object is thrown: a ‘subject’. As subjects, we face a universe of objects, of problems, which are somehow hurled against us. This opposition is dynamic. The objects approach the subject, they come from the future into the subject’s presence.

The shock between subject and object occurs over the abyss of alienation which separates the two. The present tendency is to relegate this shock from human subjects to automatic apparatus. Automatic cameras may serve as an example.

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The real terror of Instagram

Crano, R., 2018. ‘The real terror of Instagram: Death and disindividuation in the social media scopic field’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 135485651775036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856517750364

p.2

Well beyond photography’s mere digitization, we now have recourse to nuanced notions of the live, networked, and algorithmic image. Such concepts, and the methodological ambits that emerge alongside them, situate contemporary photography, appropriately, within broader trends of and discourses on participatory culture, user-generated content, and ‘prosumption’.

What I would like to do here, in part, is to further contextualize this participatory turn – in culture generally and in photography specifically – alongside broader socioeconomic transformations and emergent techniques of capitalist subject-formation and exploitation.

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The Double Logic of Remediation

Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, ‘The Double Logic of Remediation’, pp.2-15, in:

Bolter, J.D., Grusin, R., 2003. Remediation: understanding new media. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

p.5

In this last decade of the twentieth century, we are in an unusual position to appreciate remediation, because of the rapid development of new digital media and the nearly as rapid response by traditional media. Older electronic and print media are seeking to reaffirm their status within our culture as digital media challenge that status. Both new and old media are invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their efforts to remake themselves and each other.

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Digital Photography

Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, ‘Digital Photography’, pp.104-112, in:

Bolter, J.D., Grusin, R., 2003. Remediation: understanding new media. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

p.105

Many remediations are reciprocal in the sense that they invite us to imagine each medium as trying to remediate the other. In such cases, deciding which medium is remediating and which is remediated is a matter of interpretation, for it comes down to which medium is regarded as more important for a certain purpose.

Computer photorealism is trying to achieve precisely what digital photography is trying to prevent: the overcoming and replacement of the earlier technology of photography.

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Media Archaeography

Wolfgang Ernst, ‘Media Archaeography: Method and Machine Versus History and Narrative Of Media’, pp.239-255, in:

Huhtamo, E., Parikka, J. (Eds.), 2011. Media archaeology: approaches, applications, and implications. University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif.

p.239

The media-archaeological method as proposed here is meant as an epistemological alternative approach to the supremacy of media-historical narratives. Equally close to disciplines that analyse material (hardware) culture and to the Foucauldian notion of the “archive” as the set of rules governing the range of what can be verbally, audiovisually, or alphanumerically expressed at all, media archaeology is both a method and an aesthetics of practising media criticism, a kind of epistemological reverse engineering, and an awareness of moments when media themselves, not explicitly humans any more, come active “archaeologists” of knowledge.

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Photo-genic Assemblages: Photography as a connective interface

Edgar Gómez Cruz, ‘Photo-genic Assemblages: Photography as a connective interface’, pp.228-242, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.228

Photography, as we have understood it for more than a century, has radically changed and we are still in the process of those changes becoming stabilised.

The opening point of this chapter is that digital photography is shaping different ‘assemblages of visuality’ (see Wise 2013) from those of its photo-chemical predecessor.

I understand ‘assemblage’ following Latour’s (1990) ideas of a fixed arrangement between technologies, practices and discourses.

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Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing

Eve Forrest, ‘Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing’, pp.193-208, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.193

Looking around me, I could see little that I thought was worth photographing. However, one of the photographers beside me suddenly stopped still, then, crouched down. I observed them at work as they moved around: making micro adjustments to their feet, fingers, shoulders and head movements, getting their body in the best position to take the picture.

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Is the camera an extension of the photographer?

Martin Lister, ‘Is the camera an extension of the photographer?’, pp.267-272, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.267

The act of finding meaning in the photograph is, of course, to engage photography as representation. This, in turn (if it is not to be an innocent reading), inevitably entails a measure of academic discipline and methodology: the semiological scrutiny of images treated as texts, with the aim of revealing or interpreting the meanings included within them.

With regard to photography, this is a developed practice that, over the last 30 years or so, became almost synonymous with photography theory.

Now the ongoing convergence of photography with computing and the rapid development of photography as a networked and computational medium have rendered photography radically more transient, relational, dynamic and polymorphous; we have witnessed a kind of supercharging of what it already was!

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