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.


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.

Continue reading “Digital Photography”


Sensation and Photography

Zahid R Chaudhary, ‘Sensation and Photography’, pp.1-35, in:

Chaudhary, Z.R., 2012. Afterimage of empire: photography in nineteenth-century India. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis; London.


How might we reorient our understandings of colonial representations if we shift our focus to that interface between bodies and world that is the precondition for making meaning?

In Afterimage of Empire I argue that, following the well-traveled routes of global capital, photography arrives in India not only as a technology of the colonial state but also as an instrument that extends and transforms sight for photographers and the body politic, British and Indian alike.

Continue reading “Sensation and Photography”

Afghan Box Camera

Birk, L., Foley, S., 2013. Afghan box camera. Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, England.


Gulbert would recite prayers and verses and blow on the camera, and then take out the photographs announcing, “A MIRACLE!”


In Afghanistan in the 1950s a simple hand-made wooden camera known as the kamra-e-faoree began to be used widely in the country for the first time.

Further afield in industrialised Europe and North America, patented relations had already appeared in the 1910s; whilst the photograph process the camera used was first introduced by William Henry Fox-Talbot in 1840s England.

In contrast […] to photography as a thing of the elite, the kamra-e-faoree brought photography to the common man and quite literally, to the street.

Only a narrow pavement slot was required to fit a camera, a chair and a cloth backdrop. The chair in which the customer posed for the portrait could also serve the photographer as a perch on which to rest or even sleep in quieter times. The camera lid provided a handy platform on which to place a pair of scissors and box of photo paper as well as hold a mug of tea and a saucer of sweets.

Continue reading “Afghan Box Camera”

The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State

John Tagg, ‘The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State’, pp.1-49, in:
Tagg, J., 2009. The disciplinary frame: photographic truths and the capture of meaning. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.


This carefully constructed room has an old name. It is a camera. A room, but a room with a purpose: the training of light, graphing it—quite literally, photo-graphing, subjecting light to the punctual rule of the room’s inbuilt geometrical law.

The camera is, then, a place to isolate and discipline light, like a room in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. And, like that room in the Panopticon, the cell of the camera has its utility both as a training machine and as a device for producing and preserving text.

Continue reading “The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State”

Photography, Vision and Representation

Joel Snyder & Neil Walsh Allen, ‘Photography, Vision, and Representation’, pp.143-169 in:
Critical Inquiry, Vol.2, Autumn 1975.


Is there anything peculiarly “photographic” about photography – something which sets it apart from all other ways of making pictures?

[…] for most of this century the majority of critics and laymen alike have tended to answer these questions in the same way: that photographs and paintings differ in an important way and require different methods in interpretation precisely because photographs and paintings come into being in different ways.

Continue reading “Photography, Vision and Representation”

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.


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.

Continue reading “Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing”

Between Bodies and Machines

Eve Forrest, ‘Between Bodies and Machines: Photographers with Cameras, Photographers on Computers’, pp.105-122, in:

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


This discussion has two aims. The first is to move discourse on photography away from the dominant representational framework that often ignores the doings of the photographer.

Continue reading “Between Bodies and Machines”

Publicités Kodak

Jean-Claude Gautrand, Publicités Kodak: 1910-1939 (Paris: Contre-jour, 1983).


The advertised image is no less ephemeral than the newspaper, the magazine or the poster that conveys it. The need to continually  repeat the commercial message, to reassess its visual impact and to avoid visual boredom leads to making a series of images that follow one another, modify one another and overlap in order to reflect tastes, fashion and present cultural trends as closely as possible. These series can even go so far as to create new habits and new needs to which they offer the right answer.

If ‘You Press the Button, we do the rest’ has remained one of the most enduring and exemplary formulas for the whole history of advertising, it has with the years accompanied series of new images that celebrate the technological improvements, which in spite of their popularity were intended for a certain social class.

Continue reading “Publicités Kodak”

Photography and Commercial Illustration

Elspeth H. Brown, ‘Photography and Commercial Illustration’ The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884 – 1929, Studies in Industry and Society (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2005). 159-216


Advertising matured as a profession in response to a new problem for American business: how to stimulate demand among consumers for the machined cornucopia of standardised products filling the shelves of American retail establishments.

Whereas earlier advocates of American productive efficiency, such as the Gilbreths, had championed the use of photography in rationalising the working body in production, by the 1920s the influence of applied psychology  had reoriented managers towards an appreciation of the mind as the critical element of rationalised consumption.

As the profile of the implied consumer shifted from that of “rational man” to “irrational woman” in the years 1908-15, photography’s realist tendencies became a problem for a new school of advertisers seeking to harness the subjective for the benefit of corporate sales.


In 1920 the home economist and advertising adviser Christine Frederick attached percentage figures to a general portrait with which advertisers had been familiar for some time: ” Women buy 48 per cent of all drugs, 96 per cent of all dry goods, 87 per cent of raw and market foods, 48.5 per cent of hardware and home furnishings.” As the purchasers of most products, women were the advertisers’ target audience. As the twenties unfolded, new audiences came into view, such as the massive working-class female readership of bernarr Macfadden’s True Story magazine. But as Roland Marchand has convincingly argued, admen tended to collapse class distinctions into a composite portrait: the typical consumer was not only a woman but a lazy, emotional, stupid one at that.



Advertisements for canned food, cameras, corsets, and carriages increasingly used photography to show a product’s selling points in realist detail. Products were displayed with the crisp insistence of edge-to-edge focus; advertisers assumed that photography’s ability to reproduce the detail, formerly lost in, for example, wood engravings or pen-and-ink drawings would sell the customer on the product’s fine workmanship.


So long as advertising photography worked within a model of rational rather than emotional appeal, this lack of mystery (referred to elsewhere as “art”) was unproblematic; sharply focussed, barely composed, and blandly presented photographic records were considered superior instruments of visual persuasion for many products.


Photography’s value as the preferred medium of efficient rationality became a distinct problem when advertisers and psychologists began to shift their model of the typical consumer from “rational man” to “emotional woman” in the first decade of the century.


Most photographic advertisements lacked what Kodak and other advertising writers throughout the twenties called “human interest”. Human interest in advertising required a story about the product, usually depicted by human figures shown using or benefitting from the product.

In 1913, Kodak sought to move photographers toward the making of “pictures that gracefully and effectively tell a story”. To meet this goal, photographers needed to move past the straightforward depiction of products required for catalog illustration to the artistic suggestion of narrative within the still image of the advertisement.


C.B.Larrabee, discussing Kodak’s superior photographic advertisements, described what advertisers were looking for as “sincere naturalness”. Kodak’s ads “seldom suggest the photographic  studio, which is the big secret that the successful commercial photographers have learned. […]”

Photographic Initiatives: The Initiative of Industrial Technology

Van Lier, Henri. Philosophy of Photography, Lieven Gevaert Series, 6, New ed. (Leuven: Univ. Press, 2007)

Part Two: Photographic Initiatives: I. The Initiative of Industrial Technology, pp.54-58


[…] the different technical combinations inflecting the photographic processes of each epoch are divided amongst the classical masters of the history of photography, each one of them pushing the technical possibilities available at that time to their extremes, just like ancient artists used to do. A photographer’s “photographic subject”, that is to say his systematic exploitation of particular perceptual field effects, is intricately bound to this choice, much in the same way a painter’s “pictorial subject” was bound to the props, pigments and media he had at his disposal.


However, a photographer does not depend on his apparatuses and his lenses in the same manner that Beethoven depended on his piano makers, who were few and lived close by. Someone using photography depends on a photographic technician who sees to thousands f individuals all over the world. who in their turn depend on a gigantic planetary processing, i.e. photography.

In fact, for every shot or zoom lens, for every film, developer or  fixative to be possible at a given moment in time, it is necessary that at least three conditions are met. Marketing engineers must be aware of the conscious and unconscious desires of a truly international market. Throughout the world, these desire, which often form technically incompatible combinations, must be supplied in compatible combinations whose elements are to be given form by either physical engineers for the lenses, or either chemists, for the film. The moment these combinations are known, their means of production must enter the harsh manufacturing and distributional competition governing the global market.

Of course singular developments might occur, as with Edwin H. Land, who was simultaneously the designer, producer and marketer of the Polaroid. However, even this case  presupposes a strong connection between the industrial and the scientific. Land was anything but an artisan. Photography places its users within a multi-dimensional and planetary technical network, putting the species to work so to speak.

This international process, defines a kind of homo photographicus. The latter undoubtably began as a realist. What mattered most was that photographic representations rendered things not as they physically behave, but as they appear to us after perceptual correction.

Especially in the West, man as technician, as well as technology are thus subordinated to man as user-consumer.

However, the position of a planetary homo photographicus also produced an inverse subordination, in which technology, changed by its own logic, modifies the perceptual and mental habits of human beings. An example of this concerns recent cartography, where one can see a photograph couple to a computer offering geographical and historical positions in curved space that are neither subjected to orthogonal arrangements, nor to realistic colours, nor to recognisable measuring standards. However we are not disturbed; instead we concentrate and treat it as obvious.

Crossing cultural barriers, the photograph, together with other planetary processes such as the computer, sound, the car and the plane, has therefore given birth to a more topological than geometric appropriation and understanding that activates mental schemas in an operative rather than conceptual or ideal fashion, where data processing is pivotal and where the real has precedence over reality and realism.


Anyone present at a convention of photographers, as if at an ancient Church Synod, could see members of this semi-fraternal and semi-aggressive movement passing around equipment from hand to hand, with everyone touching, weighing and handling it, not so much so as to discover what one already knows, but to participate in a ritual, a cult.

The camera is not an object. It is a relay in a process or network, just like his acoustic brother, the tape recorder. And the network, as Gilbert Simonden pointed out has become one of the places for the contemporary sacred.

In the information-noise and signs-indices of the Universe to which we are exposed, the unrestrained excess of man’s technical devices, or more precisely his technical environment, which is not merely a means, is more often than not the most pertinent to the system. Besides, what does one mean with pertinence when studying luminous, possibly indicial and possibly indexed imprints.

Thus, the photograph is one of three or four spaces – together with sound, lighting, the computer, the car, and the airplane – that manifests the true initiatory character of technology in our contemporary world. In this sense, photography is not only technical but technological.