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'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'

a deluge of images   August 13, 2014

The sheer quantity of photographs currently being made is stunning. The image is replacing text.

Marvin Heiferman says that it is estimated that every day, 1.3 billion photographs are made. Of those, 350 million are uploaded to Facebook. Google+ users, who are currently being offered some of the most advanced and easy to use photo-editing tools to lure them away from Facebook, are posting another 214 million a day. 150 million photos are shared through Snapchat, 55 million via Instagram, and another 1.4 million are added to Flickr. Many of them are just going to disappear.

In the analogue past people photographed Kodak moments---the special moments/events in their lives. Now, with the smart phone, people are taking the representation into their own hands and to confront, rehearse, perform, and then publish images that track where or declare who they are. The current uses of images in our everyday lives suggests that photography traditional definition as a hobby or career is been replaced by photography central role in our culture. We are all image creators now and we are taking more and more pictures of details: coffee, signs, painted nails, plates of food, feet.

Rather than being a universal language photography is multiple visual languages. People have wildly different contexts in which they use photographs — different criteria for assessing them, reasons for taking them, priorities when looking at and evaluating them. Photographs are useful to people in different ways than they are useful to others. That means we need a broader appreciation of photography as it comes to play an ever more central role in our lives.

The most sustained and promoted discourse around photography has taken place in the worlds of art and art photography, which has been preoccupied with images made as art or the handful of vernacular images that get upgraded to that status. This is a very narrow focus that excludes most photographs and when reading and writing alone longer define 21st century literacy in a world where images and language are intertwined and of equal importance.

The Marvin Heiferman, edited Photography Changes Everything argues that rather than concentrating on fine art and documentary photography, as is usually the case in serious studies of the subject, we need to see photography as the sprawling, kaleidoscopic thing that it is. Most photography has nothing to do with art or documentary work. Instead everyone from scientists and engineers to soldiers, anthropologists, social reformers, fashion designers, diplomats, poets, and pornographers have used photography as a tool of their trade.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:50 AM |
seeing machines   July 28, 2014

I lost contact with the Still Searching blog on photography hosted by Fotomuseum. The blog sees itself as a

continually developing, growing and decidedly interactive Internet discourse on the medium of photography that features a multitude of participants; it is conceived as an online debate on forms of photographic production, techniques, applications, distribution strategies, contexts, theoretical foundations, ontology and perspectives on the medium. It explores photography’s role as a seminal visual medium of our time—as art, as a communication and information tool in the context of social media or photojournalism, and as a form of scientific or legal evidence.

Coming back to it I notice a series of posts by Trevor Paglen that starts here with Is Photography Over? Paglen says that:
In order to have anything to curate, critique, or discuss, a very small slice of the photographic landscape has to be carved out and isolated for discussion, such as “fine-art” photography, “documentary” photography, “historical” photography, even “analog” photography. As a consequence of narrowing the objects of inquiry so dramatically, he critical discussion around photography ends up inevitably admitting only a very small range of photographic practices into its purview. Consequently, critical discussions take shape around a small range of photographic images and practices which are extreme exceptions to the rule. Photography theory and criticism has less and less to do with the way photography is actually practiced by most people (and as we will see, most machines) most of the time. The corollary to this narrowing of the field is that traditional conversations and problems of photo theory have become largely exhausted. Simply put, there is probably not much more to say about such problems as “indexicality,” “truth claims,” “the rhetoric of the image,” and other touchstones of classical photography theory

Photography,” as it has been traditionally understood in theory and practice, has undergone a transition – it has become something else, something that’s difficult to make sense of within the existing analytic framework.

Paglen then asks: if a traditional understanding of “photography” is ill-suited to making sense of the 21st Century’s photographic landscape, then how do we begin to think about what “photography” has become and is becoming?

He answers by developing an expanded definition of photography, and exploring the implications of that expanded definition.The expanded idea is photography as seeing machines.:

Seeing machines includes familiar photographic devices and categories like viewfinder cameras and photosensitive films and papers, but quickly moves far beyond that. It embraces everything from iPhones to airport security backscatter-imaging devices, from electro-optical reconnaissance satellites in low-earth orbit, to QR code readers at supermarket checkouts, from border checkpoint facial-recognition surveillance cameras to privatized networks of Automated License Plate Recognition systems, and from military wide-area-airborne-surveillance systems, to the roving cameras on board legions of Google’s Street View” cars.

The idea of seeing machines helps us to see what photography, as it is actually practiced in the world now, has become.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:37 PM |