Part 3: We are all Photographers Now
It is probably truer to say that “We are all broadcasters now”.
Project 1 – The Dynamic Image – notes
The practical difference between the analogue and the digital image carries far reaching implications for the nature of the medium. The ontology (philosophical study) of the photograph – how it is unique in its nature and compares, philosophically, to other forms of representation – has always been debated.
The digital image tends only to have a temporary presence on a screen or archived on a hard drive. The analogue image has a permanent physical presence.
The digital image is made up of defined pixels rather than continuous tones. The digital formation of 1s and 0s can be likened to DNA (the picture’s genetic code). Within the picture’s genetic code can be hidden metadata either large or small. It is the potential for this storage of metadata which is so powerful and this leads to hyperphotography.
Exercise 3.1 – Notes on Fred Ritchin’s essay “Toward a Hyperphotography” (Ritchin F. (2009) After Photography)
The distinction between analogue and digital is crucial (WJ Mitchell. (1992) The Reconfigured Eye). The digital photograph is based on creating discrete and malleable records of the visible that can be linked, transmitted, re -contextualised and fabricated.
The digital photograph can be conceived of as a meta-image (a map of squares) each capable of being individually modified and able to serve as a pathway elsewhere. It is perfect for hyperlinking data. It can explicitly acknowledge time as integer (not as flow). A digital camera can be part of a larger personal communicator that will keep appointments, make calls, take visual notes, check calendars, order from restaurants, check blood pressure, tune into tv, radio and personal playlists.
The communication potential starts to become more important than the singularity of the photographic vision. ~The “photographer” becomes a communicator.
There are those who have photographed the stone hitting the water and rejoiced in the camera’s ability to freeze the pivotal event in a fraction of a second. These have been conventional photojournalists.
Then there are those who focused on the ripples that the force of the stone hitting the water produces, distrusting the event itself but seeing its significance in its impact on people and place. These are more likely to have been the photo essayists, or more broadly stated, the documentary photographers. When Henri Cartier-Bresson was offered an exclusive ticket to attend the coronation of King George VI in 1936, for example, he would have had a scoop. But by turning it down to focus on the reactions of poor people lining the streets outside, he made some of his most memorable photographs – and did so for “Ce Soir”, a communist daily. He chose the ripples not the stone.
There are others who profoundly mistrust the depiction of either stone or ripples being no more than the camouflaging conventions of photography that conceal the medium’s transformative effect. Such photographers may prefer to stage the scene while shouting “mediation” as loudly as possible. Like scientists that know that the presence of the observer may alter the results of the experiment, and like McLuhanites we believe that “the medium is the message”. Post modernists and other interlocutors want to make sure that viewers don’t fall into an easy complicity with the process. They may include within the image their cameras, microphones, even themselves, as ways of heightening our unease about our assumptions.
Now there will undoubtedly be a variety of new strategies as more practitioners, artists, documentarians – professionals and amateurs – choose to expand and harness an evolving medium that can respond to some of photography’s frailties, its lies and limitations, with new methodologies.
Unmasking Photo Opportunities, Cubistically
Cubism – The contradictory double image is cubist, reality has no single truth. Seeing things from all sides. A multi perspectival strategy would help devalue spin.
Look for contradictory images which make the viewer think – What is right?
Photos made to consciously echo other photos:
- Raising of flag at world trade centre 2001 set against destruction of Chilean legislature.
- Photo of devastated Kabul next to the World Trade Centre before 2001 before US started to bomb Afghanistan.
Link 1 – Fred Ritchin – Key aspects of the digitalisation of Photography
- It is now easy to manipulate photographs.
- We can prepare future news i.e. a picture which predicts what will happen tomorrow.
- There is a picture of Freud on the cover of one of the issues of Time Magazine. It is not Freud but an actor dressed up. There are many examples of this kind of deceit.
- Photography doesn’t trust itself any more.
- Ritchin is doing a project on the photography of peace rather than war. (picture of a Syrian person at the dentist or the barbers). often these pictures are taken by the people rather than the press.
- Murders on the subway gets a massive press and puts people off travelling on the New York subway. We never see the good things that go on. These would balance out the story.
- Social media shows pictures of us photographing us. Professional documentary shows pictures of them photographing them.
- Reference Susan Sontag “The pain of others”.
- Jeff wall picture of dead bodies was a big seller. He used actors to produce a piece of art, the dead talking to each other. Susan Sontag saw it as the only war photo which influenced her.
- One artist puts the pictures up at the point where they were taken (particularly effective if war photos).
- JR (photographer) Project – Women are heroes. This artist makes the pictures large and waterproof and uses them as roof coverings.
- Think of producing postcards from the future.
- “marche sur mes yeux” reference.
Some great examples of Cubistically unmasking:
- OJ Simpson photo in Time Magazine where he is shown blacker than he really is as opposed to the same picture in Newsweek where he is the right colour. Time Magazine were accused of racism. They defined it as art.
- Two identical pictures of Lance Corporal Boudreeau holding text, the text being totally contradictory.
- A picture of George Bush holding the Christmas turkey for the troops linked with a picture of the actual turkey which they ate.
- A picture of 9/11 adjacent to a picture of America bombing Afghanistan.
- 1994 image of US soldiers invading Haiti (heroic image). In actual fact the soldiers were pointing their guns at press photographers thereby fabricating the story.
Cubistic unmasking is all about attaching one image to the other.
By attaching information to an image we are not necessarily contradicting the first image but we are providing the viewer additional information to allow him / her to form a more valued judgement. The contradictory double image is cubist which is starting to suggest that reality has no single truth.
Website References – Cubistically Unmasking
Examples I have found:
1 The Death of Bin Laden
It is well known that when Bin Laden was shot, the press did not publish pictures of his body. Partly this was in order not to upset religious and cultural orders but also because of the current ability to manipulate photographs, it would generate too much debate without resolution.
Therefore the following picture was issued in its place:
A picture of the so called American team.
It is thought that a genuine photograph of the dead body was taken but so far the best we have has turned out to be a fake:
This was published on the CNET website referred to earlier.
More likely to be real are the following two photographs which only start to unfold the story.
The viewer can start to formulate the true story but how can the viewer be sure that the above two pictures are real. Is the blood that of Bin Laden’s and this the (true?) picture of Bin Laden actually taken within his hide? Has his body been superimposed onto the background. In a news story as sensitive as this, anything can happen.
2 Paired photographs from boredpanda.com
Girl in the Rain
These six photographs taken from boredpanda website demonstrate the ease with which the viewer can be deceived and the simplicity of developing a cubistically unmasked photo opportunity. If a video or link to another website can then be added as metadata to the original photograph, each story can be developed even further.