Wednesday, 16 September 2009

After Photography

In his inspiring new book After Photography (W.W. Norton & Company, New York 2009), Fred Ritchin quotes filmmaker Wim Wenders:

"The digitized picture has broken the relationship between picture and reality once and for all. We are entering an era when no one will be able to say whether a picture is true or false. They are all becoming beautiful and extraordinary, and with each passing day they belong increasingly to the world of advertising. Their beauty, like their truth, is slipping away from us. Soon, they will really end up making us blind."

This, however, is not how Ritchin himself sees it. He writes: "In the digital environment ... the photograph is no longer a tangible object, a rectangle resembling a painting, but an ephemeral image made of tiles." He illustrates his point very convincingly, I find: "For example, a new photographic template could be devised in which information is hidden in all the four corners of the image so that those interested could make it visible by placing the cursor over each corner to create a roll-over. The bottom right corner might contain issues of authorship and copyright; the bottom left could contain the caption and amplifying comments by the photographer; the upper left could contain responses to the image by its subjects; and the upper right could give information as to how the reader can become involved, help, learn more, by providing Web addresses and other guidance."

Great! Wonderful! I'd be all for it! The reason I warm to it so much is that in this way we would get a much more realistic picture of reality than we presently (can) have; it would be easier to see (also in the sense of "to understand") that what we term reality is essentially negotiated. Such an approach has the potential to liberate us from contexts imposed by photographers, photo editors and other context providers. But, do we want this? Do we really want, and can we cope with, even more uncertainty than the one that we experience already?

The full review you will find here

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