critical writing, digital image

unthinking photographic culture

June 30, 2023

This is Andrew Dewdney’s argument in his Forget Photography. Forgetting photography is a thought experiment and a critique of photographic theory and culture. Forgetting is a strategy enabling a view of photography from a future present. 

The traditional conception of photography that Dewdney wants us to forget is this one:

“Photography as part of the reproduction of ways of seeing has, over the course of the twentieth century, become naturalised in the everyday life world as a transparent window on reality, as well as being adopted as a scientific measure and an aesthetic expression… The central fact that whatever it has been has changed and that such a situation throws us back upon language as the means by which the visual image has to be rethought…If photography is no longer photography, then what is it we are doing on our smart phones, cameras and computers, uploading, scrolling, swiping, saving, sharing and printing? Image making has become inherent to life itself. If this is not photography, then what is it?”

The network image is a provisional definition of the new condition of the image in a computational digital culture.

5x4 Linhof Technika IV
grounded branch, Waitpinga bushland

Though the ontology of photography has changed radically photographic culture hasn’t. However,  the computational networked image is still promoted in terms of the language and conventions of photography, which only masks the new networked condition of the image. Secondly, and paradoxically, in computational culture photography proliferates as the dominant language of the representational real.

So a question: is there a specific way of seeing the world through digital visualising technologies emerging? This implies a notion of visual culture as the visuality that dominates a particular place and time, structuring how it sees both itself and others in a specific context. This contextualiseation can be achieved by focusing on specific ‘ways of seeing’. 

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