Tag, reproducibility
01.06.–15.07.2013
4. Sharing Seeing

“I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.”

I am citing Roland Barthes, from the opening of his book on photography, Camera Lucida. I want my post this week—a shorter post than usual, a set of questions or ponderings more than an essay—to act as a kind of postscript to last week’s entry.

I intimated there that photography invokes a rethinking of vision, of the look and of the gaze. Surely this is well-trodden territory. But is it exhausted? Does it need to be re-opened? Last week, my subject was the irreconcilability at the heart of photographic seeing, the non-coincidence of the gaze in photography as one of its most essential features. But there is of course another set of relations attached to the photographic gaze that needs further reflection. I am thinking now not of non-coincidence, but of doubling; I am thinking of what I want to call the recursive structure of photographic sight that non-coincidence spawns. more

Published: 02.07.2013
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2. The Philosophers

And I ask: How did the beauty of that hair,
those eyes, beguile our forebears?
How did that mouth kiss, to which desire
curls up senseless as smoke without fire?

Thus Walter Benjamin breaks into poetry, citing the writing of Stefan George, in the 1931 essay “Little History of Photography”—this essay so strangely titled, sharing its self-stated size and density and intensity, we might say, with the object of its analysis, with photography itself—its images formerly miniaturized and condensed. What is a “Little History,” I’ve always wondered? The best I have come up with is that Benjamin’s is a text that wants to correspond with its object, an essay that wants to be like photography itself. more

Published: 11.06.2013
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4. Another Threshold

Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Emile Zola, from 1868, currently on view at the Royal Academy in London in the Manet: Portraying Life exhibition is usually interpreted as a testimony of the friendship between the artist and a writer who was one of his strongest supporters in those years. The painting shows Zola seated sideways at his work table, surrounded by papers, objects, and pictures that point to this relationship, and, it has been noted, to Manet’s own tastes: a decorated screen on the left, a pamphlet bearing Manet’s name on the desk, and above, in the top right corner of the picture, a Japanese print and a lithograph of Velasquez partly concealed by a reproduction of Manet’s own Olympia. It is to these last three objects I would like to direct my attention, in order to think about a technological and aesthetic threshold a century-and-a-half back that may or may not serve as a model for the relationship between analogue and digital photography today. more

Published: 28.03.2013
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15.09.–31.10.2012
5. A Subject for, a History about, Photography

My previous posts have explored the various ramifications of photography’s reproducibility, pursuing the way this attribute disseminates the photograph, securing, dispersing and dissipating its identity in about equal measure. I have suggested that this pursuit considerably complicates the traditional representation of photography’s history, undermining any narrative based on single artists or single prints or indeed on chronology or purity of medium—undermining, in other words, much of the traditional infrastructure of published histories of photography. more

Published: 17.10.2012
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4. Photography and Authorship

My previous post touched on the complications that arise from photography’s dependence on a negative-positive system of reproduction, a system that divides the photograph from itself but also divides the act of photographing into a number of separate elements, each of them able to be undertaken by different workers. The authorship of individual photographs is therefore often a collective enterprise stretched over a considerable time period, even though this fact tends to be repressed in our historical accounts of photography. Those histories instead privilege individuals and the logic of individualism and this allows them to avoid having to address the complexity of authorship in all its various manifestations. more

Published: 07.10.2012
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3. Still Searching: “the dark, repressed side”

My previous post briefly mentioned the negative as one crucial component of the identity of many photographs. It is, nevertheless, an aspect of that identity often ignored by histories of photography, where negatives are rarely reproduced or discussed at any length. Negatives, it seems, are truly the repressed, dark side of photography’s history. True, there is a conference (could it be the first?) on the negative being planned for Munich in February. But my interest is not in reviving the study of the negative as an object unto itself (although photographers in the nineteenth century did often exhibit their negatives, to display their technical prowess) but in pursuing the consequences of the reproductive economy that photographic negatives represent. more

Published: 01.10.2012
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1. Dissemination

The theme of my contribution to Still Searching is inspired by Walter Benjamin’s famous essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility’ (1935-36). Or, rather, it is inspired by the striking absence of discussions of reproduction and its effects in the literature about photography since this essay first appeared. So I guess I am searching, in the first instance, for the reasons for this absence, given that Benjamin’s essay has been made compulsory reading for a generation of students and is one of the most cited in serious texts about the photographic experience. more

Published: 15.09.2012
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