Sitting in the darkened gallery, I spent a long time trying to discern if the back-projected image I was looking at was moving. The fact that the image of a snow-capped mountain surrounded by trees was accompanied by a field recording of wind and other sounds familiar from the outdoors seemed to suggest that it should move, as in a film. Yet, as I peered at the screen I could see no evidence of trees blowing in the wind, or of a bird flying across the sky. At one point during my visit, the screen suddenly went blank, the image reappearing a few seconds later, only, I think, lit slightly differently: the shadows shorter. Continue reading
No more boring photographs?
Some remarks on Philip Schmitt’s Camera Restricta
“The person who has never climbed a mountain has never lived. He merely vegetates on a level plain. What he lacks is the third dimension, the dimension of the sublime.”
– Vilem Flusser, quoted by Michael Najjar 
In 2008 Michael Najjar travelled to Argentina to climb Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. While there he photographed the mountain and its surrounding peaks using an analogue camera; these photograph later became the basis of his 2010 series high altitude. In this series, the line of these already imposing mountain ranges is altered so that they no longer follow their natural path but instead trace the rise and fall of a number of the world’s stock indices – including NASDAQ, the Dow Jones, the DAX and the Hangseng. One image, perhaps the most potent of the series, deals with one single company: the infamous Lehman Brothers bank, the collapse of which is widely attributed as the trigger for the 2008 financial crash.
Indexicality between Sensors and Social Media
In a previous post,  I finished with a quote from a New Yorker article by Craig Mod, in which he suggested some different types of data that might be gathered and ‘pinned’ to the ‘back’ of a digital photograph. Amongst the data he suggested we might collect were “location, weather, even radiation levels […] social status and state of mind”, in other words data drawn from sensors and from social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  I made the point then that there is a huge difference between data taken from a sensor and data from taken from Facebook, the first is reliant on measuring some kind of physical quality; the second, the expressions of people. I stand by that point, but now I want to examine the two in a little more detail. Continue reading
Some remarks on Mishka Henner’s _IMG01
Let us, just for a moment, put aside all issues of digital manipulation, staged and synthetic photographs; and assume that the photograph, analogue or digital, is a photograph of something in the world. If the photograph shows us, to borrow a phrase from Barthes, the necessarily real thing that was placed before the lens,  then it follows that there must have been some other necessarily real things just beyond the camera’s view. If the photograph shows us an embalmed moment in time, then it follows that time continues to pass after the camera’s shutter closed. In short the photograph shows us a small slice of space and time, both of which extend well beyond its frame. Continue reading
Any discussion on the index, no matter the context, must at some point refer to the writings of C.S. Peirce who, as I noted in my first post on the index, outlined three principle types of sign: likeness (icon), indication (index), and symbol. To recapitulate: an icon is a sign that conveys an idea of the thing it represents simply by imitating it (as in a drawing), an index is a sign that shows something about its referent on account of being physically connected to it (as in a footprint), and a symbol is a sign that has come to be associated with its meaning by usage (as in words).  Continue reading
It should go without saying that the way we interact with photography has undergone a seismic shift since the days of the album or the shoebox full of snapshots. More and more of our photographs are never printed but stored on our computers and shared through social networking sites like Facebook. We also have far more photographs than ever before, so we need new ways to store and organise these images. Metadata – which the Oxford Dictionary defines as: “A set of data that gives information about other data”  – is a critical component of our new photographic ecology, as it exerts a huge influence on both the storage and the visibility of our photographs. Continue reading
Digital Indexicality beyond Photography
I’ve hopefully by now established that the index is a sign with a physical connection to its referent, which might, but may very well but not necessarily also share with it a visual likeness. In my last post, I touched on process as being a key component of indexicality – that it is the process by which something comes into being that makes it indexical or not. If a chemical photograph can be considered an index by virtue of its method of production forcing it to correspond ‘point by point to nature’  can this not also apply to digital media? Continue reading