“Networked images”. A conversation with Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke´s paper

I just finished the reading of the paper Mediated ethnography and the study of networked images — or how to study ‘networked realism’ as visual knowing of Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke, that they presented at the Visual Methods Conference. What I would try to do now is to relate some of their thoughts with my own work in the spirit of exchange and share. I’ll do it in a personal and reflexive way more than to establish an academic critic of their work (which I found fascinating and useful).

The relationship between STS studies and research in cultural domains seems to be a difficult and  it has not been more explored (cfr. Couldry). In my own work I have tried to set a link between cultural production and the role of technology in its shaping. While there seems to be several works from STS that relate photography with technology (de Rijcke, Meyer), they all are settled in institutional and organizational environments. Therefore, the changing and shaping of image technology seem to be goal oriented since this use is framed by the institutions whose borders are relatively easy to trace. On the other hand, there is a huge corpus of research in photography as a cultural object. Not only related to the aesthetics but also many works that are interested in the circulation and “institutionalization” of those images, for example in the art field (Becker, Bourdieu). There is also a third corpus that reflects on the “impact” of new photographical technologies in the changing of society (for example how the Kodak Brownie camera created a new form of photography: the snapshot). My trouble is that these three fields are disconnected from each other and I need elements of the three of them to explain my fieldwork. The first (STS) is very aware of the mutual shaping between technologies and practices but lacks to incorporate the content, meaning and aesthetics of the images in their analysis. And also, they don’t seem to be interested in how people put their desires and tastes in the creation and circulation of those images. The second corpus (that we could call cultural circulation or social uses of photography) is concern precisely with these elements in order to understand the creation of visual elites and power, but seems to have a naive approach to technologies that make this possible. The third one (Social impact), is too technological deterministic and barely useful in an ethnography of the mediations.

With the emergence of digital technology, a greatest “networked complexity” is added to the equation. Continue reading

Fotografiar no es lo mismo que tomar una foto

Disclaimer

No es mi área de conocimiento ni mi estilo de escritura pero me aventuraré con este texto freestyle. Cobijado, espero, por mi trabajo de campo y mis reflexiones personales. Los expertos en la materia perdonen la intromisión.

No citaré ni a Barthes, ni a Benjamin, ni a Bourdieu, ni a Wells, ni a Sontag, ni a Freeman, ni a Berger, más que nada para no comprometerlos. Pero los he leído a todos y espero algo se me haya pegado

Alguien me dijo con respecto a una imagen: “me tomó una foto”, y yo pensé, quizá valga la pena elaborar, a nivel teórico, la distinción entre eso y “me fotografió”. Apunto algunas cosas que pienso describen cada acción para después articularlas en una reflexión más cercana a mi trabajo.

Fotografiar

Quien fotografía no sólo establece una relación técnica con la “realidad” a través de un dispositivo de visión, opta por ello con consciencia y reflexividad. Al hacerlo, se mira a sí mismo. Lo que está en juego no es sólo la re-presentación de lo que se fotografía sino la percepción personal sobre ello. La re-interpretación de lo que se ve mediante lo que se percibe. Las decisiones de encuadre, luz, momento (¿decisivo?) y el objeto a fotografiar son todas decisiones que conectan el ojo con lo que se fotografía a través de la cámara. Esta conexión pasa por la cabeza, por el corazón, y, en muchas ocasiones, por las vísceras).

Fotografiar es convertir el acto de hacer “click” en un pronunciamiento sobre la vida. Fotografiar es buscar una intención, es plasmar, en ese pequeño cuadro resultante, no sólo un momento que dura fracciones de segundo, sino un deseo de abandonarse, de entregarse a él. Mediante una ecuación de reciprocidad, esa entrega también busca poseer, perpetuar, eternizar. Para fotografiar no hace falta una cámara, basta la intención de dicha posesión, basta con el ojo, incluso con la imaginación. Muchos de los fotógrafos con los que he hablado lo dicen: “me gustaría tener una cámara integrada al ojo para poder fotografiar las cosas que veo y que me interesan”. Quien fotografía está por encima de la técnica, la domina sólo para obtener resultados más cercanos a lo que imagina. Lo que desarrolla es una forma de mirar el mundo, de entenderlo de manera visual, de encuadrarlo, de organizarlo, de darle una continuidad espiritual basada en la visión. Quien fotografía, genera una nueva ontología para los objetos de sus imágenes. Se basa, no en uno, sino en todos los sentidos, en su intuición y en su necesidad de trascender el momento y reformularlo a través de una práctica. Cuando esa mirada, esa interpretación y esa complicidad, es clara, se solidifica en la imagen resultante junto con el objeto fotografiado. Como el perfume que flota en el aire después de que haya pasado quien lo portaba, dejando una prueba inequívoca de su presencia. Cuando se fotografía, en la imagen casi puede sentirse la respiración de quien hizo click, los pensamientos que cruzaron por su cabeza, su cuerpo transmutado en la cámara, sus deseos, su relación, real o imaginada, con el objeto. Continue reading

After photography?

“Once the world has been photographed. It is never again the same” (Fred Ritchin)

I just finished the book “After Photography” of Fred Ritchin. Somebody told me, about this book, that it was the “On photography” of the XXI century. Although I enjoyed it very much, I would say is more the “Being Digital” of photography. Ritchin, deeply knower of the photography insights, stands from the point of view of the mainstream photography, especially the photojournalism, and discusses the future possibilities of digital photography. Although an extraordinary book from the journalism point of view, and a serious commitment voice with the possibilities that digital photography could bring for the critical social media, it seems that his analysis lacks something which I think is the main force in the changing of the social meaning of photography: the people and their cameras in the everyday life.

Is not that he’s not aware of this, but he is more interested in the mainstream media and the “serious” photography. Even more, I felt that, at least in his book (I just started to follow his blog), he still talks like if photography was just one universal thing. This is one of the conclusions so far in my research, to think about “photography” doesn’t make sense anymore, even with the “traditional” labels (photojournalism, artistic, snapshot, etc.), and pushing it little further even genres are getting blurred (portrait, landscape, etc.). Photography is many things, not just one. He acknowledges this when he points:

The digital photography potentially will be so thoroughly linked to a multiplicity of media, both as recipient and producer, that communication of whatever kind becomes more important than the singularity of the photographic vision. The pixelated photograph’s ephemerality on the screen and its easy linkage, as well as the impression that it is just one communicating strategy amount many, reduce the individualized impact of the photograph as it appears on a piece of film or paper. Rather than as “photographers” for the most part these kinds of image-makers will be thought of simply as “communicators (p. 146) Continue reading