Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

the photographic image

A historical post with two large format photos of wetlands in South Australia from the archives. 

Traditionally art photography has been foundationally tied to the fine print as this  provided the  aesthetic criteria that enabled photography  for find  a place in an art gallery/museum.  Tying photography foundationally  to the fine print was especially important for the  large format photographers in Australia from  the 1970s onward,  especially so for the photography circles around  The Photography Gallery at 344 Punt Road in South Yarra,  Melbourne.  

This foundation was historically significant as it  ensured that  photography became part of art's  traditional value system that was centred around  authenticity and originality. Photography's entry was an event of the new that then required a readjustment and re-evaluation of the boundaries of art's traditional value system.    

If history is all there is then we belong to this tradition,   which holds that art is something that challenges and breaks with our  usual comportment towards things. We cannot disregard this tradition,  simply leave it behind,  overturn it,  or dismiss  it as an error.  We can, however,  reinterpret this tradition as distorted,  or as  having its legitimacy reduced,  in the sense that  the photographic  print was but one of photography's  reproductive forms. 

(Wetlands, Hindmarsh River, Victor Harbor. Cambo 5x7 monorail, Schneider-Kreuznach 210mm, Kodak Portra 160) 

Photography's  multiple  reproductive forms historically  included  slide and video projection and, currently there are  different technological forms of monitor display. Today, with the emergence of the networked digital image,  the print is but one of photography reproductive forms. So the  photographic tradition's foundational  emphasis  on the print  is a distorted one.  Perhaps photography no longer needs foundations to justify its status as art?     

Multiple  reproductive forms of photography in our contemporary digital culture suggests that, if  that  the photographic image need no  longer be  foundationally tied to the  reproductive form of  the  print, then  we need shift  to thinking  about the photographic image as image instead of  the photographic image as print. 

This is  an important  shift given the  massive circulation of images associated with  the emergence of the digital image  associated with the host media technologies such as computers, internet, video games mobile devices. Our world is saturated with moving or circulating images of all kinds including prints.  We are  moving towards a world where everyday  life and digital technology seamlessly blur. It appears that with immersive video  the internet is moving off our screens and into the world around us  as spatial computing  given that Vision Pro and other “passthrough” headsets brings VR content into our real-world surrounding so we see what’s around us while using the device.

Seeing the print as just one of reproductive form of the photographic image is  a looking back on the history photography  from the present. This looking back is akin to Hegel's owl of Minerva in which  theoretical practice flies at dusk after the day has done and looks back on its immanent conditions. Once the owl has seen the practical and historical conditions of its own appearance, it then describes them, not from nowhere but precisely from the very point from which it is at.

Or it is akin to  Walter Benjamin's interpretation of Paul Klee's Angelus Novus (1920) which holds that  the angel of history is propelled forward practically with its back to the future while it gazes theoretically into the past.

(Wetlands, American River, Kangaroo Island. 5x4 Linhof Technika IV,  Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar 150mm, Kodak Porta 160)

A world of moving images also means that we can no longer think in terms of images as static objects,  or as objects that only interact with human perceivers.   To continue to do so is to miss the image's interactive movement; or to put it another way, the material and kinetic energy  that moving  images have with one another.

The significance of the emphasis on the agency of the image is that it is a shift away from understanding  the image as a passive semblance of something else (eg., an external object or a human feeling/concept). It is a shift  to looking at what the image does and not just what it does for humans.

So what are the implications of thinking  in terms of the moving image apart   from a questioning,  challenging  or undermining  the subject/object assumptions of how we have historically viewed  the photographic image?  How do we make sense of the photographic image as a moving image? How do we think in terms of the agency of the image?