Assignment 6: Pre-assessment tutorial

During my tutorial for my fifth assignment, my tutor and I discussed how I would present my work for assessment. Now that I have completed the course, it is very satisfying to look back through my work to see how far I’ve come during this module. Overall, there doesn’t appear to be much that I need to change. I agree with my tutor’s view that my work is very much at an experimental stage, due to the very nature of the photography that I have produced. This is very much like the current nature of digital photography. It is continually evolving and reinventing itself.

Almost ten years ago, I began studying photography with the Open College of the Arts. At the very start, I was encouraged to ‘find my voice’ and develop my own photographic style. As my studies have progressed, I believe I am closer to achieving this. However, the ever-evolving nature of photography has meant that I have had to adapt and refine my own practice.

Digital Image and Culture has enabled me to address how images can be created, manipulated and distributed in the digital-age. By reviewing my assignments and coursework, I can see what motivates me and my photography. I am fascinated by the fragility of the digital images which we faithfully upload to servers and clouds. Our digital family albums consist of bits and bytes of data, which magically appear on the screens of our digital devices.

Throughout this course I have been very mindful of my assessment feedback for previous L2 Landscape course. The assessors had referred to the potential of my work being let down by its presentation. It was my first Level 2 course and I naively thought that I could submit samples in a similar fashion as I did at Level 1. Therefore, I am going to consider my submission for this assessment much more carefully.

Since my course officially finished in December, I won’t be able to submit my work for the next assessment event in March. Therefore, I have chosen the July assessment date instead. This will give me enough time to prepare my work properly.

Assignment 1: Coalition  

Since the first part of this assignment was to create composite images from printed photographs, I will present these as the original pieces of artwork. There is also an animated gif, which I will need to slow down. For the second part of this assignment, I will print a large version of the digitally manipulated images of my son.

Assignment 2: Contactless

This was the first photo book that I had ever made. It enabled me to also explore the use of different materiaIs and their qualities. Using transparent sheets enabled me to communicate on a much deeper level than just opaque paper. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, but acknowledge my tutor’s view that the images are very close to the gutter. He has advised that I submit it as it is for assessment, since I have learnt from my mistakes by producing a photo book for my 5th assignment.

Assignment 3: Critical Review

My essay will be printed and uploaded to the G Drive, ready for assessment. I have made all of the formatting changes that my tutor recommended.

Assignment 4: Digital Identities

This assignment was a transitional moment for me. The images that I produced for this assignment were not used for Assignment 5. However, I will provide the assessors with a sample of the images that I produced, since they illustrate the development of my ideas.

Assignment 5: Glitched

A photo book of glitched images, with QR code links to related online images. My tutor has suggested that some pages have too many images on. I did this to represent the many pixels which make up each image. However, my tutor’s feedback has made me question myself about this. It is still possible to identify aspects of the original photographs, when looking at all of the constituent parts. In order to stress how a new piece of artwork can be produced by being ‘glitched’, I will choose one image to represent each glitched photograph. These will be presented as a photo book, with the QR code linking to the online images. The camera app on any smart phone should be able to view the QR-coded image, without the need to download any app.

Learning Log

Following earlier tutor feedback, I have reorganised my blog. Therefore, I need to ensure all tags and categories correctly direct the assessors, and other visitors, to the correct content.

Assignment 4: Digital identities 1

Task: Develop a project around the theme of identity within the current digital climate. 

Mind map of ideas

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As I was thinking about digital identity, it became very apparent how broad this topic is. This meant that it would be very difficult to narrow my ideas down to create a meaningful project.

 At first, I considered how identity effects our relationship with the surrounding environment. This included how augmented reality is enabling us to merge both real and imagined worlds. With so many people with their heads fixed on their screens, it would appear as though the only way for them to acknowledge their surroundings is if it appears on their screen. In other words, if it isn’t on-screen, then it isn’t there. However, when I looked back at the assignment brief, I felt that this was going off-track in relation to digital identity.

Meanwhile, incidents involving people taking selfies seemed to be a regular occurrence in the news, and I started to be drawn to the role of the selfie, and what motivates people to take selfies. 

Initial Themes 

  • Identities can be manipulated

  • a person’s digital image can enable them to occupy multiple digital spaces at the same time for as long as they wish

  • a persons face can be their password

  • selfies enable the photographer to present themselves in the best possible way

  • interaction with the surrounding environment - including how digital imagery is used, such as for advertising


Project Ideas

 1. Ego

2. Interface - how images can be manipulated to conceal / change identities

3. Pixels looking at the photo stream on my phone reminded me of pixels  refer to embroidered images  

Ego

Each project idea was inspired by the previous one. Ego was based on how selfies are still a prominent aspect of digital culture. Even Channel 4’s ‘The Bake Off’ required the contestants to create their selfie! Taking selfies is something that I have never really been in to. I didn’t need to  take a photo of myself in a particular place, to say ‘I was there’. Since I had taken a photograph of a place or occasion I already knew I was there. For me, photographs are like bookmarks in time. When we look back at them, they enable the viewer to travel back in time. Other people take photographs of me, so there isn’t any need for me to take photographs of me. I spent a lot of time investigating the idea of the motivations of people taking selfies and how they are drawn to similar locations to take their selfies. However, I wanted to push my creativity further and I felt that basing a project on selfies was limiting. More information about this idea can be found here.

Interface

This idea developed from ‘Ego’. Digital software enables users to manipulate their image, such as using filters, in order to achieve ‘likes’ on social networks. Cyberspace provides another dimension in which we are represented by our digital-self 24/7. Avatars interact alongside tweets, likes, and comments. Therefore they’ve got to look their best.  

Pixels 

With GDPR being a focus in protecting identity, my ‘Interface’ idea had led me to think about how images could conceal other information. Earlier in the course, I had thought about how QR codes could be hidden in photographs to create multi-layered images in which the viewer is able to interact with. I explored using a QR code as a mask over a portrait photograph. The block design of the QR code reminded me of pixels, the basic units of all digital images. Also, when I was looking through the photo stream on my phone, to find images for ‘Interface’, the year view also reminded me over pixels. After weeks of deliberation, I had finally narrowed my thoughts down to the focus for assignment 4 and 5.  After exhausting my ideas for ‘Ego’, and wanting to push myself creatively, ‘Pixels’ is the idea that I would like to put forward for my assignment.

 Pixels

Digital scanned image of Russell Kirsch’s son, Walden, in 1957.

Digital scanned image of Russell Kirsch’s son, Walden, in 1957.

The digital images that we see on the screens of our digital devices are made up of pixels, the smallest units of a digital image. These basic building blocks can be in the shape of dots, lines or squares. Frederic C. Billingsley was the first to publish the word, ‘pixel’ to explain the picture elements that he saw being beamed back to Earth from the Moon and Mars.

Surprisingly, the first ever digital photograph was created by Russell Kirsch in 1957, when he scanned a photograph of his 3 month-old son. It produced a blurred 176 x 176 digital image. It reminds me of the many hundreds of photos that I have taken of my children.

The more pixels that there are in a digital image, the more detail that there is captured in the resulting image. Ever since the first digital images were created, the quality of image resolution has improved incredibly since Kirsch’s digital image. Currently, the world’s

Containing over 201,948 different images in 450 rows and 450 columns, this image of Queen Elizabeth II, is one of the largest photo mosaics in the world. The 33 gigapixels are made up of drawings for the Face Britain project running by The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts to celebrate HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. By clicking this link you can zoom into an interactive version, which enables you to see all of the combined images.

Photo mozaic of Queen Elizabeth II. http://www.mazaika.com/33_gigapixel_photo_mosaic_face_britain.html

Photo mozaic of Queen Elizabeth II. http://www.mazaika.com/33_gigapixel_photo_mosaic_face_britain.html

I like how this type of photo mosaic conceals other images. It is also reminiscent of how we tend to gloss over digital photographs nowadays. We are surrounded by so many images, that we fail to interrogate them fully. Digital identities can be very superficial, that only need to catch a glimpse of the viewer’s gaze for a matter of seconds.

Despite the drive to create hyper-real imagery with recent advancements such as HDR and 4K television, there is still the appeal of low resolution pixel imagery, especially for computer games. For example, Minecraft is still extremely popular and yet the graphics are basic. Pixellated characters inhabit online worlds which they are able to shape by moving and removing sequences of pixels.

A simple, basic online presence is all that is needed to have a digital identity. What matters is that you have created a set of pixels and they occupy a space in the digital world, to give the user a voice and to say ‘I’m here!’

Minecraft character

Minecraft character

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Whilst I was looking through my archive of images, I noticed how the yearly view resembled a photomosaic, as if each photograph was a pixel. Having grown up with both analogue and digital, I wanted to explore the very boundary between these two types of media.

Whilst monochrome and sepia photographs remind people of times-gone-by, there is something nostalgic about pixellated images, having grown up play computer games on a 48K ZX Spectrum.

Photographers

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Johan Rosenmunthe

In projects, such as ‘Off II, Johan Rosenmunthe references the digital medium to our analogue lives. In Off, pixellated figures appear isolated and fractured against the surrounding environment. Rosenmunthe has selected people who he only knows online. This juxtaposition of the two could possibly be a reference to how we inhabit two worlds: the real, and the virtual. Not only are they isolated from their surroundings, but they are inaccessible from those they are with. By being online we cut ourselves off from the real-world. Without this social interaction, people online become anonymous background features.

In his Enlargements project, Rosenmunthe creates a sequence of crops from a single cityscape. Within those crops are people undertaking various activities. Having zoomed in to create the crops, the resulting image has a low resolution. This poor image quality and the fact that the people are unaware that they are being photographed is very similar to how our everyday lives are under surveillance from CCTV cameras. There is no depth to our digital identity. It is at face-value level. After all, your face is now even able to unlock your iPhone - you don’t need to remember passwords or pin codes.

Krizia, 2009 by Jonathan Lewis.

Krizia, 2009 by Jonathan Lewis.

Jonathan Lewis

In his ‘Designer Labels’ project, British artist Jonathan Lewis pixellates the clothes for sale in shop windows. His work explores the production and consumption of fashion and other commodities.

When comparing it to Rosenmunthe’s work, there are some similarities, however Lewis pixellates the whole image. Maybe the message he is portraying is that the retail experience, that we are advertised into, doesn’t just involve the product, but also includes the entire shopping environment.

Crayon as pixels, by Christian Faur

Crayon as pixels, by Christian Faur

Christian Faur

Christian Faur has created a unique method of representing images. He layers different coloured wax crayons to produce his portraits. The hundreds of different coloured wax crayons resemble the pixels that we see in digital imagery. Faur then produces large photographs of his artwork. Subsequently, there are two media to experience, allowing for different interpretations.

The physical wax crayon sculpture is able to be viewed at a variety of angles, whilst the photograph provides the viewer with a pixellated view of the subject. Faur’s images are so accurate, it is difficult to believe that these images aren’t real photographs. This analog approach to image making is very reminiscent of the digital photograph and the individuality of each pixel. In order to send digital images, their pixels are sent via different routes across the World Wide Web, to be recombined to form the original.

Faur’s method has made me wonder if there are any other ways that I can explore to produce a pixellated effect. One idea would be to scan photographs with bubblewrap on top of it.

From Diane Meyer’s Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

From Diane Meyer’s Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

Diane Meyer

In ‘Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten’, Diane Meyer uses cross stitch to embroider pixels onto old family photographs. The act of cross stitching enables Meyer to interact longer with each photograph, possibly remembering back to the time it was taken. By pixelating the facial features, other details emerge from the photographs, which might otherwise have been overlooked when viewing the original images. Meyer’s work reminds the viewer of how vulnerable we are to losing digital files if they become corrupt. They also tune the viewer into the incidental details which we often ignore. This is synonymous with the current digital climate, in which we are so self-absorbed in our digital devices that we no-longer see where we are.

Indochina, 1960 by Gherasim Luca

Indochina, 1960 by Gherasim Luca

Cubomania

Cubomania is a surrealist method of making collages in which a picture is cut into squares and then reassembled in a different way. It was invented by Romanian artist Gherasim Luca, in the late 1930s. It reminds me of how in reality pixels exist as random units and that sometimes there can be glitches with digital images, in which the pixels do not display correctly.

Trial Images

My own digital archive has been the starting point for y work. Taking inspiration from Kirsch’s first digital image, I decided to look at photographs of my children. I am mindful of their own digital identify and the associated pressures and dilemmas that they will face online. Despite being stored on my hard drive, and rarely viewed, I remember every one of them. Even when they are pixellated, I can see the image clearly. Every photograph contains more than just the visual data, it is also acts as a signpost to a memorable event.

I tried pixellating the images in different ways, using dots and squares. Furthermore, I tried to set the pixellation at the point where the subject is no-longer recognisable.

It was whilst I was looking through my images, I began to realise how some are very similar to when I was a boy. My son has recently started playing football. He won a trophy and it was similar to one of me when I was young. I enjoyed the process of being able to digitise an analogue photograph. I am goig to look for similar themed images, to see how we ritually take photographs of particular significant life defining moments. Moments which help to shape our identity.

My final assignment will include photographs inspired by cubomania.

dot pixels.jpg
me football2.jpg
eoin football2.jpg
wembley3.jpg
Social Icons. An image of my son behind a series of social icons, which resemble pixels.

Social Icons. An image of my son behind a series of social icons, which resemble pixels.

Possible Outcomes

So far I have two ideas for the outcome of this project.

  1. A photo book, in square format to represent the shape of pixels.

  2. A series of square postcards which can be arranged in a number of ways, representing pixels. On the front of each card will be a pixellated image and on the back will be a QR code. When scanned, the QR code will display the original image.

References

https://petapixel.com/2010/08/05/the-worlds-first-digital-camera-by-kodak-and-steve-sasson/ [Accessed 16/9/18]

http://www.mazaika.com/33_gigapixel_photo_mosaic_face_britain.html

http://www.rosenmunthe.com/work/off-ii--2010/

http://www.rosenmunthe.com/work/enlargements/

http://www.rosenmunthe.com/work/off-ii--2010/

http://www.jgdlewis.com/Designer%20Labels%20Page.html

http://www.christianfaur.com/crayons/crayonSeries1/index.html

https://file-magazine.com/blog/diane-meyer-time-spent-that-might-otherwise-be-forgotten

Assignment 3: Critical Review

Fake news and fake views: Can the networked image be believed?

 In 2017, ‘Fake news’ was named as the Collins Dictionary ‘Word of the Year’. Defined as ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news  reporting’ (Collins Dictionary, n.d.), it was often used by the American President, Donald Trump, during, and after, his election campaign. The Internet, and its associated technologies, have enabled the creation and spread of fake news. The purpose of this essay is to determine the role that digital imagery plays in fake news reporting and whether networked images can be trusted. Therefore, this essay draws upon a number of issues, including: the notion of photographic truth; the similarities and differences between analogue and digital photographs; the role of the photographer; the undecidability of the networked image; the role of the network.

Photographic Truth
Before determining whether the networked image can be trusted, it is necessary to establish what is meant by photographic truth. Rubinstein and Sluis argue for the truthfulness of  the  photograph  as  being  ‘underwritten  by  the  scientific  procedure  that  created  it’ (2013, p.6).  Whether rays of light are captured on a metallic plate, light sensitive paper, or a digital sensor, it is that scientific process which defines the ‘truthfulness’ of the photograph. There is no denying that what is in front of the camera is reproduced on the plate, paper, or LCD screen. The photograph may exist as an analogue document, which can be held, passed around, and believed. It is both subject and object. Therefore, by its very nature, the photograph should be trusted to represent the truth, since it is an indexical sign (Bazin, 1980). Therefore, Figure 1 is believed to be an index showing ballot boxes.

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It could be assumed that the analogue photograph has a finite quality, making it a document of reality. Despite this view of the accuracy of the photograph, art critic Geoffrey Batchen (1994, p.48) casts doubt on the reliability of photographs by claiming that ‘traditional photographs - the ones our culture has always put so much trust in - have never been true in the first place. Photographers intervene in every photograph that they make.’

This is a view shared by both Manovich (2003) and Robins (1995), who refer to how photographs have always been manipulated. Batchen (1997, p.212) supports this view by stating that ‘in the mere act of transcribing world into picture, three dimensions into two, photographers necessarily manufacture the image they make.’ Therefore, it would be wrong to judge the reliability of the digital image based on the presumed validity of analogue photographs. Also, it would be naive to assume that the indexical nature of Figure 1 portrays reality.

The Digital Image

We are living in the ‘society of the screen’ (Manovich, 2001, p.94), where digital devices are readily available to photograph, disseminate, and view images. Fontcuberta (2014) makes the distinction that analogue photographs are consecutive, whereas digital images are fluid. [Digital] photographs can be uploaded, tagged, shared, replicated, and manipulated. This ‘hyperphotography’ (Ritchin, 2009) has provided the viewer with a constant stream of images, which they are free to recall, replicate, recontextualise, and redistribute. 

With so many digital photographs to choose from, Price and Wells (2015, p.20) question whether these networked images can be believed by stating that ‘the authority attributed to the photograph is at stake....this has led to a reopening of debates about photographic truth.

With the rise of fake news, both Price and Wells (2015) have good reason to be concerned about the reliability of the networked image. There have been numerous instances where misleading photographs have been uploaded to the World Wide Web.

For example, on the 30th September 2016, a photograph of ballot boxes (Figure 1) was posted on the Christian Times website. The accompanying text reported that a dozen sealed boxes, containing tens of thousands of ballots, had been discovered in a warehouse in Franklin County, Ohio. It was eleven days before early voting had begun, and the article’s supporting image provided proof that the Democrats had attempted to rig the Presidential election. Since we believe what we see, the photograph authenticates the article. Gunning (2004) refers to this as the ‘truth claim’ of a photograph, based on both its indexicality and visual accuracy. The image acts as an index for the viewer. The discovered ballot boxes had been photographed, so the report must be true.

After uploading the photograph to Google’s Reverse Image Search, it had been uploaded to approximately 25,270,000,000 web pages! Unbelievably, it had been first used a year earlier. In 2015, photographer David Warren captured the moment twelve black ballot boxes had been delivered to Sheldon Community Centre, Birmingham, England (Figure 2). He then uploaded the photograph to the Internet, on the Alamy stock photography website. (Figure 3).

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When presented with both Figures 1 and 2, it is clear that one image is a manipulated version of the other. Therefore, one of the photographs should be considered to be untrue. However, taking into consideration Bull’s (2010, p.41) view that ‘the act of making a photograph automatically de-contextualises what is in front of the camera and places what is photographed into new contexts,’ it could be argued that neither photograph fully represents the ‘truth’.

Warren’s photograph lost its point of origin when it became digital (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2013). The photograph ‘inhabits the land of in-between’ (Ritchin, 2009, p.17), in which the idea  of  ‘original’  is  no-longer  applicable.  It  does  not  matter  which  image  is  the  correct version, because the computational image has little to do with indexicality. Hayes (2008, p.94) explains that ‘a camera…doesn’t take pictures; it makes them.’

Instead of light, it is the algorithmic process of the camera (computer) which translates digital data into an icon, or visual likeness (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2013). This is supported by Røssaak (2011, p. 23), who states that ‘the digital image cannot be fully understood through the premises of indexicality and ocular centrism as its final appearance is the result of computation.’

 Berry (2011, p.13) makes the distinction between ‘instrumentalist’ and ‘computationalist’ images. It could be argued that the analogue photograph would be an instrumentalist image, because it is the best possible outcome from an application. However another view would be that the printed photograph remains open to multiple interpretations, even though it can be repeatedly reproduced from a negative. Meanwhile, the digital computationalist image remains unfixed, in a constant state of flux. Rubinstein and Sluis (2013, p.31) refer to the state of the network image as being ‘undecidable’, because it is ‘continuous, frameless, multiple and processual, it cannot be unpacked with the tools of semiotics and structuralism that were developed to deal with finite, framed, singular and static images.’

If an image is everywhere at the same time, it is difficult to determine which one is the original (Baudrillard, 1984). Once the image has been uploaded to the network, the photographer no longer has control of it. The photograph is in a pool of other images, searchable by its metadata,  and its appearance – using tools such as Google Image Search. Anyone can purchase the  image , manipulate it, even   recontextualise it. In fact, this is what happened in Warren’s picture of ballot  boxes.

In an attempt to hide its original source, the image was flipped horizontally, the mirrored text was erased, and ‘ballot box’ was crudely added to some of the boxes. At face value, the viewer could see exactly what the photographer saw. In reality, an authentic photograph had been appropriated and manipulated to validate a story which had never occurred. In fact, the only thing we can be certain of is that online images will have been influenced in some way. Kittler (2010, p.226-227) develops this view of the undecidability of the image further with the belief that ‘computers do not replace analogue representation with digital, but abolish representation altogether by reducing it to 0.’

If  the  plural,  unfixed  nature  of  the  algorithmic  image  makes  it  difficult  to  attribute  either authorship or validity, and if we are to determine whether the networked image can be believed, then we need to look beyond the digital image and interrogate the network in which it resides.

 

The Network

Undecidable images, which are frameless and continuous, are not governed by the same time constraints as their analogue counterparts. Therefore, when determining the truth of the networked image, it is not as straightforward as examining when the photograph was made. Rubinstein and Sluis (2013) confirm this by explaining that ‘the fractal structure that underpins the network suggests a very different kind of temporality that is based around non-linear, fragmented and instantaneous time.’

In November 2017, Figure 4 was published alongside a news report about the seizure of $10m, from the home of the Zimbabwean Finance Minister, Ignatius Chombo. Another reverse image search revealed that the photograph actually depicted the haul of cash from a raid in Brazil earlier that same year (Biller, 2017). Therefore, it could be thought to be misleading to have been used to illustrate the Zimbabwean news report.

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In order to determine the reliability of a photograph, we need to interpret what it means. However, since it is an algorithm, it is not straightforward to just say that the image is ‘false’ because it was taken in a different place at a different time. Becker (2003, p.302) explains that ‘photographs  attain  meaning  only  in  relation  to  the  settings  in  which  they  are encountered.’

 

The reading of a photograph on a news website is influenced by the surrounding text, which tells us what we are really seeing. Before the digital-age, tabloid photographs acted like ‘windows’ onto the world (Ritchin, 2013). The viewer could spend time reviewing and considering what they were looking at, and possibly questioning whether the photograph was reliable. The press photographer was trusted and perceived to be a credible witness, therefore giving credence to the article.

Conversely, in today’s online news streams, images are quickly swiped and clicked away in seconds. There is not the time to interrogate the reliability of the image, so opportunist editors, with budget restraints, risk appropriating similar photographs. Also, news streams move so quickly that professional photographers are unable to capture incidents quickly enough. Therefore, the contribution of citizen photojournalists has become increasingly important and reliable. Ritchin (2013, p.11) agrees with this by saying that ‘their [citizen photojournalists] transparent self-involvement and lack of financial incentive, can be reassuring.’

Although Figure 4 was not a photograph of the actual money seized in Zimbabwe, it is worth considering Kember’s (2003) view that a digital image is just an image-idea of the real thing.  This suggests that it is acceptable to use photographs as illustrations rather than for factual reporting.  

The purpose of the digital photograph is to make a statement rather than a truth. However, if the photograph cannot speak the truth as loudly as the text, then this causes problems for the authenticity of the report. For example, a photograph may be used to validate a misleading article, a view supported by Harold Evans (1978, introduction) who states that ‘the camera cannot lie; but it can be an accessory to untruth.’

 Taking Evan’s view into consideration, Figure 1 confirms the presence of the ballot boxes, so it makes the associated text believable. If Figure 1 had not been included, then it might not have been so convincing. In addition to this, both Figure 1 and Figure 4 are examples of when the photographer loses control of his or her work. Once it is uploaded to the World Wide Web, the digital photograph is susceptible to being used in contexts which the photographer did not intend.

Despite the immense amount of images that exist on the Internet, a particular image is able to be retrieved using its metadata, such as keyword searches which relate to its content. Rubinstein and Sluis (2013, p.30) explain this by stating that ‘the image is everywhere all at once, accessible from any point in the network.’ Digital images can be tagged, and exist alongside content, which can be hyperlinked. This ‘folksonomy’ (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2013) promotes a longevity of the networked image, enabling it to maintain a presence on social networking platforms. Therefore, there is a possibility that an image could be assigned to limitless discourses (Sassoon, 2010). This ‘meta-image’ is a map of squares, each of which can be altered and direct the image to other places (Ritchin, 2009). Subsequently, it is difficult to determine the reliability of an image  when  its  origin  is  blurred  by  a  ‘data  shadow’.  The  image  is  uttered  through  the network, like Chinese whispers can become manipulated and altered from the original message. Bull (2010, p.46) develops this view by claiming that ‘what a photograph means does not derive entirely from its content.’

If we assume that the meanings of photographs are never permanently fixed (Bull, 2010), then it would be difficult to determine whether an image is believable. Rather than focusing on whether the networked image itself should be believed, Robins (1995, p.48) suggests that we should consider how it is being used by saying that ‘images are significant in terms of what we do with them and how they carry meanings for us. This would suggest that, when determining the truth of the networked image, it should be based on whether it is intentionally being used to deceive the reader. Therefore, Figure 1 would be dishonest, whereas Figure 4 could be considered to be an acceptable use of the image.


Photographers try to take advantage of the transient nature of the network image. For example,  an  image  of  a  rally  in  Pensacola (Figure 5),  Florida,  was  shared  on  Twitter  by  Dave  Weigel (Kasprak, 2017). He used it to suggest that there had been a low turn-out for the event, which included a speech from Donald Trump.

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However, a photograph of an arena full of spectators, from another person attending the event, disproved this (Figure 6).

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Figure 5 had been taken before the rally had started, when people were still taking their seats. There is nothing dishonest about the image itself, other than when it was published and the text that accompanied it. Barthes (1977) refers to this as ‘relay’, whereby both the text and image work together to convey a specific message. Sontag (1979, p.5) was aware of how photographs could be misused in this way, by warning that ‘photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it.’

The words that the photographer tweets with the image invalidate it, making it untruthful. This is a view shared by Bull (2010, p.41) who states that ‘while the photograph’s view does not change and the moment in the photograph does not move, the meanings of a photograph can change and move around it.’

The photo depicted reality, it was the surrounding text that manipulated the truth. At least Weigel admitted his error in a later tweet (Figure 7).

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This presents an interesting development within the network, whereby the photographer is able to have a dialogue with the viewer about the photograph. Ritchin (2009) refers to the cubist nature of photojournalism, whereby contradictory ‘double images’ demonstrate that reality has no single truth. Participants in the network can look through other images of the same event. Together, those images can either confirm or disprove images taken in the same context.

Panzer (2006) considers amateur photographs to be more convincing. However, ‘more convincing’ does not mean ‘more truthful’. The citizen photojournalist might be able to provide an un-staged image, however they might still be guilty of manipulating the subject and message as a result of their own intentions. Furthermore, due to the lack of hierarchical importance in the network, viewers are not guided by the traditional constructs of the press. This means that they are able to view whatever they like, whenever they want (Ritchin, 2013). Therefore, images and their stories need to be compelling if they are to grab the attention of web users.

Images taken by members of the public appear to be familiar, because they are often taken from a similar perspective. Subsequently, this contributes to its authenticity (Price and Wells, 2015). Also, when images from citizen photojournalists are used in the media, it acknowledges that there are multiple points of view (Kember, 2015).

Photographs contain partial truths and should be interpreted accordingly, because we live in a ‘tangled web of fictions’ (Fontcuberta, 2014). The non-linear architecture of content on the World Wide Web is causing us to lose all sense of what is real and what is not. ‘Fake news’ has become part of everyday life and seen as an inconvenience at most. On social networks, we are able to manipulate our own truths by only selecting particular types of image to appear on our timelines. This presents an idealized narrative of our lives, which can be viewed by our online ‘friends’. In many ways, this is no different to how generations of photograph albums document the highlights of family life. The main difference between the printed and the digital is how they are distributed across the owner’s social networks, whether its passing around the family album, at home with relatives, or uploading tagged images to shared online spaces.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the touch screens of our hand-held digital devices mimic the physicality of ‘holding’ an analogue photograph. Furthermore, photographic manipulation existed long before the Internet, and there have always been doubts about the authenticity of photographs.  The  digital  photograph  can  be  linked,  transmitted,  recontextualised,  and fabricated. Even without post-photographic intervention, the message of every image is dependent on the intention of the photographer. However, it would be unfair to accuse the photographer of dishonesty once an image is released into the network, since they are unable to control how it is used. The networked image remains ‘unfixed’ and ‘undecidable’. Its algorithmic nature means that it cannot be thought of as being indexical. However, without supporting text, the meaning of the networked image can still be misleading, and it can also be used to deceive the reader. Therefore, it is every network user’s responsibility to question the source and motive of what they see and read. Whether an image is believed, will depend on the integrity of the communicator. Images are posted online as an index of our own digital presence, rather than any claim of authenticity. Therefore, it is a case of whether the network itself, rather than the image, can be believed.

Despite the technological shift from analogue to digital, the computationalist nature of the unfixed, digital image represents a truer version of photography, which relates back to when artists used the projections from a camera obscura to replicate images. As we head towards an era of ultra, high-definition, together with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, the viewer risks being immersed further into the network image. Will this hyper-realism influence our perceptions of truth in the network?

References

Barthes, R. (1977) ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ In: Image / Music / Text London: Fontana, pp. 32 - 51

Berry, D. M. (2011) The philosophy of software: Code and mediation in the digital age. Cited in: Lister, M. (ed.) The photographic image in digital culture (2nd ed.)

Batchen, G. (199ti) “Phantasm: Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography,” Aperture 136 (1994): 48

 Batchen, G. (1997) Burning with desire: The conception of photography. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 Bazin, A. (1980) ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image.’ Cited in Bull, S. (2010)

Photography. London: Routledge, p.17

 Baudrillard, J. (1984) ‘The Precession of Simulacra’ in Brian Wallis (ed.) Art after modernism: rethinking representation Boston, MA: David R Godine, pp. 252-281

 Becker, K. (2003) Photojournalism and the tabloid press. In: Wells, (ed) The Photography Reader. Oxon: Routledge

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxon: Routledge

Evans, H. (1978) Pictures on a Page. Photojournalism, Graphics and Picture Editing, Heinemann: London

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s camera: Photogr@phy after photography. London: MACK Gunning, T. (2004) ‘What’s the Point in an Index? or, Faking Photographs in Digital Aesthetics

NORDICOM Review 5 (1/2): 39-49

Hayes, B. (2008) ‘Computational Photography’, American Scientist, 2 (96), 94-99. Kember, S. (2003) The shadow of the object. In: Wells, L. (ed.) The photography reader.

Oxon: Routledge

Kittler, F. A. (2010) Optical media: Berlin Lectures 1999, Trans. A. Enns. Cambridge: Polity.

Manovich, L. (2001) The Language of New Media Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Manovich, L. (2003) The Paradoxes of Photography in Wells, L. (ed.) The Photography reader

London: Routledge, pp. 240 - 249

Panzer, M. (2006) ‘Introduction’ to things as they are: Photojournalism in context since 1955. Cited in: Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxon: Routledge

Price, D. and Wells, L. (2015) Thinking about photography: Debates historically and now. In Wells, Liz (ed.) Photography: A critical introduction. Oxon: Routledge

Ritchin, F. (2009) AEer photography. London: Norton & Company

Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending the frame: photojournalism, documentary, and the ciBzen. London: Aperture

Robins, K. (1995) ‘Will image move us still?’ In Lister, M. (ed) The photographic image in digital culture (1st ed) London: Routledge, pp.29-50

Røssaak, E. (2011) ‘Algorithmic culture: beyond the photo/film-divide.’ In: E. Røssaak (ed.) Between stillness and motion: film, photography, algorithms, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press

Rubinstein, D. and Sluis, K. (2013) The digital image in photographic culture: Algorithmic photography and the crisis of representation In: Lister, M. (ed.) The photographic image in digital culture (2nd ed.) pp22-40

Sassoon, J. (2010) ‘Photographic Materiality in the Age of Digital Reproduction.’ Cited in: Bull, S. Photography London: Routledge pp 26-28

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin

 

Electronic sources on the Internet

Biller, D. (2017) Brazil police just found a $16 Million cash stash [Online] bloomberg.com Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-05/brazil-police-make- largest-ever-bust-of-lost-treasure-trove [Accessed 14 April 2018]

Collins English Dictionary (n.d.) [Online] Available from: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/fake-news [Accessed 14 April 2018]

Google Reverse Image Search for Figure 1. [Online] Available from: https://bit.ly/2EKY3jx [Accessed 14 April 2018]

Google Reverse Image Search for Figure 4. [Online] Available from: https://bit.ly/2GYTt79 [Accessed 14 April 2018]

Kasprak, A. (2017) ‘RaEergate’ Explained: Was Trump’s Pensacola Rally ‘Packed to the RaEers?’ [Online] snopes.com Available from: h:ps://www.snopes.com/news/2017/12/09/ was-trumps-pensacola-rally-packed-rafters/ {Accessed 14 April 2018]

Warren, D. (2015) Ballot boxes being delivered to Sheldon Community Centre [Online Image] Available from: h:p://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-ballot-boxes-being-delivered-to- sheldon-heath-community-centre-ready-82404979.html [Accessed 14 April 2018]

Zimbabwe Today (2017) Zimbabwe crisis: Reality check debunks false rumours and fake photos [online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-42016464 [Accessed 14 April 2018]

 

 

Bibliography

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxon: Routledge

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera: Photogr@phy after Photography. London: MACK Lister, M. (ed.) (2013) The photographic image in digital culture. London: Routledge Ritchin, F. (2009) After photography. London: Norton & Company

Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending the frame: photojournalism, documentary, and the citizen. London: Aperture

Sontag, S. (1979) On photography. London: Penguin

Wells, L. (ed.) (2003) The photography reader Oxon: Routledge

Wells, L. (ed.) (2015) Photography: A critical introduction. 5th ed. Oxon: Routledge





Assignment 2: The archive

CONTACTLESS

The world is flat! We inhabit it through the touch screens of our handheld devices. This is where we communicate with each other, share photographs and find things out. As we become more and more addicted to this digital environment, we are neglecting the world around us.

Our preoccupation with social networks has made us numb to what is in front of us. Couples out for a meal sit at the table, blindly staring at their phones; pedestrians and cyclists risk their lives by scrolling through their timelines. Children are deprived of their parents' attention. Although our world is better connected than ever before, there is less contact between each of us in the real world. The concept for this assignment was that when someone is so absorbed with their mobile phone, they are oblivious to everything and everyone in their surrounding environment.

For this assignment, my archive was Google images and Flickr. Whilst searching for appropriate images, I discovered a new word, 'phubbing'. This is the act of ignoring someone in a social situation, by looking at your mobile phone (phone snubbing). Once I had found this out, I was able to search the archive for 'phubbing', as well as terms such as, 'using phone at the table'. The search results produced a lot of posed stock images. The issue of people phubbing is very current at the moment, so I can see why there is such a demand for stock images. However, I was looking for something much more realistic. Therefore, I spent a long time looking for realistic scenarios. 

This subject has been addressed in a number of different ways by other photographers. For example, Simon Roberts 'The Last Moment' (2011-2014) consists of a number of floating 'bubbles' which contain the mobile phones of people photographing particular events in the press. I liked how Roberts' use of the surrounding white space was part of the wider narrative, a metaphor for the various ways that cameras are used today. 

Meanwhile, another photographer, Antoine Geiger, depicted the faces of people being sucked into their digital devices in 'Sur-fake'.

In order to convey this 'absence' I first used the Photoshop Fix app to blur everything around the main subject, to suggest that they are not in the their consciousness. The images below are examples of what I achieved. By blurring the images, the relationship between the subjects was lost. Instead, it created a stronger link between the viewer and the main subject. Therefore, I decided to think of an alternative technique. 

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After looking at Mishka Henner's 'Less Américains', I began to develop my idea for removing the person from the scene, who was using their device. However, unlike Henner, I wanted the viewer to be able to refer back to the phubber. Therefore, I printed them on acetate, so that when the viewer turned the page, they would physically remove the person from their surrounding environment. The sheet of acetate represents the screen of the digital device that the user is 'trapped' inside.

Below are a selection of found images that I used for my book, showing how I used Photoshop to separate each photograph into two images.   

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Once I had printed all of the photographs, I used the Japanese stab binding method (mentioned in another post) to produce a photo book.

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In order to display my finished photo book, I filmed it and uploaded it below. 

Contactless, by Matt Davenport

Self-evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Using an online archive enabled me to have a wide choice, however it took a long time to find the right images. I tried to find photographs that were realistic, rather than staged. At first I wanted to find images which were portrait orientated, so that they could be held by the viewer in the same way that they would hold a mobile phone. However, he majority of the images were landscape. If I was creating a photo book based on my own images, then I would have attempted to photograph them in a portrait view.  

In addition to this, I was pleased with my use of Photoshop to select and separate parts of the image, and then print them as separate layers.  

Quality of Outcome

As well as being restricted by the orientation of the image, the low resolutions meant that I was unable to print them any larger than 4 by 6". I chose to print them in black and white, so that the body outline could stand out on the background. I believe that my photo book clearly says what I wanted it to say: that digital device users are cutting themselves off from the world around them. 

Demonstration of creativity

Similarly to my first assignment, I think that taking the time to develop my ideas has really paid off. The book that I have produced is nothing like what I thought do when I first read the assignment criteria a few weeks ago. 

Having printed parts of each image on sheets of acetate, I have started to think about how I can experiment with printing on other media. Furthermore, I have taught myself how to use Japanese stab binding to produce my own photo books. This is something that I’d like to use in a future assignment.