The Digital Image in Photographic Culture

Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis (2013) base their two conceptions of the image on how photography is represented in two films: Titanic and Memento

In the penultimate scene in Titanic, the photographs that appear beside Rose on her death-bed illustrate significant moments from her life, ordered chrologically after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. If a person's life could be retold in sentences, then the photographs would be the full stops, exclamation marks and question marks. They represent significant, memorable events which can be viewed and compared with each other, chronologically. 

Meanwhile, Memento includes a series of polaroids, to help Leonard, an amnesia sufferer, identify his wife's killer. The photographs give Leonard 'points of access that allow movement from one temporality to another' Rubinstein and Sluis, 2013: 23). Instead of one chronological route through the photographs, there is a multiplicity of storylines.

Photo albums enable us to organise and catalogue photographic memories. If they are stored in a physical album, then they will usually be in chronological order. This enables the viewer to move forwards and backwards through time. Meanwhile, photographs which are stored digital are able to be accessed in a multimodal fashion. This can include clicking on links for different categories or typing in keywords to retrieve images with a corresponding tag. Furthermore, 'Timehop', on Facebook, pushes images taken in previous years. Distant memories are brought to the forefront of a person's thoughts.   

Rubinstein and Sluis (2013) refer to photography as a 'two-faced Janus', because it points in two directions. Firstly, one side faces the 'real world' people, places and events, transforming them into a two dimensional object. Meanwhile, the other side faces the repetition and reproduction of those photographs.  

 

The Digital Condition of Photography

In his essay, 'The Digital Condition of Photography: Cameras, computers and display', David Bate (2013, 78) sets himself apart from the critics and supporters of 'digital culture', by stating another position that:

enquires into and considers the specific 'digital' condition of the photographic image in relation to the social identity of 'photography' as a system for the inscription of visual images.

On reflection, I can see how different generations could attribute a different 'social identity' to photography. I can still remember receiving an envelope containing my photographic prints, after waiting an hour for them to be developed. The strip of negatives, included in the packet, was a reminder of the darkroom process that had been necessary to make the exposures. There was always a sense of excitement to look at photographs, which had been taken so long ago, that it was a surprise to see what they were. There was also a sense of despair when some of the prints included quality control stickers because they were blurred, underexposed or overexposed. I wonder how many moments have been consigned to the bin, unseen again. 

Today's digital generation have never known anything different. After taking a photo, they can instantly review, save or delete it. They have an abundance of opportunities to capture the right image, which has the potential to be shared across the world. Today's digital society is drowning in a sea of images, which are being produced as quickly as water flowing from a tap. Bate (2013) recognises how the permeation of images across society blurs the distinguishing features of photographic practices.

Let's go to a place

OCA tutor, Wendy McMurdo, uses photography to document the relationship between children and technology. She is currently exhibiting 'Let's Go to a Place', at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood. It is inspired by the Pokemon Go craze that took the world by storm in the summer of 2016. The GPS-based app enables the user to use the camera on their digital device to view Pokemon characters in front of them, and enter a parallel world.

McMurdo has digitally manipulated the faces of children's portraits from her daughter's class. The distortions remind me of Julie Cockburn's portraits, however McMurdo's shapes appear to be more varied. They remind me of the pixellated shapes of the Pokemon Go characters that they would encounter. 

The viewer is unable to see the child's complete face, because they are not completely there. These digital natives have both an offline and online existence.

I am really interested in McMurdo's approach to the impact of new technologies on children. Her other work includes Masks II, which  explores identity and play in a post-digital world. This will be useful, when studying the Digital Identities part of this course. 

Exercise 1.3

Task: Use readily available images to make a short narrative series of four to six collages based on a recent or contemporary news event. 

A year after Britain chose to leave the European Union, and Article 50 triggered, it seems as though no-one really knows what it will involve. Ever since David Cameron decided to call a referendum, Brexit has featured in the news. Both Leave and Remain campaigns denounced each others' claims and the main political parties have been divided. David Cameron stepped down, Theresa May replaced him, and announced that David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox would oversee Britain's Brexit negotiations. 

The collages below are my interpretation of some of the issues surrounding Brexit.   

Marmite.jpg
EU flag painted out.jpg
 The Three Brexiteers

The Three Brexiteers