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.