The Versatile Image: Photography in the Era of Web 2.0

Conference 24th - 26th June 2011

Photography, Film and Digital Imaging

Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

 

Abstracts

 

Friday 24 June 2011

17:30 Keynote speech
Martin Lister
Emeritus Professor of Visual Culture, University of West of England (UK)

“Photography, Technology, Ecology"

Photographs now saturate the virtual world in a way that bears comparison with the ubiquity they accrued in the actual world across the 19th and 20th centuries. In this context, especially that of Web. 2.0, photography can be seen as part of an information society and economy. Popular and snapshot photography, in particular, can be understood as a forerunner of one of the Web 2.0’s key characteristics: ‘user generated content’. Photography was also the medium that flooded the world with images on an unprecedented scale and from its inception challenged society’s ability to classify, order, and manage their vast numbers. Now, in their supercharged digital and networked form they may become a part of a surfeit, an instability and crisis of information; a digital dark age. In taking such a perspective we are alerted to a neglected history in which the distance between the computer and the camera is reduced. Finally, in our new media ecology, new kinds of everyday photographic practice and new relations between photographic and digital technology and the body may be emerging.

Martin Lister is Professor Emeritus of Visual Culture, University of West of England, Bristol. He published some of the earliest work on the relationship of photography to new media technologies including: The Photographic Image in Digital Culture (Routledge, 1995), and From Silver to Silicon: A CD-ROM about Photography, Technology and Culture (ARTEC, 1996). He has a particular interest in the place of photography within a new media ecology and recent work includes: “A Sack in the Sand: Photography and Information”, in Convergence: 13/3 (Sage, 2007) and the first and second editions (2003 and 2008) of New Media: A Critical Introduction (Routledge). He curated ‘Images of Europe’ for Heresies, an online world retrospective of Pedro Meyer’s photography (2008). He is an editor of the journal photographies (Routledge).


Saturday 25 June 2011

10:00 Keynote speech
David Bate
Reader in Photography, University of Westminster (UK)

“The Emancipating Machine”

Transformations in ‘new technology’ have many potentially significant cultural effects. These include the impact of informational lo-fi popular ‘shoot-and-share’ technologies on the distributive networks of photographic images across global populations, while the ‘hi-fi’ video of DSLR cameras offers a liberation of the photographer from stillness. The question of these emancipations in photography returns as a cultural question about what people do with these digital machine images, and what the capture, distribution and circulation of those images do to “us’’ people in our social spaces and psychical reality.

David Bate is a photographer and writer. His visual work is represented by Hoopers Gallery in London and his writings are widely circulated. His book Photography: Key Concepts (Berg, 2009) has just been published in Japanese by FilmArt in Osaka, Japan. Other recent publications include: Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent,
(I.B.Tauris, 2004); “The Space of the Other” in Frontiers, ed. Elza Adamowitz (Peter Lang, 2006); “Surrealism, Communism and Photography” in Empire and Culture (Sage, 2004); “Fotografie und der koloniale Blick”, in Diskurse der Fotografie II, ed. Herta Wolf (Suhrkamp, 2003); “Voyeurism and Portraiture” in Geometry of the Face (National Museum of Photography, Denmark. 2004); “Art, Education, Photography”, The Photography Reader, ed. L. Wells (Routledge, 2004); and, “Indexiphilia”, Graphion (2006).



Saturday 25 June 2011

11:30-13:00 Panel A

1. Daniel Palmer
Senior Lecturer in Art Theory, Faculty of Art & Design, Monash University (Australia)

“The Rhetoric of the JPEG”

The JPEG, an acronym for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a technical standard that specifies how an image is compressed into a stream of bytes and decompressed back into an image. As a method of compression for digital photography closely associated with the World Wide Web, the JPEG is today the default mode by which we experience on-screen images from computer monitors to mobile phones. Curiously taken for granted in discussions of digital photography, this paper argues that attention to the development of file formats provides a method to understand the way a camera ‘sees’, and how digital photographs function. For instance, today’s digital cameras invariably use a related EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) format to record extra interchange information to image files as they are taken. EXIF data, embedded within the image file itself, includes metadata such as date and time, technical information and, increasingly, geo-coding in the case of GPS-enabled cameras. JPEG/EXIF data therefore includes both the compressed sensor data and a description of the environment in which the image was taken. This paper asks what is at stake in the development and implementation of these common standards. Ultimately, it proposes that the JPEG, which is only visible by its side effects such as compression artefacts, is an ideological phenomenon and a metaphor for the informationalisation of imaging in general.

Daniel Palmer is a Senior Lecturer in Art Theory at the Faculty of Art & Design at Monash University, Australia. He has a long-standing involvement with the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, as a former Curator and current Board Member. His publications include the books Twelve Australian Photo Artists (2009), co-authored with Blair French; Participatory Media: Visual Culture in Real Time (2008); and Photogenic: Essays/Photography/CCP 2000–2004 (2005). His scholarly writings on photography have appeared in journals such as photographies, Philosophy of Photography, Angelaki, and Reading Room.

 

2. Paolo Magagnoli
PhD candidate, Department of History of Art, University College London (UK)

“Digital Compression/Postmodern Melancholia: The Art of Sean Snyder”

This paper looks at the work of Sean Snyder as an example of a recent artistic practice that appropriates digital imagery from a plurality of mass media sources (e.g., the Internet, satellite television, etc.). In his projects Snyder submits this vernacular imagery to a rigorous material investigation in order to explore and reveal the specific material properties of digital photography. Through techniques such as microphotography and progressive enlargement, the artist dissects the original digital images to the point where representation collapses and images turn into a chaos of visual noise. As a result, his digital pictures convey an image of the digital as a fragile substance. What is more, digital compression acquires the symbolic function of suggesting physical, existential loss. This melancholic dimension is also linked with the content of his images, often sourced from military and terrorist organization websites. Importantly, Snyder’s work questions the widespread notion that the ontology of the digital photograph is one of immateriality and virtuality (Mary Ann Doane, 2007). Instead, his appropriated jpegs seem to hold the capacity to record time as entropy, loss and degradation; they articulate a melancholic aesthetics based on principles of destruction, entropy and forgetting. In this paper I want to historicize Snyder’s fascination with entropy by pointing at its indebtedness with 1960s conceptual art practices. Also, I want to show how his particular digital aesthetic is linked with a melancholic notion of history typical of certain fatalistic postmodernist thought that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

Paolo Magagnoli is currently completing his doctoral dissertation Historical Representation in Lens-Based Media: 1970s-2000s at University College London where he has also taught on subjects ranging from modern and contemporary photography, video art and the projected image.

 

3. Rachel Wells

Lecturer in Art History, Newcastle University (UK)

"Digital Scale: Enlargement and Intelligibility in Thomas Ruff’s jpeg series"

This paper will examine the use of pixelation in recent art practice, focusing in particular upon Thomas Ruff’s jpeg series. Ruff is one of a number of contemporary artists who have explored the revelation of the pixel grid through the enlargement of digital images. I will argue that such work addresses not only what Ruff describes as a “grammar of the media”, but also a tension between finitude and that which is beyond measure. Drawing upon writing on digitisation by William J Mitchell and Lev Manovich, who have highlighted the fixed resolution of a digital image according to its number of indivisible pixels, I will suggest that Ruff’s revelation of the pixel grid through enlargement suggests a refusal to disguise the precise limitation of the information contained in an image. The fact that enlargement beyond a certain limit in this format can ‘reveal nothing new’ will be treated as its own revelation: the closer the viewer gets to the work, the less intelligble the image becomes; one has to acknowledge one’s own distance in order to see the subject represented most clearly. While pixelation is regularly used as a televisual technique to protect identity or to hide brand names, in Ruff’s gigantic art objects the effect of pixelation is one of denied understanding, of something obscured. This paper will examine the use of Ruff’s jpeg photographs of 9/11 in particular, arguing that visual aspects of digitisation can suggest, as Susan Sontag did in Regarding the Pain of Others, that only by becoming resolved to their own distance and limitation can attempts to comprehend the horror of 9/11 by those who were not directly affected come closest and see most clearly.

Rachel Wells is Lecturer in Art History at Newcastle University. Her research interests focus upon the relationship between sculpture and photography, the address of responsibility within contemporary art, and the impact of globalisation on recent art production and reception. Her book on Scale in Contemporary Sculpture is forthcoming with Ashgate Publishing. Before joining the department at Newcastle, Rachel was Tutor in Fine Art (History and Theory) at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and Henry Moore Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she also completed her MA and PhD.

 


Saturday 25 June 2011

11:30-13:00 Panel B

1. Rob Wilkie
Assistant Professor of Cultural and Digital Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (USA)

“The ‘Posthuman’ Eye: Class, Ethics, and the Digital Image”

According to W.J.T. Mitchell, the emergence of a ‘worldwide network of digital imaging systems’ (The Reconfigured Eye, 1992: 85) has signaled the end of the empiricism of photographic reality and the beginning of a post-photographic network of ‘endless self-referentiality of symbolic constructions’ (225). What Mitchell calls the ‘the decentred subject's reconfigured eye’ (85), in other words, is said to be more than just a change in kind. As Mitchell and others suggest, the shift from analogue photography to the digital image means that in place of a humanist approach to the photographic real, which obscures social and economic differences under an idealist universalism, the post-photographic era represents a new, ‘post-humanist’ vision of difference that posits in the fluidity of digital imaging the possibility of more ‘ethical’ ways of seeing built upon ‘rules of hospitality’ (Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture, 1999:7). In my paper, I will contrast the theories of the "posthuman" eye as it is developed in the work of Mitchell, Mirzoeff, and Derrida (The Animal that Therefore I Am) with the ‘material’ eye as argued by Marx (The 1844 Manuscripts) and through a reading of the recent film District 9 (2009)—a film which, I suggest, exemplifies the dominant characteristics of "posthuman" visuality—will argue that the digital ethics of the "posthuman" eye are less about recognising what Derrida calls the "immense multiplicity" of singular perspectives, but rather is a reflection of the process by which capital moves towards subsuming all differences into one vision—a vision based upon exploitation.

Rob Wilkie is Assistant Professor of Cultural and Digital Studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. His essays have appeared in numerous journals among which JAC, Nature, Society and Thought, Textual Practice, and Postmodern Culture. He is currently revising a book entitled The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network.

 

2. Damian Sutton
Reader in Photography, Middlesex University (UK)

"Contact"

In the 15 years since the critical highpoint of debates surrounding the digital image and the loss of indexicality (e.g., Amlunxen 1996), we have seen a commonplace acceptance of digital portraits in our lives. This is especially the case with images circulated digitally via the internet and mobile phones, even if the original image was shot in analogue. At the same time, theory and philosophy of portraiture have largely ignored the debate surrounding the digital production or provenance of photographic portraits. In some cases the change in technology is elided as a subject in favour of larger paradigms, such as the acheiropoeitic (Maynard, 1997; Freeland, 2010) in portraits of loved ones, or our ‘warranted’ belief in the photograph due to a knowledge of, and trust in, the mechanism of photography (Walden, 2005). These approaches recapitulate earlier discussions of the photographic portrait, such as that of Kendall Walton, which emphasise ‘contact’ with the subject, a phenomenon that can be demonstrated in the photograph’s technical materiality in comparison with photo-realist painting, for example (Walton, 1984 and 2008). But if ‘contact’ is retained in this technical materiality, how has it survived the migration to digital? This paper will explore the notion of ‘contact’ in the photographic portrait distributed digitally. The photographic portrait in this respect involves the image of a named person that is valued as a believable and useful likeness, and where the readily apparent technology of photography guarantees a sensible connection with subject. This is the principle upon which contemporary theory relies, but which is often difficult to justify in a world of immaterial distribution of images. Working from the viewpoint of Levinas’ epiphany of the face-to-face encounter (Levinas, 1961), the paper will propose that ‘contact’ is suggested in the signs of technology in the portrait, which serve to place its distinctness within the terrifying infinity of humanity.

Dr Damian Sutton is Reader in Photography at Middlesex Universit. He is the author of Photography, Cinema, Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and editor of State of the Real: Aesthetics in the Digital Age (I. B. Tauris, 2007). He has written for Screen, Source and PhotoEspaña.

 

3. Nicholas Muellner
Associate Professor, Cinema, Photography and Media Arts, Park School of Communications, Ithaca College (USA)

“The New Interval”

At first it was simply a fascination with the pose: the awk¬ward gesture of holding a camera up to the space in front of one’s face. These six to ten inches, between the photog¬rapher’s nose and the screen of a digital camera, constitute a new interval in the world: a space that demands further investigation. The vernacular experience of photography feels different, and that is because a new gap, between eyes and screens, has opened up, and another, quite different one, has gone away. The old experience was charged with the occult darkness of the film chamber; the new one is flooded with the brightness of the open field. These two encounters produce very different relationships to the creation of the image. In the new space of photography, a picture impresses itself upon us before we make it; in the old order, we impressed the image upon ourselves before we knew it. This paper proposes to tease out the shifted emotional, so¬cial and temporal implications of this new conceptual and physical interval in popular photographic practice. My own observations, based on documentation, interviews, personal practice and cultural speculation, will evolve in dialogue with the Belgian philosopher Henri van Lier’s writings on pho¬tography from the 1980s.

Nicholas Muellner is a photographer, writer and curator whose work investigates the limits of photography as a vehicle for pursuing documentary imperatives, a platform for formal research and an interface to literary, political and personal questions. His exhibition and book projects consider the ways that visual systems are persistently caught between contradictory imperatives: abstraction and material description, socio-political and individual experience, knowledge and the unrepresentable. He teaches Photography and Critical Studies at the Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.

 


Saturday 25 June 2011

15:30-17:00 Panel C

1. David Jackson

Lecturer in Media Arts,
University of Bedfordshire (UK)

“We are Here: Camilo Josè, Vergara’s Invisible Cities”

Camilo Josè Vergara is a photographer who has steadfastly documented post-industrial ruins in major American cities since the late 1970s. This paper will focus on his website Invincible Cities, an interactive Web 2.0 resource and database which forms an encompassing visual history of Harlem, Camden and Richmond. Vergara’s most powerful means of expressing the changes affecting cities is the time-lapse photographic sequence; on the website users can click on images and be immediately connected to the time and place of a particular photograph, to site descriptions and other relevant data. Importantly, a time-line of images links the user to a complex network of relations between photographs. What is most distinctive here is the application of geo-spatial components drawn from techniques of locative media to the production of a digital photographic archive. This imaginative intermingling of archive and locative media produces, I argue, a new form of urban mapping. Invincible Cities is not without precedent; the project owes much in its materiality and historical force to the work of Walter Benjamin, the American social documentary experiments of the 1930s and beyond. Vergara’s ambitious visual methodology seeks to construct knowledge about a particular place, or city, by documenting the network of historical forces transforming urban landscapes. At work in Invincible Cities, I argue, is an underlying productive tension between aesthetic and socio-historical considerations. This tension generates a form of relational historicism that represents the dynamics of spatial production by taking into account the temporal aspects marking urban decline in ghetto spaces.

David Jackson is a writer and filmmaker. His most recent film The Last Breath (2008) was commissioned by the UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund. He is currently a Lecturer in Media Arts at the University of Bedfordshire.


2. Arabella Plouviez
Professor in Photography, Faculty of Art, Design and Media, University of Sunderland (UK)

Carol McKay
Senior Lecturer in Photography/Photographic Theory, Faculty of Art, Design and Media, University of Sunderland (UK)

“Photography, Walking and Social Networking: Reflecting on Critical
Photographic Practice”

The so-called ‘digital revolution’ poses immense challenges as well as new opportunities for photographers. The plethora of developments affecting vernacular photography, as well as the digitally-driven resurgence of particular forms of the practice (e.g., street photography) are frequently referenced. Together they suggest a surfeit of new contexts for making and sharing photographic work, mapping across the new terrain of ‘Photography 2.0’. The cultures of such photographic production and consumption are often characterized by instantaneousness, flexibility, mobility, and rapid exchange: the photographic image, it seems, can be ubiquitously pliable. But what are the implications of this rapidly developing terrain for those ‘critically-engaged’ photography practices normally associated with fine art and documentary trends? By way of specific case studies, this paper will consider some emergent models of practice that seek to utilize photography 2.0 critically, so as to slow-down the rate of photographic production and open up new spaces for critical reflection and discussion. Specifically, walking (plain old pedestrianism) and talking (conversation) are explored as models for photographic interaction, which, it is suggested, might sit alongside and creatively enhance the virtual networking opportunities of ‘Photography 2.0’.

Professor Arabella Plouviez is Head of Photography at the University of Sunderland. Her photographic work, which has been exhibited and published both nationally and internationally, involves the combining of image and text to visualise ideas and issues researched through working with different communities of people. Together with colleagues, she has been instrumental in setting up a photography research centre at the University of Sunderland, the International Photography Research Network (IPRN) and the North East Photography Network (NEPN), which encourages the development of high quality, critically engaged photography in the North East region.

Carol McKay is a Senior Lecturer in Photography/Photographic Theory at the University of Sunderland. Her areas of research include interrogating archives, and how the archive and specifically the photographic archive can operate and be interpreted. She coordinates the North East Photography Network (NEPN) which includes working in collaboration with partners such as the Mining Institute, Lit & Phil and Side Gallery to develop research activities including symposia and seminars looking at contemporary photographic practice and support for practitioners.


3. Irwan Ahmett
Artist and Art Director of AhmettSalina Studio (Indonesia)

Tita Salina
Artist and Managing Director of AhmettSalina Studio (Indonesia)

“Don't ever Take Life Seriously. Nobody Gets out Alive Anyway (Urban Play)”

Human beings are born to play. Playing, whether under the light of the full moon or virtually by means of digital technology, has always served as a way to escape daily routine, or simply enjoy oneself. Playing could take the parties involved into a delightful as much as creative dimension, liberating them from the tyrannical mechanisms of the everyday.
Urban Play focuses on the ill city of Jakarta and its inhabitants as participants in a series of games aiming to explore new sensitivities experienced by the wider public, by way of interaction through playfulness and improvisation. In short, it aims to unravel the playful side of the city. These aims are pursued through video and photography, the main media employed for each campaign preceding the games. This form of photographic documentation is chosen precisely for the ability to record and cultivate collective memory, thus facilitating its transformation into a series of games, which citizens are invited to observe, take part into and interpret in new ways. New socializing patterns are being developed by Jakarta urbanites as a reaction against the dire condition of the public transportation system and the ever-worsening traffic density. They are reconstructing their own city virtually. Urban Play recognised and used this momentum to map out urban issues by distributing itself as an online visual project. During a four-month period, it generated more than 10,000 online hits and received extended coverage by local and national media.

Irwan Amin Ahmett is a multidisciplinary artist and also co-founder and Art Director of AhmettSalina Studio. He studied Graphic Design at Jakarta Institute of Arts. His work involves self-initiated projects examining social issues and behaviour through public participation. Recent national and international exhibitions include: Top Collections, Decompression #10 – Ruang Rupa, Jakarta 2010; Manifesto of the New Aesthetic (group) ICA Gallery Singapore 2010; The Past, The Forgotten Time (group), Yogyakarta/Jakarta/ Amsterdam/Den Haag/Shanghai/ Singapore 2008; Yogya Biennale Neo Nation 2007; Change Yourself, Cemeti Gallery Yogyakarta/ Museum Van Nagsael Rotterdam 2005; Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2005; and Gwang Ju Biennale 2002.

Tita Salina is an artist, co-founder and Managing Director of AhmettSalina studio. She studied Graphic Design at Jakarta Institute of Arts. Her work mostly involves commercial design, branding, social and health campaigns. She initiated the forum for sharing knowledge between creative people Dinner With Designers. She assisted Irwan Ahmett in realizing the projects Change Yourself and Happiness and collaborated with him in the project Urban Play.

 


Saturday 25 June 2011

15:30-17:00 Panel D

1. Kari Andén-Papadopoulos
Associate Professor, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, Stockholm University (Sweden) and

Stuart Allan
Professor of Journalism, Media School, Bournemouth University (UK)

“Redefining Photojournalism: Citizen Photography and Conflict Events”

Research into citizens’ participation in newsmaking is at an early stage of development, with little scholarship to date concerning the role or impact of amateur imagery vis-à-vis conflict reporting. The rapid rise of 'I-witness' (that is, firsthand, subjective, nonprofessional) photography raises important questions, we would suggest, deserving of careful analysis and critique. Such questions include, for example: how do news organisations process amateur eyewitness imagery? To what extent is this type of imagery – with its perceived immediacy, authenticity and raw, affective emotionalism – redefining what counts as photojournalism? What challenges does it pose for relations of journalistic authority, standards of ethics and conventions of credibility where the visual documentation of conflict is concerned? This paper, in drawing upon findings from an empirical study conducted by the authors in Swedish and British journalistic contexts, pursues answers to these and related questions. Its mode of enquiry will be illustrated by examples from different case studies, including citizen contributions to the photo-reporting of the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, the post-election protests in Iran in June 2009, and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst others. In light of this evaluative assessment, the paper reappraises the current status of photojournalism with a view to highlighting for discussion and critique possible ways in which its relationship with democratic culture may be reinvigorated by citizen-based alternatives.

Kari Andén-Papadopoulos is Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, Stockholm University. She has published internationally on photojournalism in times of crisis and war, with particular interest in amateur visual practices and new social media. Her forthcoming book entitled Global Image Wars: Geopolitics and Post-9/11 Visual Culture (Routledge, 2011) considers how images and visual practices in post-9/11 global mediated culture have been used to licence but also challenge geopolitical power. She is currently engaged in a research study of citizen photojournalism with Stuart Allan funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Stuart Allan is Professor of Journalism in the Media School, Bournemouth University. He is the author and/or editor of fifteen books, including Digital War Reporting (co-authored with D. Matheson, Polity, 2009), Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives (co-edited with E. Thorsen, Peter Lang, 2009), The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism (2010) and Journalism After September 11 (co-edited with B. Zelizer, second edition, Routledge, 2011). He is currently engaged in a research study of citizen photojournalism with Kari Andén-Papadopoulos funded by the Swedish Research Council.

 

2. Yasmin Ibrahim
Reader in International Business and Communications, Queen Mary (UK)

“Bearing Witness in the Digital Age Mediated Suffering in a Converged World”

The convergence of technologies brings a two-fold phenomenon into our technologically-mediated world. Firstly, mobile technologies have enabled the recording of war and conflict through bystanders who can then transmit them to the wider world through the Internet. Secondly, this form of bearing witness creates a proliferation of images of suffering leading to a new visual economy inviting new types of spectatorship that reconfigure event making integrating them into mainstream and niche media platforms. This paper argues that the aestheticisation of suffering is a dominant and integral part of our culture, and new media technologies illuminate and offer new ways to commodify and engage with suffering. The commodification of suffering on video streaming platforms on the Internet are spaces of both perverse obsession with pain and suffering, but, equally, they are performative counter-sites which offer different ways to record and narrate human suffering beyond the vantage point of mainstream media.

Dr Yasmin Ibrahim is a Reader in International Business and Communications at Queen Mary, University of London. Her ongoing research on new media technologies explores the cultural dimensions and social implication of the diffusion of ICTs in different contexts. Beyond new media and digital technologies she writes on political communication and political mobilisation from cultural perspectives. Her other research interests include globalisation, visual culture and memory studies.

 

3. Marta Zarzycka
Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender studies, Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University (The Netherlands)

“Digital Processing: Loss and Mourning in Press Photography”

Mourning has become a common condition in the 21st century, so far the century of loss and conflict. The photographic representation of the loss of lives, property or capital perpetually infiltrates contemporary consciousness. Recent technologies of broadcasting (satellite television, digital imaging, the Internet), as well as ongoing “democratization” of photography (citizen journalism, social networking media) affect our interpretation of the subject, the place and the moment of mourning, blurring the notions of distance, time and space. Consequently, the condition of mourning can no longer be seen as a mono-cultural individual psychological state (Caruth, 1996), but increasingly engages questions of global context, transnational identity and contemporary geopolitics. In this paper, I present several digital photographs capturing the mourning process as part of an ‘intimate public sphere’ (Berlant, 2008), shaped by recent events: wars, genocides, decolonisation, racial and gender inequalities, AIDS and exile, but also by sense of an impersonal collectivity after death of a celebrity. Each of these images generates opportunities for various kinds of reactions. I follow how these photographs of mourning, digitally copied ad infinitum and spanning geographical distances and cultural divides, are framed to enhance certain modes of both remembering and forgetting.

Dr Marta Zarzycka is Assistant Professor at the Gender Studies Department, Utrecht University. She teaches and publishes in the field of visual studies and feminist theory. In her current research she focuses on the role of digital photography in shaping collective western consciousness through its representation of trauma and atrocity. She is currently co-editing a volume entitled Carnal Aesthetics: Transgressive Imagery and Feminist Politics (forthcoming I.B. Tauris, 2011).

 

Saturday 25 June 2011

17:30 Keynote speech

Julian Stallabrass
Professor in Art History, Courtauld Institute of Art (UK)

“The Afterlife of Abu Ghraib”

The way in which the Abu Ghraib photographs and story were dealt with by the mainstream media in the UK and the US is familiar, and reflects the failure of the media to adequately interrogate the official stories relayed by government sources throughout the war. ‘Torture’ was swiftly reassigned as ‘abuse’, and a state policy on breaking the Geneva Convention was retold as the case of a few ‘bad apples’. While one or two of the images became ‘iconic’, these were chosen in part for the mildness of what was shown and their religious connotations, which fed into a ghastly subtext of redemption. The life of the photographs on the Web is quite different and far more diverse. The lecture will contrast the mass media treatment of the Abu Ghraib images with their afterlife on the Web in a wide variety of sites, using them for satire, entertainment, political propaganda, among other purposes. It will ask broader questions about state secrecy and the control of images, the decline of the established press, and the rise of fragmented online political communities.


Julian Stallabrass is a writer, curator, photographer and lecturer. He is Professor in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and is the author of Art Incorporated (Oxford University Press, 2004), Internet Art: The Online Clash Between Culture and Commerce (Tate Publishing, 2003), Paris Pictured (Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002), High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s (Verso, 1999) and Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture (Verso, 1996). He is the co-editor of Ground Control: Technology and Utopia (Black Dog Publishing, 1997), Occupational Hazard: Critical Writing on Recent British Art (Black Dog Publishing, 1998), and Locus Solus: Technology, Identity and Site in Contemporary Art (Black Dog Publishing, 1999). He has written art criticism regularly for publications including Tate, Art Monthly and the New Statesman. He is an editorial board member of Art History, New Left Review and Third Text. He curated the 2008 Brighton Photo Biennial, Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images.

 

 

Sunday 26 June 2011

10:00 Keynote speech

Mia Fineman

Assistant Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA)

“Phoning It In”

The first mobile phone cameras were developed in the early 1990s but it was not until a decade later that this technology became a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Last year there were more than five billion mobile-phone users worldwide, representing about three quarters of the world’s population. Most of these phones come with built-in cameras, making cell phone photography the most widespread form of image-making the world has ever known. Naturally, artists today are enormously intrigued by the aesthetic possibilities of the camera phone, in much the same way that previous generations were drawn to inexpensive plastic or toy cameras like the Diana, the Holga, the Russian Lomo, and the Polaroid SX-70. In fact, several of the most popular photo apps for the iPhone feature digital filters that mimic the lo-fi look of these film-based “crappy cameras”. This paper will examine the spontaneity, immediacy, and low-res rawness of camera phone photographs as an alternative to the slick hyperrealism of much recent large-scale color photography, and will look at how artists’ camera phone projects relate to broader cultural phenomena like citizen journalism, microblogging and social networking. Also addressed will be the ways artists have adapted (or failed to adapt) to new forms of publishing, display, and distribution. Among the works discussed will be three recent artists’ projects representing different approaches to what has come to be known as iPhoneography: Joel Sternfeld’s series of photographs, iDubai, Rob Pruitt’s book and exhibition iPruitt, and Chase Jarvis’s book, website, and iPhone app, The Best Camera is the One you Have with you.

Mia Fineman is Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since joining the Metropolitan in 1997, she has organised numerous exhibitions, including Other Pictures: Vernacular Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection (2000), On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag (2006), and Reality Check: Truth and Illusion in Contemporary Photography (2009). Her writing has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Slate, the Village Voice, Artnet, and McSweeney’s, and she has contributed essays to monographs on Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, Gabriel Orozco, Sean Scully, and others. She is currently at work on a major exhibition on the history of manipulated photography before Photoshop.

 

 

Sunday 26 June 2011

11:30: 13:00 Panel E


1. Mikko Villi

Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Communication, School of Economics, Aalto University (Finland)

“Messaging and Publishing Photographs: Sharing Camera Phone Photographs via the Internet”

This paper addresses the question, how the integration of the Internet into mobile phones affects visual mobile communication, in particular the intimate traits of sharing camera phone photographs. By connecting the mobile phone to the Internet, photographs can be shared by using similar services as with a PC. Therefore, the practices for remote sharing of camera phone photographs can be divided into two domains: interpersonal messaging and publishing. Users can send the photographs in an interpersonal manner via IM, email and MMS, or, alternatively, upload them to social networking sites for wider audiences to view. When taking into account the conventional, intimate modes of both telephone communication and personal photography, messaging would seem a more natural means to share mobile photographs than publishing. The previously dominant interpersonal and intimate attribute of visual mobile communication is replaced, to a degree, by the aspect of publishing, but, at the same time, mobile Internet-based messaging still provides the communicator with a perpetual connection to the insular life. In this argument, I use results from an empirical case study focusing on the mobile photo sharing practices of a group of students and staff members at the Arcada University of Applied Science in Helsinki, Finland.

Dr Mikko Villi works as a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Economics in Helsinki with a background in communication studies. The general interest in his research has been the borderland between new and old media, in particular the effects of new communication technology on established practices and conventions of everyday communication. His doctoral thesis entitled Visual Mobile Communication: Camera Phone Photo Messages as Ritual Communication and Mediated Presence was published in May 2010.

 

2. Eve Forrest

PhD candidate, Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland (UK)

“Beyond the Image: A Phenomenology of Digital Photographic Practices”

This paper will offer an alternative perspective on digital photographic practice and hopes to push discussions on photography beyond the image. Via Merleau-Ponty’s writing on embodiment and perception, as well as Nigel Thrift’s non-representational theory, the paper will explore the habits and routines of photographers on the site Flickr whilst also examining the more sensual “doings” and everyday entanglements of the photographer, offline. This builds on the empirical work of a current ethnographic study of North East Flickrites and their online and offline practices, investigating how members explore their everyday urban surroundings with their cameras. Flickr is a specialist online network for photographers and the site is continually pioneering many creative applications, making it a fertile ground for research. The main task of this research is to move discussions about photography on from a persistent focus on the image—an area governed by the ‘the ruling metaphor of reading’ (Stafford, 1997)—and turn instead to phenomenological philosophy, as well as cultural and human geography to find out more about being a photographer ‘in the world.’ Photography is often viewed in purely visual terms and user interaction with the camera is often overlooked in favour of the images produced by the technology. This paper will argue that a renewed position on photography is long overdue in the academy, and as a practice photography should be approached as both embodied and multi sensual.

Eve Forrest graduated with an MSc in Media Research at the University of Stirling in 2007 where she also completed her BA (Hons) in Film and Media Studies. Although always fascinated with photography as an undergraduate, it was her Masters dissertation which focused on the amateur photograph and Flickr, where her interest in the online aspects of photography began. Now based at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, her research concentrates on photographic practices, offline spaces and Flickr. Through the work of Merleau-Ponty, Ingold, Thrift and others, the research also seeks to reframe photography as an embodied, multi-sensual practice.


Sunday 26 June 2011

11:30: 13:00 Panel F

1. Bronwen Colquhoun
PhD candidate, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies Newcastle University (UK)

Areti Galani
Lecturer, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies Newcastle University (UK)

“Flickr The Commons: Challenging Perceptions of Photographic Collections?”

Engagement with social media applications is increasingly prioritised within cultural institutions; user-generated content is fast becoming a resource for documentation and curatorial activity within modern museum practice. This paper focuses on the management, curation and re-conceptualisation of photographic collections that belong to museums, libraries and archives, through their participation in the popular image-sharing website Flickr The Commons. The Commons exclusively hosts historic photographic collections held by forty-six cultural institutions from across the world and provides not only a unique viewing environment, but also an opportunity for users to participate by contributing information and expressing preference. This paper initially discusses how Flickr The Commons engages users with photography and its discourses through supporting participation and building ‘communities of interest’ around collections. It further reflects on the potential tensions that may arise for the institutions. On one hand the website appears to be an excellent tool for increasing the accessibility and visibility of photographic collections online. On the other hand it may challenge conventional approaches to curating, researching and interpreting these collections. Curatorial practice that negotiates this tension will be discussed drawing upon interviews with participant institutions. Additionally, through examples from featured collections and users’ contributions, this paper explores how Flickr The Commons affects the public consumption and use of photographic collections, arguing that engagement in such social media platforms enables the creation of diverse forms of knowledge and supports the formation of communities and partnerships between professionals and enthusiasts around the content, the processes and the personal appreciation of photographic practice.

Bronwen Colquhoun is a PhD candidate at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University. Her research focuses on image-sharing website Flickr The Commons and investigates the importance of user-generated content within museum practice. Her research also addresses the role of the user through analysing the potential shift in function from consumer to co-producer, and exploring the implications this may have for the appreciation and understanding of the photographic medium. She completed an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Newcastle University and holds a BA in Contemporary Photographic Practice from Northumbria University.

Dr Areti Galani is a lecturer at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University. She researches in the field of digital heritage with a particular emphasis on the study and understanding of user experience. She is also interested in how podcasts and social networking applications may support interpretation and exhibition design through visitor engagement. More recently, she has carried research on the integration of user contributed content and especially amateur photographs in exhibition spaces. She currently co-leads the AHRC-funded Rock Art Mobile Project, which looks at mobile platforms for interpreting ring and cup marks in rural Northumberland. Dr Galani has been involved in curatorial projects in Greece and the UK, and has attracted funding from AHRC, One North East and the C. Cookson Trust.

 

2. Janda Gooding
Head of Photographs, Film, Sound, and Multimedia, Australian War Memorial (Australia)

“Physical to Virtual: The Life Story of a Collection of Photographs”

The Australian War Memorial [www.awm.gov.au] combines twin purposes not found anywhere else. It is the national site for commemorating the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war as well as a world-class museum. At its core is the photographs collection of over a million images that document and interpret the Australian experience of war from the mid nineteenth century to the present. Begun on the battlefields of Western Europe in 1916 the collection is mainly negative based, but the Memorial is increasingly responding to the digital age with important contemporary commissions and acquisitions of born digital photographic material. This paper discusses some of the complexities and ethical issues involved in developing and managing a collection of photographs within the sometimes uncomfortable space between a museum and a memorial. Curators often find themselves negotiating a treacherous maze of museum ethics and responsibilities, copyright and moral rights, demand for public access, commercial considerations, and veteran and stakeholder sensitivities. These traditional frameworks are increasingly coupled with a desire to engage with artistic re-purposing of the archive and to contribute to new ways of informing and connecting with audiences. Born digital donations, purchases and contemporary commissions contribute a set of new issues relating to documentation, originality and ownership. Faced with large holdings of slowly deteriorating analogue material, the move into preservation scanning has brought its own range of considerations into the mix as we try to maintain the integrity, context and nature of the original image in a rapidly evolving environment.

Dr Janda Gooding is Head of Photographs, Film, Sound, and Multimedia at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. From 1979 to 2005 she worked as a Curator at the Art Gallery of Western Australia where she curated many thematic, retrospective and survey exhibitions of Australian and International artists. She has published widely and presented conference papers in Australia and internationally. She was awarded her Phd in 2006. Dr Gooding recently completed a major research project for the Memorial on the importance of World War One battlefield landscapes and the intersection of landscape and historical memory in art and photography associated with Gallipoli.

 

3. Vikki Hill

PhD candidate, University of the West of England (UK)

“Viewing the Past through Web 2.0 Technologies”

Has the ubiquitous nature of the digital image changed the way in which we view the historical photographic image? Social networking sites utilising this new technology such as Flickr—a photo-sharing website which allows the viewer to interact with the images displayed by tagging, annotating or commenting on them—can be seen as altering the methodologies traditionally used in both the viewing of the photographic image and in visually decoding its meaning. Photographic archive institutions are increasingly engaging with these new audiences through the display of digital surrogates of images from their collections utilising Web 2.0 technology and websites such as Flickr The Commons. The question arises as to whether these surrogates can be visually decoded in the same manner as the analogue print they are representing or whether the digitisation process and corresponding loss of “materiality” affects the narrative they contain. Another factor to be considered is that of whether such technologies allow these surrogates to be used in a manner that would be difficult to replicate in the analogue based archive. One such example of how technology can allow a greater degree of flexibility in the use of these historical images is the “Then and Now” mash up (http://www.paulhagon.com/thenandnow/nypl/) which includes historic images from the New York Public Library and displays them alongside corresponding images of the same location from Google street view allowing the viewer to gain an insight into the changing nature of the urban landscape.

Vikki Hill is a PhD candidate at the University of West of England. Her research examines how the notion of cultural memory is affected or changed by the use of digital surrogates of analogue photographic prints as new methods of interacting with these images are facilitated through Web 2.0 technology. Recent conference papers include: “Archives, the Internet and Contextualisation”, (De)Constructing the Archive in a Digital Age, Loughborough University (2010); “The Use of a Plastic Lens to Replicate the Aesthetic of the Remembered Image”, IADIS Visual Communication Conference, Portugal (2009); and “Relocating the Notion of the Archive within the Digital Age”, Photography, Archive and Memory Symposium, Roehampton University (2009).