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photography Thought for the Week

TFTW #9: Azoulay on the photographic encounter

TFTW…thought for the week…some occasional quotes to inspire…

The photograph…is never solely the realization of the preconceived plan or a vision of a single author, but is rather the outcome of an encounter. This encounter involves four protagonists at least – a camera, whoever stands behind the lens, whoever faces the lens, and whoever might become a spectator viewing the product of the encounter.

Mainstream discourses of photography…tend to attribute that which is visible in the photograph to only one of the participants involved in the production of the image. This is the consequence of discursive conventions – in the discourse of art and, eventually, that of photography as well. When this axiom of rule is suspended, however, what is inscribed in the frame no longer appears as derivative of the photographer’s point of view, nor as its projection or implementation. Rather it can be seen to result from the encounter between the four protagonists, each of whom might take on a different form.

Ariella Azoulay, Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography (London: Verso, 2012), pp. 219-20.

Photo credit: justLuc/Flickr

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Thought for the Week

TFTW #8: Sekula on photographic meaning

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

The photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning. Only by its embeddedness in a concrete discourse situation can the photograph yield a clear semantic outcome.

Alan Sekula, “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning,” in Thinking Photography, edited by Victor Burgin (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 91.

Thumbnail photo: Wonderlane/Flickr

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photography Thought for the Week

TFTW #7: Shapiro on photography and representation

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

Representations do not imitate reality but are practices through which things take on meaning and value; to the extent that a representation is regarded as realistic, it is because it is so familiar it operates transparently…photography is one of the representational practices that has become so naturalized.

Michael J. Shapiro, The Politics of Representation: Writing Practices in Biography, Photography and Policy Analysis (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), p. xi.

Thumbnail photo: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

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Thought for the Week

TFTW #6: Azoulay on the image as statement

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

A solitary image cannot testify to what is revealed through it, but must be attached to another image, another piece of information, another assertion or description, another grievance or piece of evidence, another broadcast, another transmitter. An image is only ever another statement in a regime of statements.

Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (New York: Zone Books, 2008), p. 191.

Thumbnail photo: webtreats/Flickr

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photography Thought for the Week

TFTW #5: Bolton on photography’s contradictions

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

It seems that wherever we look in photography, we find contradictory impulses and opposing aims. The wide range of photographic applications [from police surveillance to liberal documentary] raises the possibility that photography has no governing characteristics at all save adaptability. Certain practices preserve the status quo and others strive to overthrow it; it is possible to find in the medium contributions to both the domination and the liberation of social life.

Richard Bolton, “Introduction: The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography,” in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, edited by Richard Bolton (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1992), p. xi.

Thumbnail photo: Webtreats/Flickr

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Thought for the Week

TFTW #4: Barthes on subversive photography

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. By Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), p. 38.

Thumbnail photo: Bill Gracey/Flickr.

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photography Thought for the Week

TFTW #3: Ritchin on hyperphotography

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

Just as the novel, poetry, and the memoir have explored the permutations of memory, so too might the digital photograph evoke a more complex past. Rather than a single, inarguable reference point that is to thought to be truer than human recollection, it can serve as an element in a web of other supporting and contradictory imagery, sounds and texts, a menu of possible interpretations, a malleable dreamscape and memory magnet…Holistically, the photograph sprouts electronic roots and branches and is, in turn, entwined by other media.

Fred Ritchin, After Photography (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009), p. 59.

Thumbnail photo: Mr Mark/Flickr

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photography Thought for the Week

TFTW #2: Ranciere on representation

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

Representation is not the act of producing a visible form, but the act of offering an equivalent – something that speech does just as much as photography. The image is not the duplicate of a thing. It is a complex set of relations between the visible and the invisible, the visible and speech, the said and the unsaid. It is not a mere reproduction of what is out there in front of the photographer or the filmmaker. It is always an alteration that occurs in a chain of images which alter it in turn.

Jacques Ranciere, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. by Gregory Elliot (London: Verso, 2009), pp. 93-94.

Thumbnail photo: webtreats/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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politics Thought for the Week

TFTW #1: Foucault on criticism

TFTW…thought for the week…some quotes to inspire…

A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest…Criticism is a matter of flushing out that thought and trying to change it: to show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such. Practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult.

Michel Foucault, “Practicing Criticism,” in Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman, translated by Alan Sheridan and others, New York, 1988, pp. 154-55.

Thumbnail photo: Biscarotte/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.