Article

The arrow of time

Diego Goldberg

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The arrow of time
On June 17th, every year, the family goes through a private ritual:
we photograph ourselves to stop, for a fleeting moment, the arrow of time passing by.

 
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
The arrow of time
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The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
 

 

Diego GoldbergDiego Goldberg (Argentina, 1946). Lives and works in Argentina. He has taken part in group and solo exhibitions. Among other distinctions, Goldberg has won the Gold Medal 1998 from the Society of Publications Design; the Award of Merit 1998 from the Art Directors Club of New York for The Arrow of Time; second prize at the World Press Photo (Amsterdam, 1983) for Chile Ten Years After the Coup; and First Prize in the New York Press Award 1981 for Alphonse D’Amato, commissioned by the New York Times Magazine. He also won the FNPI (Gabriel García Márquez Foundation) Prize in 2006 for the Pursuing a dream. Diego can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you can visit his website.

 

 

 
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The arrow of time
On June 17th, every year, the family goes through a private ritual:
we photograph ourselves to stop, for a fleeting moment, the arrow of time passing by.

 
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
The arrow of time
 

 

Diego GoldbergDiego Goldberg (Argentina, 1946). Lives and works in Argentina. He has taken part in group and solo exhibitions. Among other distinctions, Goldberg has won the Gold Medal 1998 from the Society of Publications Design; the Award of Merit 1998 from the Art Directors Club of New York for The Arrow of Time; second prize at the World Press Photo (Amsterdam, 1983) for Chile Ten Years After the Coup; and First Prize in the New York Press Award 1981 for Alphonse D’Amato, commissioned by the New York Times Magazine. He also won the FNPI (Gabriel García Márquez Foundation) Prize in 2006 for the Pursuing a dream. Diego can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you can visit his website.

 

 

 
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In Search of Lost Innocence

Alejandro Malo

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paisaje

Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. Film by Arnold Fanck, 1924

Landscape, long before being image, was literature and longing. Since ancient times, almost every civilization led an educated class that longed to return to the simple life of the countryside, back to nature with its deeper order and less troubled appearance. In the West, despite its widespread tradition against the city life and akin to recover the rural simplicity, it is only during the Renaissance that the joy of those running away from the maddening crowds turns into the full enjoyment of nature, first in poetry and only afterwards as a growing presence in paintings. In the East, at least since China’s Tang Dynasty, a fertile dialogue is established around the landscape between poetry and painting, and the genre develops very soon and evolves in multiple aspects.

Centuries later, while other visual media were confronted by the emergence of photography to take in and emphasize the subjectivity of their gaze over this topic, photographic landscapes devote their attention to exoticism or the magnificence of natural views and offered a deceptive closeness to a naturalist interpretation. The romantic vision of nature took root strongly across images ranging from the Bisson brothers to Ansel Adams. In them, beauty was something external to be captured in each shot, a reserve where solitude was a regained innocence and open spaces offered an inexhaustible source of peacefulness for the contemplative eye under the changing light’s mantle.

Gradually, as these perspectives became advertising and marketing leitmotifs, this genre had to be reinvented and new possibilities sought elsewhere. Already in 1975, with the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, it became clear that human intervention was inseparable from our new perception of landscape. The aseptic style of the authors gathered in this exhibition, considered almost forensic and where the emotional charge seemed absent, caused the sensation of being somehow close to a crime scene’s lingering memories, but devoid of its dramatic charge. During the following years, some authors, with a similar methodology but against this trend, looked after landscapes as representation of their own temperament, metaphor of an inner life that finds in the environment an affinity and a strong individual expressive capacity. Finally, photography assumed the same subjectivity of other means. As an example, Hiroshi Sugimoto wrote about his Seascapes: "Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home". In that phrase, anyone can guess a sort of poetic inclination and a strong artistic weight that facilitates dialogue with paintings, as was done in 2012 by exposing this series with Mark Rothko’s work.

However, Eden’s innocence became impossible in a world where human presence outreach tainted glaciers and forests with the same nonchalance. In the second half of the twentieth century, the landscape was transformed from man facing nature, to be a metaphor for our own humanity and, at the same time, scene of our fears, hopes and tragedies. We read as landscape every place where a scenario simulates an open space, no matter whether an emotional or conceptual projection of ourselves, but also we read it under the titanic action of mining, between the megalopolis’ streets or against the inventiveness of major transformation projects. Hybridization of genres has allowed the unreal calm of sensationalist scenes as in Fernando Brito’s pictures and the catastrophe of Chinese dumping sites of Yao Lu to be shown as images of bucolic appearance. We bit the fruit of our pride and today paradise is a shy promise. We need to build works, with concrete actions to transform the announced catastrophe in a redemptive epiphany. The landscape is, with its potential for imagination and denunciation, the much needed tool.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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paisaje

Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. Film by Arnold Fanck, 1924

Landscape, long before being image, was literature and longing. Since ancient times, almost every civilization led an educated class that longed to return to the simple life of the countryside, back to nature with its deeper order and less troubled appearance. In the West, despite its widespread tradition against the city life and akin to recover the rural simplicity, it is only during the Renaissance that the joy of those running away from the maddening crowds turns into the full enjoyment of nature, first in poetry and only afterwards as a growing presence in paintings. In the East, at least since China’s Tang Dynasty, a fertile dialogue is established around the landscape between poetry and painting, and the genre develops very soon and evolves in multiple aspects.

Centuries later, while other visual media were confronted by the emergence of photography to take in and emphasize the subjectivity of their gaze over this topic, photographic landscapes devote their attention to exoticism or the magnificence of natural views and offered a deceptive closeness to a naturalist interpretation. The romantic vision of nature took root strongly across images ranging from the Bisson brothers to Ansel Adams. In them, beauty was something external to be captured in each shot, a reserve where solitude was a regained innocence and open spaces offered an inexhaustible source of peacefulness for the contemplative eye under the changing light’s mantle.

Gradually, as these perspectives became advertising and marketing leitmotifs, this genre had to be reinvented and new possibilities sought elsewhere. Already in 1975, with the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, it became clear that human intervention was inseparable from our new perception of landscape. The aseptic style of the authors gathered in this exhibition, considered almost forensic and where the emotional charge seemed absent, caused the sensation of being somehow close to a crime scene’s lingering memories, but devoid of its dramatic charge. During the following years, some authors, with a similar methodology but against this trend, looked after landscapes as representation of their own temperament, metaphor of an inner life that finds in the environment an affinity and a strong individual expressive capacity. Finally, photography assumed the same subjectivity of other means. As an example, Hiroshi Sugimoto wrote about his Seascapes: "Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home". In that phrase, anyone can guess a sort of poetic inclination and a strong artistic weight that facilitates dialogue with paintings, as was done in 2012 by exposing this series with Mark Rothko’s work.

However, Eden’s innocence became impossible in a world where human presence outreach tainted glaciers and forests with the same nonchalance. In the second half of the twentieth century, the landscape was transformed from man facing nature, to be a metaphor for our own humanity and, at the same time, scene of our fears, hopes and tragedies. We read as landscape every place where a scenario simulates an open space, no matter whether an emotional or conceptual projection of ourselves, but also we read it under the titanic action of mining, between the megalopolis’ streets or against the inventiveness of major transformation projects. Hybridization of genres has allowed the unreal calm of sensationalist scenes as in Fernando Brito’s pictures and the catastrophe of Chinese dumping sites of Yao Lu to be shown as images of bucolic appearance. We bit the fruit of our pride and today paradise is a shy promise. We need to build works, with concrete actions to transform the announced catastrophe in a redemptive epiphany. The landscape is, with its potential for imagination and denunciation, the much needed tool.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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Sad memories revisited, a confrontation with Zbigniew Libera's "Positives"

Annemarie Bas

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Zbigniew Libera (Pabianice, 1959) is a Polish artist who is not afraid of pushing boundaries, by creating provocative work that challenges the canonical narratives of our contemporary culture. He is known internationally for his work LEGO (1996), a limited edition of three LEGO sets of a concentration camp, that provoked a media controversy at the Venice Biennale of 1997. The curator of the Polish pavilion, Jan Stanisław Wojciechowski, refused to present it, saying the work treated one of the darkest moments in European civilization in a too frivolous manner.1

legoLEGO. Zbigniew Libera, 1996.

In 2002-2003 Libera made the series Positives, which he described as "another attempt at playing with trauma".2 For this series, he selected traumatic iconic photographs from recent history and made a positive version of them. The photo of a naked Vietnamese girl, running away from the village of Trang Bang after the napalm bombing in 1972, has been changed into a positive image of a nude and smiling woman; a group of concentration camp prisoners have been replaced by smiling figures in striped costumes.3

nepalPositives. Zbigniew Libera, 2002-2003.

 

At first sight, we could state that this series is, like LEGO, a too frivolous approach of some of the traumatic episodes of our recent history. Some of the people who went through these horrors are still alive. Is it not disrespectful to confront them with a positive reinterpretation of their suffering? And to what end? What is Libera trying to say with this work? Is he just trying to be controversial or is there a more profound reasoning behind it?

In an interview with Katarzyna Bielas and Dorota Jarecka, from the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Libera said:

It seems to me that nowadays we don’t want to know what reality is like, we want to experience it positively. That’s why the prisoners became inhabitants, those were sad, these are glad. On the other hand it can be the mechanism of Nazi or Soviet propaganda, which changed reality into the set of optimistic slogans.4

On the one hand, it’s true that the market is providing us with a flood of glamorous and positive images. While there are plenty of serious issues asking for our attention —like climate change, armed conflicts, inequality— it is easy to get lost in the latest news about celebrities and fashion trends.5 On the other hand, the opposite is certainly as true, if not more so. Everyday we are flooded by shocking, sad, and negative images of people being decapitated by terrorists and refugees fleeing conflicted areas. Just think of the image of Aylan, the little Syrian boy who drowned in an attempt to reach the shores of Europe. This image was in the news for days and was widely disseminated by the social media. In this case, the so-called harsh reality was not ignored or concealed by optimistic slogans, but rather magnified and used as a moral appeal and tool for political action.

aylankurdi
Kid Aylan Kurdi. 2015.

In an interview with Hedvig Turai from Art Margins, Libera gave another, more interesting explanation for Positives:

You have all those traumatic pictures that I am sure no one is able to consume and digest. You cannot live with them (…). I think that people instinctively do not want to look at these pictures, like that of the Vietnamese girl injured by napalm. We have various blocks. And the photo is blocked.6

By confronting us with a positive version of the traumatic photos, Libera hopes to unblock the original negative, so we can feel their impact again.7

One can wonder if everybody is experiencing this psychological block, but if we reflect a little bit more on the idea of iconic photographs being blocked, we could say that there’s also another kind of block which arises over the years, when a photo is used over and over again as an educational and political tool, and has become part of a fixed narrative. We have learned to look and interpret our past through these iconic photographs and it has become difficult to just see them by themselves without thinking of the narratives we’ve constructed around them. In the interview mentioned above, Libera says:

We never see anything for the first time, we always look at an object and we come back to the picture we saw of this object the previous time. We always make one step back into memory, back to the previous picture. We always view our own memories of things, and not the things themselves. It is like one very long permanent journey into our memory. I tried to nail down this process of seeing and remembering.8

What Libera says here about always viewing our memories of things and not the things themselves is certainly true. Personally, when I see the photos on which the positive Residents is based, I immediately recall the education I’ve had about the Holocaust, all the films and books I’ve seen and read about this theme, and the yearly commemorations of the horrors of World War II; and I cannot see these images without thinking about the lesson I was taught: "We cannot let this happen ever again". Although there is nothing wrong with that lesson, it makes you think of the power iconic images have; some more reflection on that wouldn’t be bad.


residents
Residents. Zbigniew Libera.

Coming back to the question if there is more to the work Positives than just controversy, I think we can reasonably answer that in the affirmative, although his method might not be the most sensitive one. The Czech photographer Pavel Maria Smejlik, who is playing a similar game of seeing and remembering with his series Fatescapes (2009-2010), has a more subtle approach: he also selected iconic (war) images but instead of making their positive counterpart, he took out the central motifs and people.9 If we assume that this kind of traumatic images are blocked, this would be another way of unblocking them but then without the initial shock of seeing their positive reinterpretation.

pavel maria smejkal pavel maria smejkal 2
Fatescapes. Pavel Maria Smejkal, 2009-2010.

Whatever one’s personal preference, Libera’s work doesn’t leave one indifferent. Positives challenges us to ask ourselves if we really have observed the iconic photos that surround us and if we’ve reflected upon the narratives connected to them. The dialogue that this series might inspire about the fixed narratives related to these iconic images, is a valuable one that we should have more often.


1. http://articles.latimes.com/1997-05-19/news/mn-60350_1_lego-toys
2. http://raster.art.pl/gallery/artists/libera/prace.htm
3. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera
4. http://maurycy.atlas.com.pl/ang.nsf/0/46CD099B0570C5CBC1256E37004D54D4?OpenDocument
5. Un comentario interesante sobre este fenómeno es “Simple Living “ de Nadia Plesner: http://www.nadiaplesner.com/simple-living--darfurnica1
6. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera 
7. http://deruimtemaker.nl/2013/02/27/spelen-met-iconen-uit-de-fotografie/
8. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera
9. http://www.pavelmaria.com/fatescapestext2.html

AnneAnnemarie Bas (The Netherlands, 1986), has a Bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Utrecht and a Master’s degree in Cultural History at the same institution. As a historian, she worked as a junior researcher at the Museum of Psychiatry "Het Dolhuys" in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Since 2013, she lives and works in Mexico City. At the moment, she is international liaison at ZoneZero and works as an independent translator.
 
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Zbigniew Libera (Pabianice, 1959) is a Polish artist who is not afraid of pushing boundaries, by creating provocative work that challenges the canonical narratives of our contemporary culture. He is known internationally for his work LEGO (1996), a limited edition of three LEGO sets of a concentration camp, that provoked a media controversy at the Venice Biennale of 1997. The curator of the Polish pavilion, Jan Stanisław Wojciechowski, refused to present it, saying the work treated one of the darkest moments in European civilization in a too frivolous manner.1

legoLEGO. Zbigniew Libera, 1996.

In 2002-2003 Libera made the series Positives, which he described as "another attempt at playing with trauma".2 For this series, he selected traumatic iconic photographs from recent history and made a positive version of them. The photo of a naked Vietnamese girl, running away from the village of Trang Bang after the napalm bombing in 1972, has been changed into a positive image of a nude and smiling woman; a group of concentration camp prisoners have been replaced by smiling figures in striped costumes.3

nepalPositives. Zbigniew Libera, 2002-2003.

 

At first sight, we could state that this series is, like LEGO, a too frivolous approach of some of the traumatic episodes of our recent history. Some of the people who went through these horrors are still alive. Is it not disrespectful to confront them with a positive reinterpretation of their suffering? And to what end? What is Libera trying to say with this work? Is he just trying to be controversial or is there a more profound reasoning behind it?

In an interview with Katarzyna Bielas and Dorota Jarecka, from the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Libera said:

It seems to me that nowadays we don’t want to know what reality is like, we want to experience it positively. That’s why the prisoners became inhabitants, those were sad, these are glad. On the other hand it can be the mechanism of Nazi or Soviet propaganda, which changed reality into the set of optimistic slogans.4

On the one hand, it’s true that the market is providing us with a flood of glamorous and positive images. While there are plenty of serious issues asking for our attention —like climate change, armed conflicts, inequality— it is easy to get lost in the latest news about celebrities and fashion trends.5 On the other hand, the opposite is certainly as true, if not more so. Everyday we are flooded by shocking, sad, and negative images of people being decapitated by terrorists and refugees fleeing conflicted areas. Just think of the image of Aylan, the little Syrian boy who drowned in an attempt to reach the shores of Europe. This image was in the news for days and was widely disseminated by the social media. In this case, the so-called harsh reality was not ignored or concealed by optimistic slogans, but rather magnified and used as a moral appeal and tool for political action.

aylankurdi
Kid Aylan Kurdi. 2015.

In an interview with Hedvig Turai from Art Margins, Libera gave another, more interesting explanation for Positives:

You have all those traumatic pictures that I am sure no one is able to consume and digest. You cannot live with them (…). I think that people instinctively do not want to look at these pictures, like that of the Vietnamese girl injured by napalm. We have various blocks. And the photo is blocked.6

By confronting us with a positive version of the traumatic photos, Libera hopes to unblock the original negative, so we can feel their impact again.7

One can wonder if everybody is experiencing this psychological block, but if we reflect a little bit more on the idea of iconic photographs being blocked, we could say that there’s also another kind of block which arises over the years, when a photo is used over and over again as an educational and political tool, and has become part of a fixed narrative. We have learned to look and interpret our past through these iconic photographs and it has become difficult to just see them by themselves without thinking of the narratives we’ve constructed around them. In the interview mentioned above, Libera says:

We never see anything for the first time, we always look at an object and we come back to the picture we saw of this object the previous time. We always make one step back into memory, back to the previous picture. We always view our own memories of things, and not the things themselves. It is like one very long permanent journey into our memory. I tried to nail down this process of seeing and remembering.8

What Libera says here about always viewing our memories of things and not the things themselves is certainly true. Personally, when I see the photos on which the positive Residents is based, I immediately recall the education I’ve had about the Holocaust, all the films and books I’ve seen and read about this theme, and the yearly commemorations of the horrors of World War II; and I cannot see these images without thinking about the lesson I was taught: "We cannot let this happen ever again". Although there is nothing wrong with that lesson, it makes you think of the power iconic images have; some more reflection on that wouldn’t be bad.


residents
Residents. Zbigniew Libera.

Coming back to the question if there is more to the work Positives than just controversy, I think we can reasonably answer that in the affirmative, although his method might not be the most sensitive one. The Czech photographer Pavel Maria Smejlik, who is playing a similar game of seeing and remembering with his series Fatescapes (2009-2010), has a more subtle approach: he also selected iconic (war) images but instead of making their positive counterpart, he took out the central motifs and people.9 If we assume that this kind of traumatic images are blocked, this would be another way of unblocking them but then without the initial shock of seeing their positive reinterpretation.

pavel maria smejkal pavel maria smejkal 2
Fatescapes. Pavel Maria Smejkal, 2009-2010.

Whatever one’s personal preference, Libera’s work doesn’t leave one indifferent. Positives challenges us to ask ourselves if we really have observed the iconic photos that surround us and if we’ve reflected upon the narratives connected to them. The dialogue that this series might inspire about the fixed narratives related to these iconic images, is a valuable one that we should have more often.


1. http://articles.latimes.com/1997-05-19/news/mn-60350_1_lego-toys
2. http://raster.art.pl/gallery/artists/libera/prace.htm
3. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera
4. http://maurycy.atlas.com.pl/ang.nsf/0/46CD099B0570C5CBC1256E37004D54D4?OpenDocument
5. Un comentario interesante sobre este fenómeno es “Simple Living “ de Nadia Plesner: http://www.nadiaplesner.com/simple-living--darfurnica1
6. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera 
7. http://deruimtemaker.nl/2013/02/27/spelen-met-iconen-uit-de-fotografie/
8. http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/archive/166-the-artist-does-not-own-his-interpretations-hedvig-turai-in-conversation-with-zbigniew-libera
9. http://www.pavelmaria.com/fatescapestext2.html

AnneAnnemarie Bas (The Netherlands, 1986), has a Bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Utrecht and a Master’s degree in Cultural History at the same institution. As a historian, she worked as a junior researcher at the Museum of Psychiatry "Het Dolhuys" in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Since 2013, she lives and works in Mexico City. At the moment, she is international liaison at ZoneZero and works as an independent translator.
 
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Appropriation and remix

Alejandro Malo

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In Postproduction, I try to show that artists' intuitive relationship with art history is now going beyond what we call "the art of appropriation," which naturally infers an ideology of ownership, and moving toward a culture of the use of forms, a culture of constant activity of signs based on a collective ideal: sharing. —Nicolas Bourriaud.

metropolis
Scene of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang, 1927.

For some time now, the resource of appropriation in photography has gone from being a subversive and provocative act to being, in many cases, the catch phrase which seeks to associate the prestige of previous artworks and contexts with fresh projects. The very concept of appropriation assumes the possibility of appropriating a material aspect of an image which is becoming more and more intangible. Due to the increasing production, consumption and transformation of images in a digital format, there is now an infinite number of possible reincarnations of not only every photograph, but also of its copies and variants, and of other photographs which it references, parodies or recreates. This never-ending cascade of repetitions and similarities has rendered unnecessary any fight against the concepts of originality and authorship, which only a few decades ago, it seemed essential to question. Originality, at risk of showing itself up with touching naivety, has not evolved from being a different arrangement of very well-known elements. Similarly, authorship hardly ends up as the top hat from which, like a rabbit, a well-edited design made up of materials uploaded from almost indistinguishable references will appear. In such a scenario, what does artwork openly based on somebody else’s material suggest? What question does it raise and what answer does it provide? Or, ideally, what question would it raise and what answer would it give so as not to remain merely a superficial resource?

The first step in formulating a response is to recognize that the boundaries of this practice are imprecise. It is impossible to define the point at which the reinterpretation of archived material or their intervention turns into a practice of visual recycling and rewriting of its meaning. If we add to this catalogue of practices, collages and photo montages, as well as the found footage and the capture of three- dimensional representations (for example, Street View or Apple Maps), then the territory becomes immeasurable. However, perhaps it is this complexity itself that is the first supporting point: a project that is constructed from a remix does not conceal its debt to other sources, and instead demonstrates its aim of proposing a new interpretation of them, albeit in a modest way. This in itself highlights an ethical concern with respect to the rule of images. Here lies a commitment to not only inviting a reflective way of looking at a universe that already exists but also a desire to add meaning to this universe. This leads us to the following conclusion: a project of this kind calls for contextual boundaries to be fixed. In order to create a new meaning it is fundamental to acknowledge previous meanings and references. Whether this is achieved by means of footnotes, marginal notes or definition by the micro universe itself regarding the selection and shots it comprises, or even the sum of a variety of these resources, the result is always one step further away from the original sources.

Finally, making the effort to acknowledge the fact that an image derives from previous artwork and that it aspires to become part of a context allows us to deduce a final characteristic of these designs, a characteristic that we can call the ecology of photographic recycling. In a world in which images are created at an extraordinary pace and in which every image can be disposable, appropriation acknowledges that images can take on new meanings and be enriched by broader meanings. The unstoppable avalanche of production comes face to face with the reasoned observation of reproduction and the modest judgment of post-production. The decreasing value of originality counters analysis, and the curator’s panoramic vision opposes the author’s perspective.

If we admit that in between the practices of appropriation and remix lies a need for ethics and ecology, which themselves require individual assessment and research, perhaps we can better measure the current relevance of the latest designs and recognize the scope of each one. If we accept that this new economy of shared property adds as much economic value as it does symbolic value, perhaps we will then have more factors related to our notions about intellectual property to adjust to a more progressive framework. The questions from the photographic world - in which there is so much to see and so much to understand - are timely and certainly worth acknowledging. Are we capable of doing so?

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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In Postproduction, I try to show that artists' intuitive relationship with art history is now going beyond what we call "the art of appropriation," which naturally infers an ideology of ownership, and moving toward a culture of the use of forms, a culture of constant activity of signs based on a collective ideal: sharing. —Nicolas Bourriaud.

metropolis
Scene of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang, 1927.

For some time now, the resource of appropriation in photography has gone from being a subversive and provocative act to being, in many cases, the catch phrase which seeks to associate the prestige of previous artworks and contexts with fresh projects. The very concept of appropriation assumes the possibility of appropriating a material aspect of an image which is becoming more and more intangible. Due to the increasing production, consumption and transformation of images in a digital format, there is now an infinite number of possible reincarnations of not only every photograph, but also of its copies and variants, and of other photographs which it references, parodies or recreates. This never-ending cascade of repetitions and similarities has rendered unnecessary any fight against the concepts of originality and authorship, which only a few decades ago, it seemed essential to question. Originality, at risk of showing itself up with touching naivety, has not evolved from being a different arrangement of very well-known elements. Similarly, authorship hardly ends up as the top hat from which, like a rabbit, a well-edited design made up of materials uploaded from almost indistinguishable references will appear. In such a scenario, what does artwork openly based on somebody else’s material suggest? What question does it raise and what answer does it provide? Or, ideally, what question would it raise and what answer would it give so as not to remain merely a superficial resource?

The first step in formulating a response is to recognize that the boundaries of this practice are imprecise. It is impossible to define the point at which the reinterpretation of archived material or their intervention turns into a practice of visual recycling and rewriting of its meaning. If we add to this catalogue of practices, collages and photo montages, as well as the found footage and the capture of three- dimensional representations (for example, Street View or Apple Maps), then the territory becomes immeasurable. However, perhaps it is this complexity itself that is the first supporting point: a project that is constructed from a remix does not conceal its debt to other sources, and instead demonstrates its aim of proposing a new interpretation of them, albeit in a modest way. This in itself highlights an ethical concern with respect to the rule of images. Here lies a commitment to not only inviting a reflective way of looking at a universe that already exists but also a desire to add meaning to this universe. This leads us to the following conclusion: a project of this kind calls for contextual boundaries to be fixed. In order to create a new meaning it is fundamental to acknowledge previous meanings and references. Whether this is achieved by means of footnotes, marginal notes or definition by the micro universe itself regarding the selection and shots it comprises, or even the sum of a variety of these resources, the result is always one step further away from the original sources.

Finally, making the effort to acknowledge the fact that an image derives from previous artwork and that it aspires to become part of a context allows us to deduce a final characteristic of these designs, a characteristic that we can call the ecology of photographic recycling. In a world in which images are created at an extraordinary pace and in which every image can be disposable, appropriation acknowledges that images can take on new meanings and be enriched by broader meanings. The unstoppable avalanche of production comes face to face with the reasoned observation of reproduction and the modest judgment of post-production. The decreasing value of originality counters analysis, and the curator’s panoramic vision opposes the author’s perspective.

If we admit that in between the practices of appropriation and remix lies a need for ethics and ecology, which themselves require individual assessment and research, perhaps we can better measure the current relevance of the latest designs and recognize the scope of each one. If we accept that this new economy of shared property adds as much economic value as it does symbolic value, perhaps we will then have more factors related to our notions about intellectual property to adjust to a more progressive framework. The questions from the photographic world - in which there is so much to see and so much to understand - are timely and certainly worth acknowledging. Are we capable of doing so?

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

 

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Uncertainty & Encounter

Alejandro Malo

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01
Mexican Family, unknown author, daguerrotype, ca. 1847

Seeing presupposes distance, decisiveness which separates, the power to stay out of contact and in contact avoid confusion.
Seeing means that this separation has nevertheless become an encounter.
—Maurice Blanchot.
 

Any representation of a community implies a perspective. Each time we observe a group we become interpreters and with each observation we make, we reveal to which communities we belong. Photography, with its ability to record, was soon considered to be a suitable  tool to crystallize these observations and encourage the study of ethnicity and customs. However, being at least as susceptible to ideological bias as any other medium, it immediately revealed its colonialist burden and it is no coincidence that some of the first photographs that try to document a community were taken in company of an army or along trade routes. Images of the Mexico-American War (1846-1848) and the rebellion in India (1857), for example, show the confusion of these early records in the eyes of those portrayed and often leave us with the feeling that those photos were another kind of victory.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Ryuzo Torii and Edward S. Curtis introduce a way of using photography on behalf of ethnology, and Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives (1890). In those early photo essays on specific communities, there's a clear awareness of the otherness and a sympathetic point of view, but the perspective of the victors or the moral superiority of the observer is also legitimated. That partly naive, partly pretentious attitude of someone assuming to discover or save the others, has permeated much of photojournalism and documentary work since. Arguing a never achieved objectivity, they perpetuated asymmetrical readings and promoted a colonialism that replaced war's firepower with economy and culture. There were reasons for its existence, as an expression of a particular moment in history and a contribution to global integration, but it has been overtaken by a world whose visual center moves across the surface of the globe and where the last word has the duration of a tweet.

Soon documentalists themselves perceived the contradiction and near the beginning of the twentieth century started to explore alternatives to escape this logic: from the numerous attempts to capture the misleading truth in the style of Dziga Vertov's Kino-Pravda, through Cinema Verite, Direct Cinema, Candid Eye in film and their photographic counterparts, all the way to ethnofiction experiments, the long history of participatory documentary or the hopeful outlook of Shahidul Alam's Majority World, which proposes to let those closer to the phenomena and activities hold the camera. All are useful tools to approach the topic, but they don’t offer a final answer.

An image has the chance, as never before, to represent each ethnic, social and tribal group, whether they live in the cities or the most remote regions, and it also has the potential to do so from many different angles. The camera, already present in many devices, is in the hands of almost anyone who wants to register their community. Maybe it’s time to accept once and for all that to represent a community is not to search an objective representation or an intrinsic truth, nor trying to offer a problematic balance. However, in any case we should try to give a fair interpretation and an accurate testimony, where in many cases the sum of multiple perspectives can bring us closer to an elusive reality. This requires more critical reading and analysis from the public, compels the media to hold stronger values than empty veracity and offers the photographer a more honest path to meet the others. This change, like any change, is full of uncertainties, but ends in a space full of opportunities where the image can lead us.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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01
Mexican Family, unknown author, daguerrotype, ca. 1847

Seeing presupposes distance, decisiveness which separates, the power to stay out of contact and in contact avoid confusion.
Seeing means that this separation has nevertheless become an encounter.
—Maurice Blanchot.
 

Any representation of a community implies a perspective. Each time we observe a group we become interpreters and with each observation we make, we reveal to which communities we belong. Photography, with its ability to record, was soon considered to be a suitable  tool to crystallize these observations and encourage the study of ethnicity and customs. However, being at least as susceptible to ideological bias as any other medium, it immediately revealed its colonialist burden and it is no coincidence that some of the first photographs that try to document a community were taken in company of an army or along trade routes. Images of the Mexico-American War (1846-1848) and the rebellion in India (1857), for example, show the confusion of these early records in the eyes of those portrayed and often leave us with the feeling that those photos were another kind of victory.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Ryuzo Torii and Edward S. Curtis introduce a way of using photography on behalf of ethnology, and Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives (1890). In those early photo essays on specific communities, there's a clear awareness of the otherness and a sympathetic point of view, but the perspective of the victors or the moral superiority of the observer is also legitimated. That partly naive, partly pretentious attitude of someone assuming to discover or save the others, has permeated much of photojournalism and documentary work since. Arguing a never achieved objectivity, they perpetuated asymmetrical readings and promoted a colonialism that replaced war's firepower with economy and culture. There were reasons for its existence, as an expression of a particular moment in history and a contribution to global integration, but it has been overtaken by a world whose visual center moves across the surface of the globe and where the last word has the duration of a tweet.

Soon documentalists themselves perceived the contradiction and near the beginning of the twentieth century started to explore alternatives to escape this logic: from the numerous attempts to capture the misleading truth in the style of Dziga Vertov's Kino-Pravda, through Cinema Verite, Direct Cinema, Candid Eye in film and their photographic counterparts, all the way to ethnofiction experiments, the long history of participatory documentary or the hopeful outlook of Shahidul Alam's Majority World, which proposes to let those closer to the phenomena and activities hold the camera. All are useful tools to approach the topic, but they don’t offer a final answer.

An image has the chance, as never before, to represent each ethnic, social and tribal group, whether they live in the cities or the most remote regions, and it also has the potential to do so from many different angles. The camera, already present in many devices, is in the hands of almost anyone who wants to register their community. Maybe it’s time to accept once and for all that to represent a community is not to search an objective representation or an intrinsic truth, nor trying to offer a problematic balance. However, in any case we should try to give a fair interpretation and an accurate testimony, where in many cases the sum of multiple perspectives can bring us closer to an elusive reality. This requires more critical reading and analysis from the public, compels the media to hold stronger values than empty veracity and offers the photographer a more honest path to meet the others. This change, like any change, is full of uncertainties, but ends in a space full of opportunities where the image can lead us.

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.



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A Cage for Chronos

Felipe Mejías López

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01
Penitents of the brotherhood of Sorrows, posing with the image of the Virgin during the Easter Week in Aspe (Spain).
March 1929. (Photographer unknown. About photograhy Felipe Mejías, March 2015).

Paper memories. Photographs will always be paper memories, despite the fact that the emergence of digital technology in the world of images has changed the way they are stored. In any case, whether they are stuck in an album, crammed into an old biscuit tin, or stored in a virtual folder tucked away in the darkest corner of our computer’s hard drive, the construction of our memories owes a great deal to these images in black and white or faded colors. We can often reconstruct the exact layout of a place we have been, or feel the gaze of a friend or family member we no longer see because we can re-encounter them when we contemplate these square cardboard remnants. Memory cards and smart phones belong to a different visual universe that has no history but is a slave to the future, subject to a dictatorship that imposes the objective of immediacy and the compulsive desire to devour the overwhelming reality that surrounds us as if it might suddenly and permanently disappear from one moment to the next.

Photographs take us back to what we once were, in a constant, palpable, evident graphic salvation that is fed by our gaze like a fossil into which we breathe life simply by contemplating it. Looking at photos makes us grow, whether or not we want to, because we end up recognizing ourselves in them, somehow transformed into strangers we find it increasingly difficult to recognize: yet, there we are, participating like enthusiastic actors or perhaps behind the viewfinder snapping a photo. This tangible, visual certainty, together with the awareness that time has passed because we remember, creates an incredibly strong sensory cement that binds and gives meaning to our life stories.

But if we broaden the focus and think about our innumerable private –and therefore secret– photographs as a whole that have been collected since the beginning of photography, scattered throughout our immediate environment (not only in our family or neighborhood, but also throughout the macro scale of the city or region where we live), then these images evolve from more than a repertoire of personal memories to cultural objects. And as such, because of the historical, anthropological and ethnological information they contain, these photographs become unique, inimitable objects that deserve to be compiled, studied and published, in the same way we would share material found at an archeological dig or written documents from an historical archive.

Finally, those of us who work with this type of image consider it an act of social justice to return them to the community that produced them, that truly owns them. However, we return something that has been enriched by the hierarchy newly acquired through the transformation of these images into an object of knowledge and study, a sort of cultural heritage, so to speak. Thus these images become the graphic and sentimental memory of a collective whose cohesion is reinforced by their existence.

Initiatives of this type exist everywhere, although they do not always manage to develop the full potential stored within old photographs. The formation of multidisciplinary work teams that include historians and ethnographers familiar with local intra-history could be the key to successfully publishing work that would otherwise be converted into mere catalogs of orphaned images, macabre galleries exhibiting, as if embalmed, anonymous, unknown, dead people. Mere fetishes.

A small example of a local publication using old photographs as axial argument, which we think has achieved satisfactory results, is the project titled Recovered Memories. Photography and Society in Aspe 1870-1976. Field work begun in 1996 and still ongoing, has discovered and documented almost 4,000 images that have been recovered and selected from the private photographic repertoire generated by a small, southeastern Spanish urban community for over a century. The photographs have been classified into 24 different thematic categories that do not lost sight of the transversality of the contents that emerge from the photographs, which are teeming with sociological, anthropological and historical information.

02
Nazarenes, carrying the cross on their shoulders during the morning procession on Good Friday in Aspe (Spain). 
(Photographer unknown, around 1955/Felipe Mejías, March 2015).

From an historian or archeologist’s point of view, it would have been unforgiveable not to try to find new ways to learn about the past with such valuable resources at hand. This is the point where rephotography begins.

It comes as no surprise to find that there are already masters of this relatively young discipline. However, there are only two things you can do with the work of Mark Klett and Camilo José Vergara watch and learn. Sergey Larenkov, Ricard Martínez, Hebe Robinson, Irina Werning, Gustavo Germano and Douglas Levere also produce work that comes very close to visual poetry. Many of them also enter the realm of social and political denunciation, making it quite clear that rephotography is not only a form of technical and aesthetic entertainment, but also a tool that helps us stop and reflect on the collateral damage associated with the passage of time.

But why rephotography? For someone who constantly thinks about the consequences and meaning of the passage of time, it is particularly gratifying to intervene in the process of creating an unattainable fiction through photography: blending the past and the present into a unique instant, taking on the role of a mischievous god in the age-old quest for immortality. Cernuda used to say: “[...] times are identical / gazes are different [...],” and something of this inspiration lurks beneath the ultimate goal of rephotography, attempting to stop and mix time, perceiving it without its having passed, or rather, perceiving if as if it had not done so. Making time manageable, cyclical and malleable is an heroic, almost obsessive exercise that goes beyond the purely visual mannerist trompe-l’oeil to reveal a little of the artifice behind the deception. The point is to photograph what other eyes before ours saw, in the same place, in the same instant, using the same technique. It is as if we brought the original photographer back to life and had him beside us, whispering the correct focus into our ear. Furthermore, if we do it in the place where we were born and raised, we can sublimate the nostalgic component each rephotograph inevitably contains: being right now where someone was long before us and seeing, touching and smelling the same environment. Feeling the same as that person. Being that person.

Overlapping, contrasting, recreating through transparencies and seeing how the different layers of memory deposited over the years, flourish and contribute to the task of creating the illusion that the old and new images are actually different sides of the same reality. A new discourse about the obvious contrast between the past and present, what is and what is not, is created, runs the risk of getting stuck at the anecdotal level. Even so, it may be enough. Although it is possible to try something else: building an imaginary cage in which to enclose two similar instances separated by time in the hope that they can live together and perhaps end up becoming a single moment. Just like in the Frankenstein myth, we give birth to impossible, two-headed monsters, Siamese twins that must always share different moments of the same existence. We give them a voice, and the possibility of shouting and discovering what is hidden within; their wrinkles, how the space or person has aged; what remains of what they once were. The experiment is not always successful, but it sometimes works and eventually creates a new scene where everything fits together marvelously; shapes continue and intertwine without signaling eras; grays and colors merge into a single light. It is a small miracle fixed in a subtle, crystalline, almost imperceptible balance.

But let us not deceive ourselves. In reality everything is always the past. The unattainable past. We like to think that rephotography gives us the possibility of returning to the past, to rethink it and try to bring it back to life. Poor fools, as if we could bring it back to a time and place it actually never left.

Felipe MejíasFelipe Mejías López (Spain, 1968). Lives and works in Spain. Historian and archaeologist. BA in Geography and History with a major in Art History from the University of Valencia. MA in Professional Archaeology and Heritage Management from the University of Alicante. A lot of his publications revolve around the archaeological, historical, artistic, documentary and photographic heritage of his native town, Aspe. Currently, he is editing the third volume of his research project on ancient photography and social history Recovered Memories. For this project, he studied the field of rephotography.

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01
Penitents of the brotherhood of Sorrows, posing with the image of the Virgin during the Easter Week in Aspe (Spain).
March 1929. (Photographer unknown. About photograhy Felipe Mejías, March 2015).

Paper memories. Photographs will always be paper memories, despite the fact that the emergence of digital technology in the world of images has changed the way they are stored. In any case, whether they are stuck in an album, crammed into an old biscuit tin, or stored in a virtual folder tucked away in the darkest corner of our computer’s hard drive, the construction of our memories owes a great deal to these images in black and white or faded colors. We can often reconstruct the exact layout of a place we have been, or feel the gaze of a friend or family member we no longer see because we can re-encounter them when we contemplate these square cardboard remnants. Memory cards and smart phones belong to a different visual universe that has no history but is a slave to the future, subject to a dictatorship that imposes the objective of immediacy and the compulsive desire to devour the overwhelming reality that surrounds us as if it might suddenly and permanently disappear from one moment to the next.

Photographs take us back to what we once were, in a constant, palpable, evident graphic salvation that is fed by our gaze like a fossil into which we breathe life simply by contemplating it. Looking at photos makes us grow, whether or not we want to, because we end up recognizing ourselves in them, somehow transformed into strangers we find it increasingly difficult to recognize: yet, there we are, participating like enthusiastic actors or perhaps behind the viewfinder snapping a photo. This tangible, visual certainty, together with the awareness that time has passed because we remember, creates an incredibly strong sensory cement that binds and gives meaning to our life stories.

But if we broaden the focus and think about our innumerable private –and therefore secret– photographs as a whole that have been collected since the beginning of photography, scattered throughout our immediate environment (not only in our family or neighborhood, but also throughout the macro scale of the city or region where we live), then these images evolve from more than a repertoire of personal memories to cultural objects. And as such, because of the historical, anthropological and ethnological information they contain, these photographs become unique, inimitable objects that deserve to be compiled, studied and published, in the same way we would share material found at an archeological dig or written documents from an historical archive.

Finally, those of us who work with this type of image consider it an act of social justice to return them to the community that produced them, that truly owns them. However, we return something that has been enriched by the hierarchy newly acquired through the transformation of these images into an object of knowledge and study, a sort of cultural heritage, so to speak. Thus these images become the graphic and sentimental memory of a collective whose cohesion is reinforced by their existence.

Initiatives of this type exist everywhere, although they do not always manage to develop the full potential stored within old photographs. The formation of multidisciplinary work teams that include historians and ethnographers familiar with local intra-history could be the key to successfully publishing work that would otherwise be converted into mere catalogs of orphaned images, macabre galleries exhibiting, as if embalmed, anonymous, unknown, dead people. Mere fetishes.

A small example of a local publication using old photographs as axial argument, which we think has achieved satisfactory results, is the project titled Recovered Memories. Photography and Society in Aspe 1870-1976. Field work begun in 1996 and still ongoing, has discovered and documented almost 4,000 images that have been recovered and selected from the private photographic repertoire generated by a small, southeastern Spanish urban community for over a century. The photographs have been classified into 24 different thematic categories that do not lost sight of the transversality of the contents that emerge from the photographs, which are teeming with sociological, anthropological and historical information.

02
Nazarenes, carrying the cross on their shoulders during the morning procession on Good Friday in Aspe (Spain). 
(Photographer unknown, around 1955/Felipe Mejías, March 2015).

From an historian or archeologist’s point of view, it would have been unforgiveable not to try to find new ways to learn about the past with such valuable resources at hand. This is the point where rephotography begins.

It comes as no surprise to find that there are already masters of this relatively young discipline. However, there are only two things you can do with the work of Mark Klett and Camilo José Vergara watch and learn. Sergey Larenkov, Ricard Martínez, Hebe Robinson, Irina Werning, Gustavo Germano and Douglas Levere also produce work that comes very close to visual poetry. Many of them also enter the realm of social and political denunciation, making it quite clear that rephotography is not only a form of technical and aesthetic entertainment, but also a tool that helps us stop and reflect on the collateral damage associated with the passage of time.

But why rephotography? For someone who constantly thinks about the consequences and meaning of the passage of time, it is particularly gratifying to intervene in the process of creating an unattainable fiction through photography: blending the past and the present into a unique instant, taking on the role of a mischievous god in the age-old quest for immortality. Cernuda used to say: “[...] times are identical / gazes are different [...],” and something of this inspiration lurks beneath the ultimate goal of rephotography, attempting to stop and mix time, perceiving it without its having passed, or rather, perceiving if as if it had not done so. Making time manageable, cyclical and malleable is an heroic, almost obsessive exercise that goes beyond the purely visual mannerist trompe-l’oeil to reveal a little of the artifice behind the deception. The point is to photograph what other eyes before ours saw, in the same place, in the same instant, using the same technique. It is as if we brought the original photographer back to life and had him beside us, whispering the correct focus into our ear. Furthermore, if we do it in the place where we were born and raised, we can sublimate the nostalgic component each rephotograph inevitably contains: being right now where someone was long before us and seeing, touching and smelling the same environment. Feeling the same as that person. Being that person.

Overlapping, contrasting, recreating through transparencies and seeing how the different layers of memory deposited over the years, flourish and contribute to the task of creating the illusion that the old and new images are actually different sides of the same reality. A new discourse about the obvious contrast between the past and present, what is and what is not, is created, runs the risk of getting stuck at the anecdotal level. Even so, it may be enough. Although it is possible to try something else: building an imaginary cage in which to enclose two similar instances separated by time in the hope that they can live together and perhaps end up becoming a single moment. Just like in the Frankenstein myth, we give birth to impossible, two-headed monsters, Siamese twins that must always share different moments of the same existence. We give them a voice, and the possibility of shouting and discovering what is hidden within; their wrinkles, how the space or person has aged; what remains of what they once were. The experiment is not always successful, but it sometimes works and eventually creates a new scene where everything fits together marvelously; shapes continue and intertwine without signaling eras; grays and colors merge into a single light. It is a small miracle fixed in a subtle, crystalline, almost imperceptible balance.

But let us not deceive ourselves. In reality everything is always the past. The unattainable past. We like to think that rephotography gives us the possibility of returning to the past, to rethink it and try to bring it back to life. Poor fools, as if we could bring it back to a time and place it actually never left.

Felipe MejíasFelipe Mejías López (Spain, 1968). Lives and works in Spain. Historian and archaeologist. BA in Geography and History with a major in Art History from the University of Valencia. MA in Professional Archaeology and Heritage Management from the University of Alicante. A lot of his publications revolve around the archaeological, historical, artistic, documentary and photographic heritage of his native town, Aspe. Currently, he is editing the third volume of his research project on ancient photography and social history Recovered Memories. For this project, he studied the field of rephotography.

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Photographing and Narrating Time

Mónica Sánchez Escuer

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Time is creation, argued Henri Bergson: “The more we explore the nature of time, the more we will understand how duration means invention, creation of forms and continuous production of the absolutely new.” (2007, p. 30).

Only insofar as time is perceived and received does it exist and acquire meaning for man. Photography and literature are two artistic media through which humanity has recreated duration and development. Both disciplines encapsulate instants: literature, a sequence of them, and photography a single instant that reveals or implies a before and an after. They capture time to show a legible fragment of its movement. Regardless of whether what they depict and relate is real or fiction, a text or a photograph bears the traces of the passage of time.

The two languages represent this passage through various forms and processes, based on the position, movement and speed of the observer-narrator, which can broadly be summarized in three moments: 1] stopped time: a literary vignette or frozen image of a scene in which the objects and/or characters are time frames depicting something that happened or is about to happen; 2] the visual tour from a fixed point: images or texts that draw the gaze or reading towards the various focal points of a panoramic photo or a written narrative, generally in the present, in which the narrator reveals to the reader the space-time in which the action takes place through descriptions; and 3] movement: where the actions of the story comprised in an objective period of time, including the stream of consciousness, are visually narrated and represented.

The reality described or depicted in photography and literature is not only an interpretation of the facts but also of their duration and the continuous movement of the story and the events contained in it. In both disciplines, time is a reference, structure and metaphor. It is a fundamental part of the framework of both media, and is also represented and reconfigured as an image of the expression of literary and photographic discourses. It cannot be explained or demonstrated: “The artist who works with photography or stories does not provide solutions, but rather answers people's questions with another question, a more refined, aesthetic one: a doubt answered with a metaphor.” (López Aguilar, 2002).

Phillipe Halsman
Salvador Dali, 1948. Phillipe Halsman/Magnum Photos


The narrative construction of time in the image

In photography, the artist chooses the setting, frame and significant object inside the visual narrative he or she wishes to convey. When actions or movement are directly involved, he or she chooses and captures the "decisive moment" in which the Barthesian punctum is unveiled, the point at which all the elements, signs and marks that lend meaning to the image are incorporated.

Photographic discourse, like many artistic languages, has a double spatiality and temporality: on the one hand, it constitutes a two-dimensional space [s1] that represents an illusory, three-dimensional space [s2]. On the other hand, there is the time of representation [t1] – that is, the real time when the photograph was taken –, and the time represented in the image [t2].

Time in a photograph is constructed by linking various elements that can be observed on different levels. These elements include rhythm, tension, sequentiality, the representation of duration and references to the definition of space.

The space and time of representation are fundamental elements of photographic composition: on the one hand perspective, depth of field, interplay of plans, balance, proportion, visual tour, iconic order, tension and rhythm; and on the other instantaneity, longevity, sequentiality, symbolic and subjective times and narrative. Perspective and various planes create perceptual gradients that construct the three-dimensional space and movement in the images. The rhythm is observed through the repetition of elements and the way they are organized in the composition. Saturation, empty spaces and the distribution of tones determine the pace of a photograph. Tension is created by various elements: the lines that express movement, the contrast between regular geometric shapes, the sweeps, angles, perspective, chromatic contrast, lighting and textures of the image. The visual weight of each of the elements, determined by their size and position in the different planes of the photographs, can provide a spatial-temporal hierarchy, whereby more important elements in the foreground are equivalent to the present in the narration of the image. The point of view is expressed through the field of vision, the angle from which the photograph is taken, and the selection of objects shown with clarity and closeness, or that remain in the middle ground or background. The photograph suggests a visual tour, a dynamic order of interpretation established by the composition that can indicate a timeline.

At a technical level, the time dimension is produced by the shutter speed. If the photographer wishes to project an instant, to freeze time, he or she will use a fast speed to capture a scene in a fraction of a second, which in literature would be depicted in a vignette. If, alternately, he or she wishes to depict duration, a low speed allows a long exposure times that create effects in the image, such as the sweep in a moving subject. The presence of certain elements such as clocks, calendars, old objects and even photographs are indicators of time that lead the viewer to interpret the image as duration or sequentiality. Some photographers prefer to convey the opposite, a timeless situation, and to do so deliberately conceal any mark that might indicate the historical time or moment when the photograph was taken. Erasing the traces of time is a discursive effect that has been used since classical representation and “is intended to strengthen the illusion of reality (Marzal Felici, 2011, p. 215).

However, an image can express much more than a fragment of reality. It can be a metaphor in itself, and its content may be symbolic, as will also be the time within it. In the case of abstract photographs, for example, in which spatio-temporal marks are concealed, their discourse is closer to poetry, with a necessarily individual interpretation. The perception of time and space within them is subjective. The Barthesian punctum relates to the presence of a subjective time, the element that bursts into the time flow of interpreting the image. It moves or affects the viewer at a very personal level, based on their previous experience.

Another aspect in which the time characteristics of a photograph can be analyzed is sequentiality1, both in its elements within a single image, [such as its order and layout], and in the succession of photographs in polyptychs depicting a sequential scene. The illustrative dimension of the image comprises the central elements of narrative: point of view, characters, authenticity, textual marks and enunciation.

The narrative of the image is constructed by the morphological, compositional and illustrative elements, which together convey a specific overall temporal effect. The point of view from which a story is narrated is crucial and, in photography, can be clearly observed  in the framing, the position of the photographer and the angle from which it is taken [the result of selecting a determined space and time]. The framing evokes the artist’s way of looking and choosing which part of the world is worth stopping, closely observing and relating.

The characters in a photograph can say a great deal about the scene depicted: their emotions, feelings, attitudes and expectations, reflected in their posture, gestures and gaze, tell stories and show how they react to their surroundings. Authenticity and its opposite, artificiality [not to be confused with fictionality] in photography is constructed using certain effects, staging or filters or nothing at all, if the intention is to be faithful to the real scene, in accordance with the photographer’s narrative intention. If the aim is to create alienation, fracture or a concept in the viewer, they will distance the image from the parameters of reality by seeking to redefine its constituent elements. The textual marks reveal the presence of the enunciator in the image. These can be indicative, iconic, symbolic or referential marks. They include the internal organization of their elements, the tension between the geometric lines and figures, and the focus of attention. As Santos Zunzunegui wrote, quoted by Marzal2: “the presence of the viewer can be reconstructed and is therefore visible” (2011, p. 221), through two discursive activities: aspectualization [identifying a group of spatio-temporal aspectual categories that reveal the presence of the viewer; and focalization [how the photographic intent expresses itself].

Marzal identifies two strategies in photographic enunciation: on the one hand, the one applied in the realistic representation of discourse, a metonymic strategy in terms of language, in which the photographic discourse remains contiguous to the model; and on the other, the strategy that seeks a non-realistic, metaphorical representation, with an imaginary or symbolical relationship with the model. The caption often provides this information since without it, incorrect if at times interesting interpretations might emerge.

However, time may not only be observed in the content of the photograph, such as its objects and setting, but also be defined in each of the substantial stages of the photographic act, and may be explained by transferring the terms that Ricoeur (1995) uses for the textual narrative to the narrative of the image. 1. Prefiguration, a deeper exploration of the contextual level of analysis proposed by Marzal, refers to the circumstances and conditions in which the photograph is taken, the specific space, historical moment, technological development of the era and the author’s biography, among others. 2. Configuration is the process of producing the image using all the creative and technical elements that correspond to the morphological, compositional and illustrative levels. 3. Refiguration involves the viewers’ interpretation of the image, in other words, illustration and its reception. The process of narrating and interpreting time in the images takes place during these three moments of the photographic act.

However, when arranging the photographic piece or series, it is important that the different times be distinguished, since each one follows specific narrative strategies: 1. Objective time, defined by the precise moment at which the photograph was taken, is the referential time that is narrated on the basis of the textual marks in the image. 2 Represented time, shown in the photograph by the time frames that the photographer decides to include, is equivalent to the time of the story. 3. Symbolic time, when the image suggests a different reality to that represented, is constructed by creating ambiguity in meaning, or by recurring to visual rhetorical figures [such as metonymy, synechdoque and personification] or by the deliberate concealing of time frames. 4. Lastly, subjective time is determined by the point of view that the author applies to the image, but also by the context and interpretation of the viewer during the reconfiguration process. The latter two can be clearly seen in photographs created with artistic rather than documentary intentions, whose few referential elements make the images appear suspended in non-time. These photographs play with the viewer’s perception in order to elicit sensations, aesthetic emotions, uncertainty, or enable the latter to interpret and define its symbolic content and spatial-temporality.


1 Marzal Felice links sequentiality to narrative. However, here they are regarded as two separate processes as a broader concept of narrative is taken than the mere succession of events.

2 Much of the methodology proposed by Marzal is extracted from Santos Zunzunegui’s analysis in Paisajes de la forma. Ejercicios de análisis de la imagen. Cátedra, Madrid, 1988


Bibliografía
López Aguilar, E. (octubre de 2002). Julio Cortázar y la fotografía. La jornada semanal (397).
Bergson, H. (2007). La evolución creadora. Buenos Aires: Cactus.
Marzal Felici, J. (2011). Cómo se lee una fotografía. Madrid: Cátedra.
Ricoeur, P. (1995). Tiempo y narración (Vol. II). México: Siglo XXI. 

Mónica SánchezMónica Sánchez Ezcuer. Lives and works in Mexico. Writer and literature professor. Sociologist at the UNAM with a master in Literary Creation from the University of Texas. Currently she studies the master Visual Arts at San Carlos (UNAM). She collaborates in multidisciplinary projects; she has worked with musicians, painters and photographers in realizing operas, publications, concerts and exhibitions. She is especially interested in the relation between photography and narrative. She has given courses and workshops in literature and narrative in various institutions, like the UNAM, the University of Texas, Casa Lamm and the Foundation Pedro Meyer.
 
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Time is creation, argued Henri Bergson: “The more we explore the nature of time, the more we will understand how duration means invention, creation of forms and continuous production of the absolutely new.” (2007, p. 30).

Only insofar as time is perceived and received does it exist and acquire meaning for man. Photography and literature are two artistic media through which humanity has recreated duration and development. Both disciplines encapsulate instants: literature, a sequence of them, and photography a single instant that reveals or implies a before and an after. They capture time to show a legible fragment of its movement. Regardless of whether what they depict and relate is real or fiction, a text or a photograph bears the traces of the passage of time.

The two languages represent this passage through various forms and processes, based on the position, movement and speed of the observer-narrator, which can broadly be summarized in three moments: 1] stopped time: a literary vignette or frozen image of a scene in which the objects and/or characters are time frames depicting something that happened or is about to happen; 2] the visual tour from a fixed point: images or texts that draw the gaze or reading towards the various focal points of a panoramic photo or a written narrative, generally in the present, in which the narrator reveals to the reader the space-time in which the action takes place through descriptions; and 3] movement: where the actions of the story comprised in an objective period of time, including the stream of consciousness, are visually narrated and represented.

The reality described or depicted in photography and literature is not only an interpretation of the facts but also of their duration and the continuous movement of the story and the events contained in it. In both disciplines, time is a reference, structure and metaphor. It is a fundamental part of the framework of both media, and is also represented and reconfigured as an image of the expression of literary and photographic discourses. It cannot be explained or demonstrated: “The artist who works with photography or stories does not provide solutions, but rather answers people's questions with another question, a more refined, aesthetic one: a doubt answered with a metaphor.” (López Aguilar, 2002).

Phillipe Halsman
Salvador Dali, 1948. Phillipe Halsman/Magnum Photos


The narrative construction of time in the image

In photography, the artist chooses the setting, frame and significant object inside the visual narrative he or she wishes to convey. When actions or movement are directly involved, he or she chooses and captures the "decisive moment" in which the Barthesian punctum is unveiled, the point at which all the elements, signs and marks that lend meaning to the image are incorporated.

Photographic discourse, like many artistic languages, has a double spatiality and temporality: on the one hand, it constitutes a two-dimensional space [s1] that represents an illusory, three-dimensional space [s2]. On the other hand, there is the time of representation [t1] – that is, the real time when the photograph was taken –, and the time represented in the image [t2].

Time in a photograph is constructed by linking various elements that can be observed on different levels. These elements include rhythm, tension, sequentiality, the representation of duration and references to the definition of space.

The space and time of representation are fundamental elements of photographic composition: on the one hand perspective, depth of field, interplay of plans, balance, proportion, visual tour, iconic order, tension and rhythm; and on the other instantaneity, longevity, sequentiality, symbolic and subjective times and narrative. Perspective and various planes create perceptual gradients that construct the three-dimensional space and movement in the images. The rhythm is observed through the repetition of elements and the way they are organized in the composition. Saturation, empty spaces and the distribution of tones determine the pace of a photograph. Tension is created by various elements: the lines that express movement, the contrast between regular geometric shapes, the sweeps, angles, perspective, chromatic contrast, lighting and textures of the image. The visual weight of each of the elements, determined by their size and position in the different planes of the photographs, can provide a spatial-temporal hierarchy, whereby more important elements in the foreground are equivalent to the present in the narration of the image. The point of view is expressed through the field of vision, the angle from which the photograph is taken, and the selection of objects shown with clarity and closeness, or that remain in the middle ground or background. The photograph suggests a visual tour, a dynamic order of interpretation established by the composition that can indicate a timeline.

At a technical level, the time dimension is produced by the shutter speed. If the photographer wishes to project an instant, to freeze time, he or she will use a fast speed to capture a scene in a fraction of a second, which in literature would be depicted in a vignette. If, alternately, he or she wishes to depict duration, a low speed allows a long exposure times that create effects in the image, such as the sweep in a moving subject. The presence of certain elements such as clocks, calendars, old objects and even photographs are indicators of time that lead the viewer to interpret the image as duration or sequentiality. Some photographers prefer to convey the opposite, a timeless situation, and to do so deliberately conceal any mark that might indicate the historical time or moment when the photograph was taken. Erasing the traces of time is a discursive effect that has been used since classical representation and “is intended to strengthen the illusion of reality (Marzal Felici, 2011, p. 215).

However, an image can express much more than a fragment of reality. It can be a metaphor in itself, and its content may be symbolic, as will also be the time within it. In the case of abstract photographs, for example, in which spatio-temporal marks are concealed, their discourse is closer to poetry, with a necessarily individual interpretation. The perception of time and space within them is subjective. The Barthesian punctum relates to the presence of a subjective time, the element that bursts into the time flow of interpreting the image. It moves or affects the viewer at a very personal level, based on their previous experience.

Another aspect in which the time characteristics of a photograph can be analyzed is sequentiality1, both in its elements within a single image, [such as its order and layout], and in the succession of photographs in polyptychs depicting a sequential scene. The illustrative dimension of the image comprises the central elements of narrative: point of view, characters, authenticity, textual marks and enunciation.

The narrative of the image is constructed by the morphological, compositional and illustrative elements, which together convey a specific overall temporal effect. The point of view from which a story is narrated is crucial and, in photography, can be clearly observed  in the framing, the position of the photographer and the angle from which it is taken [the result of selecting a determined space and time]. The framing evokes the artist’s way of looking and choosing which part of the world is worth stopping, closely observing and relating.

The characters in a photograph can say a great deal about the scene depicted: their emotions, feelings, attitudes and expectations, reflected in their posture, gestures and gaze, tell stories and show how they react to their surroundings. Authenticity and its opposite, artificiality [not to be confused with fictionality] in photography is constructed using certain effects, staging or filters or nothing at all, if the intention is to be faithful to the real scene, in accordance with the photographer’s narrative intention. If the aim is to create alienation, fracture or a concept in the viewer, they will distance the image from the parameters of reality by seeking to redefine its constituent elements. The textual marks reveal the presence of the enunciator in the image. These can be indicative, iconic, symbolic or referential marks. They include the internal organization of their elements, the tension between the geometric lines and figures, and the focus of attention. As Santos Zunzunegui wrote, quoted by Marzal2: “the presence of the viewer can be reconstructed and is therefore visible” (2011, p. 221), through two discursive activities: aspectualization [identifying a group of spatio-temporal aspectual categories that reveal the presence of the viewer; and focalization [how the photographic intent expresses itself].

Marzal identifies two strategies in photographic enunciation: on the one hand, the one applied in the realistic representation of discourse, a metonymic strategy in terms of language, in which the photographic discourse remains contiguous to the model; and on the other, the strategy that seeks a non-realistic, metaphorical representation, with an imaginary or symbolical relationship with the model. The caption often provides this information since without it, incorrect if at times interesting interpretations might emerge.

However, time may not only be observed in the content of the photograph, such as its objects and setting, but also be defined in each of the substantial stages of the photographic act, and may be explained by transferring the terms that Ricoeur (1995) uses for the textual narrative to the narrative of the image. 1. Prefiguration, a deeper exploration of the contextual level of analysis proposed by Marzal, refers to the circumstances and conditions in which the photograph is taken, the specific space, historical moment, technological development of the era and the author’s biography, among others. 2. Configuration is the process of producing the image using all the creative and technical elements that correspond to the morphological, compositional and illustrative levels. 3. Refiguration involves the viewers’ interpretation of the image, in other words, illustration and its reception. The process of narrating and interpreting time in the images takes place during these three moments of the photographic act.

However, when arranging the photographic piece or series, it is important that the different times be distinguished, since each one follows specific narrative strategies: 1. Objective time, defined by the precise moment at which the photograph was taken, is the referential time that is narrated on the basis of the textual marks in the image. 2 Represented time, shown in the photograph by the time frames that the photographer decides to include, is equivalent to the time of the story. 3. Symbolic time, when the image suggests a different reality to that represented, is constructed by creating ambiguity in meaning, or by recurring to visual rhetorical figures [such as metonymy, synechdoque and personification] or by the deliberate concealing of time frames. 4. Lastly, subjective time is determined by the point of view that the author applies to the image, but also by the context and interpretation of the viewer during the reconfiguration process. The latter two can be clearly seen in photographs created with artistic rather than documentary intentions, whose few referential elements make the images appear suspended in non-time. These photographs play with the viewer’s perception in order to elicit sensations, aesthetic emotions, uncertainty, or enable the latter to interpret and define its symbolic content and spatial-temporality.


1 Marzal Felice links sequentiality to narrative. However, here they are regarded as two separate processes as a broader concept of narrative is taken than the mere succession of events.

2 Much of the methodology proposed by Marzal is extracted from Santos Zunzunegui’s analysis in Paisajes de la forma. Ejercicios de análisis de la imagen. Cátedra, Madrid, 1988


Bibliografía
López Aguilar, E. (octubre de 2002). Julio Cortázar y la fotografía. La jornada semanal (397).
Bergson, H. (2007). La evolución creadora. Buenos Aires: Cactus.
Marzal Felici, J. (2011). Cómo se lee una fotografía. Madrid: Cátedra.
Ricoeur, P. (1995). Tiempo y narración (Vol. II). México: Siglo XXI. 

Mónica SánchezMónica Sánchez Ezcuer. Lives and works in Mexico. Writer and literature professor. Sociologist at the UNAM with a master in Literary Creation from the University of Texas. Currently she studies the master Visual Arts at San Carlos (UNAM). She collaborates in multidisciplinary projects; she has worked with musicians, painters and photographers in realizing operas, publications, concerts and exhibitions. She is especially interested in the relation between photography and narrative. She has given courses and workshops in literature and narrative in various institutions, like the UNAM, the University of Texas, Casa Lamm and the Foundation Pedro Meyer.
 
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Here I am, in the era of the selfie

Vanessa Alcaíno & Elisa Rugo

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That which I call my self-portrait is composed of thousands of days of work.
Each of them corresponds to the exact number and moment at which
I stopped as I painted after a task.

—Roman Opalka

Through the various forms of artistic expression over the last 500 years, the natural relationship born between the creator and his work tool has offered a rough testimony of self-exploration. We can see it from the self-portraits of Renaissance painters to the self-explorations produced by photographers opposite a mirror. The difference is that today we live in, thorough and for the image, and the image has driven us to communicate in a new way. Today, it has become a right to possess images of one’s self, and in this context the selfie appears to have emerged as a logical derivation of this human action.

Could we therefore consider selfies within the tradition of the self-portrait? Do they serve to search for, or develop, one’s identity? Let us begin with the idea that a selfie is not only a self-portrait in the traditional sense of the word. The selfie is created using a smart phone or webcam and places us in a spontaneous context or situation, showing its relative lack of preparation, but it also contains metadata that are commented on and shared repeatedly. This could define it as an emerging sub-genre of the self-portrait1, as taking this photographic image is in line with the new platforms of audiovisual communication.

However, the most appealing facet of this “new” trend is its social value. Current-day self-portraits do not seek to say this is me or this is how I am, as was done in times gone by to construct an identity, but rather they follow the logic of here I am or this is where I am. Being somewhere at a given moment prevails over just being. Persons therefore show themselves in a location, saying: this is where and how I am right now, with a mood: this is how I am today, or even, when in company: here I am with so-and-so. “Photography is not a memory, but an act”.2

The numerous self-portraits published every day construct visual diaries that show us multiple, plural and at the same time communal “private” stories. They are, in the digital era, the result of the democratization of the image, and acquire meaning once they are shared, not only among a specific group of persons (friends and/or relatives), but among all those who construct meaning through their interactions. The more active the exchange in networks, the stronger the links between their participants.

There are currently pages specializing in selfies that gather images in similar situations (selfiesatfunerals, selfieswithhomelesspeople, selfiesatseriousplaces, museumselfies.tumblr.com), projects that bring together collections of the (app.thefacesoffacebook, A través del espejo by Joan Fontcuberta), studies (selfiecity.net), new trends (Shaky Selfie), competitions, festivals (ClaroEcuador, Olimpiadas del selfie) and every day new apps appear that encourage us to tell a story by capturing images (Frontback). On many occasions film stars, musicians and celebrities such as the Pope or presidents express themselves through this medium, creating an intimate proximity with the public.

Taking photographs (of one’s self) has become an ordinary, everyday action. As Fontcuberta writes, it has become a compulsion. A vital compulsion in which each heartbeat becomes an image, such as the project The Whale Hunt, by Jonathan Harris, which uses 3,214 timed photographs to show in frequencies the most powerful moments of his experience of whale hunting. We are in an era that strives to photograph everything and create an interaction, in a context in which the photographic image has become a desire to speak. May nothing remain unrecorded or unshared! as we only exist insofar as we are present online.

What then of privacy? The intimate has become public. In 2000, a performance was presented called Nautilus, casa transparente.3 It consisted of a space with translucent walls in which a person was carrying out their daily life. People, some curious, others outraged, spend hours obsessively observing this person in his ordinary intimacy, as though he were an animal in a zoo. A few years later, and thanks to photography and its connectivity, we appear to be putting ourselves in this person’s place willingly and living in our own glass houses, exhibiting our everyday life without fear or prejudice.

Today’s democratized self-portrait is a public declaration carrying the message of our identity. The numerous devices and platforms used to communicate through the image enable us to react and create the need to leave a trace, in order for others to discover us. The selfie has become a social phenomenon of self-expression that can be as diverse as humanity itself, but we do not know to what extent social or cultural experiences are measured by the endless software. We are therefore invited to continue to take portraits of ourselves until technology becomes insufficient and we exceed the mobility, ubiquity and connection offered by the fifth moment of photography.4

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

1 Tifentale, Alise. The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”. February 2014 / selfiecity.net
2 Fontcuberta, Joan. Quote from Joan Fontcuberta: el post-talento fotográfico. February 2014 by Galcerán de Born 
3 Nautilus, casa transparente, an original idea by the Chilean architect Arturo Torres
4 The fifth momento of photography explores the effect of the iphone on photography, the technological 'mash-up' with the internet and omnipresent social connectivity. Edgar Gómez, and Eric T. Meyer. Creation and Control in the Photographic Process: iPhones and the Emerging Fifth Moment of Photography. Photographies 5, number 2 (2012): 203-221.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: vanessapizani
 
Elia RugoElisa Rugo (Mexico, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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That which I call my self-portrait is composed of thousands of days of work.
Each of them corresponds to the exact number and moment at which
I stopped as I painted after a task.

—Roman Opalka

Through the various forms of artistic expression over the last 500 years, the natural relationship born between the creator and his work tool has offered a rough testimony of self-exploration. We can see it from the self-portraits of Renaissance painters to the self-explorations produced by photographers opposite a mirror. The difference is that today we live in, thorough and for the image, and the image has driven us to communicate in a new way. Today, it has become a right to possess images of one’s self, and in this context the selfie appears to have emerged as a logical derivation of this human action.

Could we therefore consider selfies within the tradition of the self-portrait? Do they serve to search for, or develop, one’s identity? Let us begin with the idea that a selfie is not only a self-portrait in the traditional sense of the word. The selfie is created using a smart phone or webcam and places us in a spontaneous context or situation, showing its relative lack of preparation, but it also contains metadata that are commented on and shared repeatedly. This could define it as an emerging sub-genre of the self-portrait1, as taking this photographic image is in line with the new platforms of audiovisual communication.

However, the most appealing facet of this “new” trend is its social value. Current-day self-portraits do not seek to say this is me or this is how I am, as was done in times gone by to construct an identity, but rather they follow the logic of here I am or this is where I am. Being somewhere at a given moment prevails over just being. Persons therefore show themselves in a location, saying: this is where and how I am right now, with a mood: this is how I am today, or even, when in company: here I am with so-and-so. “Photography is not a memory, but an act”.2

The numerous self-portraits published every day construct visual diaries that show us multiple, plural and at the same time communal “private” stories. They are, in the digital era, the result of the democratization of the image, and acquire meaning once they are shared, not only among a specific group of persons (friends and/or relatives), but among all those who construct meaning through their interactions. The more active the exchange in networks, the stronger the links between their participants.

There are currently pages specializing in selfies that gather images in similar situations (selfiesatfunerals, selfieswithhomelesspeople, selfiesatseriousplaces, museumselfies.tumblr.com), projects that bring together collections of the (app.thefacesoffacebook, A través del espejo by Joan Fontcuberta), studies (selfiecity.net), new trends (Shaky Selfie), competitions, festivals (ClaroEcuador, Olimpiadas del selfie) and every day new apps appear that encourage us to tell a story by capturing images (Frontback). On many occasions film stars, musicians and celebrities such as the Pope or presidents express themselves through this medium, creating an intimate proximity with the public.

Taking photographs (of one’s self) has become an ordinary, everyday action. As Fontcuberta writes, it has become a compulsion. A vital compulsion in which each heartbeat becomes an image, such as the project The Whale Hunt, by Jonathan Harris, which uses 3,214 timed photographs to show in frequencies the most powerful moments of his experience of whale hunting. We are in an era that strives to photograph everything and create an interaction, in a context in which the photographic image has become a desire to speak. May nothing remain unrecorded or unshared! as we only exist insofar as we are present online.

What then of privacy? The intimate has become public. In 2000, a performance was presented called Nautilus, casa transparente.3 It consisted of a space with translucent walls in which a person was carrying out their daily life. People, some curious, others outraged, spend hours obsessively observing this person in his ordinary intimacy, as though he were an animal in a zoo. A few years later, and thanks to photography and its connectivity, we appear to be putting ourselves in this person’s place willingly and living in our own glass houses, exhibiting our everyday life without fear or prejudice.

Today’s democratized self-portrait is a public declaration carrying the message of our identity. The numerous devices and platforms used to communicate through the image enable us to react and create the need to leave a trace, in order for others to discover us. The selfie has become a social phenomenon of self-expression that can be as diverse as humanity itself, but we do not know to what extent social or cultural experiences are measured by the endless software. We are therefore invited to continue to take portraits of ourselves until technology becomes insufficient and we exceed the mobility, ubiquity and connection offered by the fifth moment of photography.4

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

1 Tifentale, Alise. The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”. February 2014 / selfiecity.net
2 Fontcuberta, Joan. Quote from Joan Fontcuberta: el post-talento fotográfico. February 2014 by Galcerán de Born 
3 Nautilus, casa transparente, an original idea by the Chilean architect Arturo Torres
4 The fifth momento of photography explores the effect of the iphone on photography, the technological 'mash-up' with the internet and omnipresent social connectivity. Edgar Gómez, and Eric T. Meyer. Creation and Control in the Photographic Process: iPhones and the Emerging Fifth Moment of Photography. Photographies 5, number 2 (2012): 203-221.

Vanessa AlcaínoVanessa Alcaíno Pizani (Venezuela, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. Visual artist. She graduated in Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and has a Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Thought at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Since 1994, she has worked in the field of photography at various institutions and organisations in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico. At the moment, she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: vanessapizani
 
Elia RugoElisa Rugo (Mexico, 1980). Lives and works in Mexico. She is a photographer, videographer and a specialist in visual communication with a degree in Creative Visualisation at the University of Communication. In 2012, she took part in the seminar Contemporary Photography at the Image Centre. She has participated in collective exhibitions in Pachuca, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Mexico-City. At the moment, she is the art director of the websites fpmeyer.com and museodemujeres.com and she is part of the editorial team of zonezero.com. You can see her work at: elisarugo.pro



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Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”

Eric Kim

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Eric Kim, "Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”"Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

When I started off in street photography, I believed in the “myth of the decisive moment”. What do I mean by that?

Well, when I first heard of “The Decisive Moment” by Henri Cartier Bresson, I had the wrong impression that he only took one photo of a scene. I imagined Henri Cartier Bresson waltzing into a street scene, carefully aiming his Leica, and taking only one shot and creating masterpieces. I thought he was a demigod– a photographer who somehow had this magic behind his lens.

However if we look at his contact sheets, it is a different story. He (and almost all great photographers) never only take one photo of a great potential scene. Out of Henri Cartier Bresson’s contact sheets, you can see that almost all of his great images required him “working the scene”– taking multiple photos of the same scene at different angles, moments, and perspectives. He hustled hard to get the shots he wanted– and would spend considerable time with his contact sheets, determining which photos he decided were his “best”.

Close-ups of the contact sheet from Seville, by Henri Cartier-Bresson:

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One mistake that I see a lot of beginner street photographers is that they only take one photo per scene. I think this is because they too believe in the “myth of the decisive moment” and partly because of the fear that they will be caught taking photographs.

The importance of studying contact sheets

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Henri Cartier-Bresson looking at contacts at the New York Magnum Office. 1959. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

I have written about contact sheets several times before. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a contact sheet is it is pretty much a sheet of paper which shows all the photographs a photographer shot on a roll of film. And with this sheet of paper, a photographer can use a loupe (small magnifying glass for the eye) and edit (choose) their favorite images. This was done in the days of the darkroom, and when digital didn’t exist.

Now of course, we have “Lightroom” where we can identify all of our photos of a scene digitally. Instead of having to look at tiny thumbnails, we can now see all of our “almost” photos in full resolution.

Contact sheets are the best learning tools for a photographer. You can learn from contact sheets from other photographers, and also from your own contact sheets.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. SPAIN. 1933. Valencia. Note the two versions of the photo he was considering from. This was the best.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. SPAIN. 1933. Valencia. This image wasn’t as strong as the prior.

Analyzing contact sheets from the masters who came before us is the closest thing we have to reading their minds. We can see how they “worked the scene”– and how they took photos from different perspectives, decided when to hit the shutter, and how many photos they decided to take. Some photographers are able to “nail” their photos in just 5-6 shots, while other photographers will shoot a full roll of 36 photos in just one scene.

Realize that all these master photographers were shooting on film, where it actually cost something to photograph. Now that most of us shoot digitally, there is no excuse for us to not “work the scene” and take many different photos of the same scene.

To learn more about contact sheets, check out my article: “10 Things Street Photographers Can Learn From Magnum Contact Sheets” and also pick up a copy of “Magnum Contact Sheets” on Amazon. It will be the best $100 you will ever spend for your photographic education.

How to “work the scene”

Okay, so we’ve talked about the importance of “working the scene”– and how important it is to take multiple photos of a scene (not just one photo). So how do you exactly “work the scene”?

A few things to clarify:

1. Don’t only just take one photo

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Contact sheet of Elliott Erwitt, “Bulldogs”, New York, 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Once again, it is very tempting to only the one photograph when you see a good scene. When I started off in street photography, I would be deathly afraid of offending people or being “caught in the act” of photographing strangers.

However realize that to make a great photograph, you need to work the scene. You will never know when the “best” decisive moment will occur. In a scene, there are many different great potential “decisive moments”. You generally only know which is the best “decisive moment” afterwards in the editing phase.

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“Bulldogs”, New York, 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Even Henri Cartier Bresson once said: “Sometimes you have to milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.”

2. Don’t chimp

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Alain Capeilleres, 1976. © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos.

Another practical tip to better “work the scene” is to not “chimp”. What is chimping you ask? Well, it is when you look at your LCD screen after you take a photograph. Why do they call that “chimping”? Well, apparently film photographers used to make fun of digital photographers by saying they looked like a bunch of “chimps” (or monkeys) when they would crowd around their LCD screens and show off the photos they just took.

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Photo by Martine Franck, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Town of Le Brusc. Pool designed by Alain Capeilleres, 1976. © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

So what is so bad about “chimping” anyways? I’ve written an article on why street photographers shouldn’t chimp– but to sum up, chimping kills your flow when you’re out shooting on the streets. Rather than checking your LCD screen several times while working a scene to check for exposure, framing, and what you captured– it is better to just take a lot of photos at different angles and moments and choose the best photos later.

3. Linger

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Contact sheet of Richard Kalvar, “Piazza Della Rotonda”. Rome, Italy, 1980. © Richard Kalvar / Magnum Photos

“Lingering” is one of the most difficult things about “working the scene”. Lingering is to “overstay your welcome”. It is generally rude to “linger”. Lingering is like “loitering”– you hang around longer than you should, and people look down on it.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get in my workshops is, “How long should I ‘work a scene’ and linger before I know it’s time to leave, or I got the shot?”

Well, that is the big problem. We have no idea when we either “got the shot” or we’ve hung around “long enough”.

Personally, my philosophy is to be the houseguest that overstays his or her welcome. Did you ever have a friend who asked to stay at your place for a week but ends up staying a few months? Be that guy.

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“Piazza Della Rotonda”. Rome, Italy, 1980. © Richard Kalvar / Magnum Photos

The reason I advocate for “overstaying your welcome” is because it is better to linger for a longer period of time because often your best shot will be the last shot. Looking at a lot of contact sheets, especially this image by Richard Kalvar, you see that his best image was at the very end (on his 37th frame, quite lucky). If he didn’t linger around and work the scene, he would’ve never gotten his iconic shot.

Furthermore in street photography, you will only see a great potential scene once in your life. You might see similar scenes, but you will never see the same exact scene with the same exact people, with that background, that light, and that configuration.

So don’t live with regrets, linger around longer than you should– and “overshoot” a scene.

A technique I learned from my friend Charlie Kirk is if you see a great potential scene, hang around and wait a bit longer before you go in and start taking photos. For example, if you see a cool looking guy smoking– linger around him and wait for him to take a puff– then jump in and take a few shots of him inhaling his cigarette.

Lingering is quite painful to do. It is awkward, makes you feel uncomfortable, and might make your subject feel uncomfortable.

One way I get over the awkwardness of lingering and “working the scene” is by pretending I am photographing something behind them and avoiding eye contact. Because I shoot with a 35mm lens, I don’t have to point my camera directly at my subject to get them in the frame.

Another technique is to smile and interact with my subject while photographing them. For example, if I see a good scene, I might start off by shooting candidly– then if my subject makes eye contact with me, I will also make eye contact, smile, keep shooting, and even start chatting with them (hey, you’re looking good!)

4. Look for gestures

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Che contact sheet. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

When you are “working the scene”– don’t just put your camera to rapid fire mode and start shooting aimlessly. Rather, be very conscious about when you decide to click the shutter.

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Che Guevara. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

Generally I make the decision to click the shutter when I see hand gestures. It can be a gesture of someone covering their face, holding their hands by their sides, or pointing in a certain direction.

Another great tip is to wait for eye contact. Try experimenting taking photos without eye contact, and some photos with eye contact. You never know which photograph will be better. But there is a saying: “eyes are the windows to the soul”– which means if you get eye contact in your street photographs, they can be more intimate and emotional.

5. Keep your feet moving

 

If you ever watch a boxer, they rarely keep their feet still. The most important thing as a boxer is to never put your heels on the ground. The moment you stop moving is the moment you become a sitting duck– and will be a prime target to be knocked out by your opponent.

Take the same mindset as a street photographer. When working the scene, don’t just keep your feet planted on the ground. Keep your feet moving. Take photos from the left, right, take a step forward, a step backwards. Crouch down. Get different angles and perspectives.

6. Shoot both landscape and portrait photos

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Contac sheet, VJ Day. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Also when working the scene, try experimenting taking your photos in both landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) modes. When you are in the heat of the moment and see a great street photography scene, it is often difficult to know which is the “better” orientation of your camera for the scene.

So if you have time, try to work out both orientations of your camera– depending on what kind of image you want to create.

7. Be calm and patient

meyer cel
Jean Gaumy, Iran, 1986.

When you are working a scene, remember to try to stay calm and patient. We can sometimes get into a frenzy when working the scene, and trying to get “the shot”. However be calm and patient while you’re shooting– by analyzing when you need to hit the shutter, how close you need to be to your subject to frame them properly, and distracting elements in the background.

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Jean Gaumy, Iran, 1986.

When you start off working the scene as a beginner, you might get too much of an adrenaline rush to stay calm and patient when shooting. But realize that with practice be time, you will be more calm and patient when working the scene– which will help you make better rational choices while shooting, and ultimately help you make better images.

8. Focus on the background

meyer cel
Martin Parr contact sheet from “The Last Resort

When we are shooting on the streets, we can often focus too much on the subject and not enough on the background.

My advice is once you’ve established who your primary subject (or subjects) are– focus your eyes on the background. Try to get a clean background that doesn’t district– and adds to the scene.

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The Last Resort, Photo by Martin Parr

Try to avoid getting random heads, poles, trees, or cars in the background. When you are working the scene, move your feet to get a cleaner background. Messy backgrounds are one of the biggest killers of great potential street photographs.

Conclusion

meyer cel
Contact Sheet by Martin Parr from Spain, 1997

To increase your odds of getting “keepers” in street photography, try practicing “working the scene” and lingering longer than necessary. Don’t keep your feet still, always be moving. But at the same time be patient.

meyer cel
Photo by Martin Parr from his “Common Sense” book. Spain, 1997

Also know that by working the scene longer than you need to, it will be strange and awkward. But with time, patience, practice, and a smile– you will be able to overcome this.

Learn more

To learn more, I recommend picking up a copy of “Magnum contact sheets” or reading the in-depth article I wrote on it: “10 Things Street Photographers Can Learn From Magnum Contact Sheets“. Also make sure to check out the “Contact Sheets” section at the Iconic Photos Blog.

If you want to build your confidence in street photography and learn to better “work the scene”– join me at one of my upcoming street photography workshops!

__

LEGAL INFORMATION: ALL THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE DISPLAYED WITHOUT THE INTENTION OF FINANCIAL GAIN, AS SCIENTIFIC, LITERARY AND/OR ARTISTIC CRITICISM AND/OR RESEARCH, UNDER THE TERMS OF THE CURRENT LEGISLATION CONTAINED IN INTERNATIONAL TREATIES REGARDING COPYRIGHT.

kimEric Kim (USA). Lives and works as a photographer in Berkeley, California. His main interest is street photography, to which he has devoted his artistic and educational work. He graduated in sociology from UCLA. Kim gives workshops in several parts of the world, including Canada, Holland, Vietnam, Japan and Australia, and has collaborated in a number of projects with Leica and Samsung. Hs work has been exhibited in Los Angeles and in Leica stores in Singapore, Seoul and Melbourne. and can be seen at: erickimphotography.com
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Eric Kim, "Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”"Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

When I started off in street photography, I believed in the “myth of the decisive moment”. What do I mean by that?

Well, when I first heard of “The Decisive Moment” by Henri Cartier Bresson, I had the wrong impression that he only took one photo of a scene. I imagined Henri Cartier Bresson waltzing into a street scene, carefully aiming his Leica, and taking only one shot and creating masterpieces. I thought he was a demigod– a photographer who somehow had this magic behind his lens.

However if we look at his contact sheets, it is a different story. He (and almost all great photographers) never only take one photo of a great potential scene. Out of Henri Cartier Bresson’s contact sheets, you can see that almost all of his great images required him “working the scene”– taking multiple photos of the same scene at different angles, moments, and perspectives. He hustled hard to get the shots he wanted– and would spend considerable time with his contact sheets, determining which photos he decided were his “best”.

Close-ups of the contact sheet from Seville, by Henri Cartier-Bresson:

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One mistake that I see a lot of beginner street photographers is that they only take one photo per scene. I think this is because they too believe in the “myth of the decisive moment” and partly because of the fear that they will be caught taking photographs.

The importance of studying contact sheets

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Henri Cartier-Bresson looking at contacts at the New York Magnum Office. 1959. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

I have written about contact sheets several times before. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a contact sheet is it is pretty much a sheet of paper which shows all the photographs a photographer shot on a roll of film. And with this sheet of paper, a photographer can use a loupe (small magnifying glass for the eye) and edit (choose) their favorite images. This was done in the days of the darkroom, and when digital didn’t exist.

Now of course, we have “Lightroom” where we can identify all of our photos of a scene digitally. Instead of having to look at tiny thumbnails, we can now see all of our “almost” photos in full resolution.

Contact sheets are the best learning tools for a photographer. You can learn from contact sheets from other photographers, and also from your own contact sheets.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. SPAIN. 1933. Valencia. Note the two versions of the photo he was considering from. This was the best.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. SPAIN. 1933. Valencia. This image wasn’t as strong as the prior.

Analyzing contact sheets from the masters who came before us is the closest thing we have to reading their minds. We can see how they “worked the scene”– and how they took photos from different perspectives, decided when to hit the shutter, and how many photos they decided to take. Some photographers are able to “nail” their photos in just 5-6 shots, while other photographers will shoot a full roll of 36 photos in just one scene.

Realize that all these master photographers were shooting on film, where it actually cost something to photograph. Now that most of us shoot digitally, there is no excuse for us to not “work the scene” and take many different photos of the same scene.

To learn more about contact sheets, check out my article: “10 Things Street Photographers Can Learn From Magnum Contact Sheets” and also pick up a copy of “Magnum Contact Sheets” on Amazon. It will be the best $100 you will ever spend for your photographic education.

How to “work the scene”

Okay, so we’ve talked about the importance of “working the scene”– and how important it is to take multiple photos of a scene (not just one photo). So how do you exactly “work the scene”?

A few things to clarify:

1. Don’t only just take one photo

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Contact sheet of Elliott Erwitt, “Bulldogs”, New York, 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Once again, it is very tempting to only the one photograph when you see a good scene. When I started off in street photography, I would be deathly afraid of offending people or being “caught in the act” of photographing strangers.

However realize that to make a great photograph, you need to work the scene. You will never know when the “best” decisive moment will occur. In a scene, there are many different great potential “decisive moments”. You generally only know which is the best “decisive moment” afterwards in the editing phase.

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“Bulldogs”, New York, 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Even Henri Cartier Bresson once said: “Sometimes you have to milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.”

2. Don’t chimp

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Alain Capeilleres, 1976. © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos.

Another practical tip to better “work the scene” is to not “chimp”. What is chimping you ask? Well, it is when you look at your LCD screen after you take a photograph. Why do they call that “chimping”? Well, apparently film photographers used to make fun of digital photographers by saying they looked like a bunch of “chimps” (or monkeys) when they would crowd around their LCD screens and show off the photos they just took.

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Photo by Martine Franck, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Town of Le Brusc. Pool designed by Alain Capeilleres, 1976. © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

So what is so bad about “chimping” anyways? I’ve written an article on why street photographers shouldn’t chimp– but to sum up, chimping kills your flow when you’re out shooting on the streets. Rather than checking your LCD screen several times while working a scene to check for exposure, framing, and what you captured– it is better to just take a lot of photos at different angles and moments and choose the best photos later.

3. Linger

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Contact sheet of Richard Kalvar, “Piazza Della Rotonda”. Rome, Italy, 1980. © Richard Kalvar / Magnum Photos

“Lingering” is one of the most difficult things about “working the scene”. Lingering is to “overstay your welcome”. It is generally rude to “linger”. Lingering is like “loitering”– you hang around longer than you should, and people look down on it.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get in my workshops is, “How long should I ‘work a scene’ and linger before I know it’s time to leave, or I got the shot?”

Well, that is the big problem. We have no idea when we either “got the shot” or we’ve hung around “long enough”.

Personally, my philosophy is to be the houseguest that overstays his or her welcome. Did you ever have a friend who asked to stay at your place for a week but ends up staying a few months? Be that guy.

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“Piazza Della Rotonda”. Rome, Italy, 1980. © Richard Kalvar / Magnum Photos

The reason I advocate for “overstaying your welcome” is because it is better to linger for a longer period of time because often your best shot will be the last shot. Looking at a lot of contact sheets, especially this image by Richard Kalvar, you see that his best image was at the very end (on his 37th frame, quite lucky). If he didn’t linger around and work the scene, he would’ve never gotten his iconic shot.

Furthermore in street photography, you will only see a great potential scene once in your life. You might see similar scenes, but you will never see the same exact scene with the same exact people, with that background, that light, and that configuration.

So don’t live with regrets, linger around longer than you should– and “overshoot” a scene.

A technique I learned from my friend Charlie Kirk is if you see a great potential scene, hang around and wait a bit longer before you go in and start taking photos. For example, if you see a cool looking guy smoking– linger around him and wait for him to take a puff– then jump in and take a few shots of him inhaling his cigarette.

Lingering is quite painful to do. It is awkward, makes you feel uncomfortable, and might make your subject feel uncomfortable.

One way I get over the awkwardness of lingering and “working the scene” is by pretending I am photographing something behind them and avoiding eye contact. Because I shoot with a 35mm lens, I don’t have to point my camera directly at my subject to get them in the frame.

Another technique is to smile and interact with my subject while photographing them. For example, if I see a good scene, I might start off by shooting candidly– then if my subject makes eye contact with me, I will also make eye contact, smile, keep shooting, and even start chatting with them (hey, you’re looking good!)

4. Look for gestures

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Che contact sheet. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

When you are “working the scene”– don’t just put your camera to rapid fire mode and start shooting aimlessly. Rather, be very conscious about when you decide to click the shutter.

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Che Guevara. © Rene Burri / Magnum Photos

Generally I make the decision to click the shutter when I see hand gestures. It can be a gesture of someone covering their face, holding their hands by their sides, or pointing in a certain direction.

Another great tip is to wait for eye contact. Try experimenting taking photos without eye contact, and some photos with eye contact. You never know which photograph will be better. But there is a saying: “eyes are the windows to the soul”– which means if you get eye contact in your street photographs, they can be more intimate and emotional.

5. Keep your feet moving

 

If you ever watch a boxer, they rarely keep their feet still. The most important thing as a boxer is to never put your heels on the ground. The moment you stop moving is the moment you become a sitting duck– and will be a prime target to be knocked out by your opponent.

Take the same mindset as a street photographer. When working the scene, don’t just keep your feet planted on the ground. Keep your feet moving. Take photos from the left, right, take a step forward, a step backwards. Crouch down. Get different angles and perspectives.

6. Shoot both landscape and portrait photos

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Contac sheet, VJ Day. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Also when working the scene, try experimenting taking your photos in both landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) modes. When you are in the heat of the moment and see a great street photography scene, it is often difficult to know which is the “better” orientation of your camera for the scene.

So if you have time, try to work out both orientations of your camera– depending on what kind of image you want to create.

7. Be calm and patient

meyer cel
Jean Gaumy, Iran, 1986.

When you are working a scene, remember to try to stay calm and patient. We can sometimes get into a frenzy when working the scene, and trying to get “the shot”. However be calm and patient while you’re shooting– by analyzing when you need to hit the shutter, how close you need to be to your subject to frame them properly, and distracting elements in the background.

meyer cel
Jean Gaumy, Iran, 1986.

When you start off working the scene as a beginner, you might get too much of an adrenaline rush to stay calm and patient when shooting. But realize that with practice be time, you will be more calm and patient when working the scene– which will help you make better rational choices while shooting, and ultimately help you make better images.

8. Focus on the background

meyer cel
Martin Parr contact sheet from “The Last Resort

When we are shooting on the streets, we can often focus too much on the subject and not enough on the background.

My advice is once you’ve established who your primary subject (or subjects) are– focus your eyes on the background. Try to get a clean background that doesn’t district– and adds to the scene.

meyer cel
The Last Resort, Photo by Martin Parr

Try to avoid getting random heads, poles, trees, or cars in the background. When you are working the scene, move your feet to get a cleaner background. Messy backgrounds are one of the biggest killers of great potential street photographs.

Conclusion

meyer cel
Contact Sheet by Martin Parr from Spain, 1997

To increase your odds of getting “keepers” in street photography, try practicing “working the scene” and lingering longer than necessary. Don’t keep your feet still, always be moving. But at the same time be patient.

meyer cel
Photo by Martin Parr from his “Common Sense” book. Spain, 1997

Also know that by working the scene longer than you need to, it will be strange and awkward. But with time, patience, practice, and a smile– you will be able to overcome this.

Learn more

To learn more, I recommend picking up a copy of “Magnum contact sheets” or reading the in-depth article I wrote on it: “10 Things Street Photographers Can Learn From Magnum Contact Sheets“. Also make sure to check out the “Contact Sheets” section at the Iconic Photos Blog.

If you want to build your confidence in street photography and learn to better “work the scene”– join me at one of my upcoming street photography workshops!

__

LEGAL INFORMATION: ALL THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE DISPLAYED WITHOUT THE INTENTION OF FINANCIAL GAIN, AS SCIENTIFIC, LITERARY AND/OR ARTISTIC CRITICISM AND/OR RESEARCH, UNDER THE TERMS OF THE CURRENT LEGISLATION CONTAINED IN INTERNATIONAL TREATIES REGARDING COPYRIGHT.

kimEric Kim (USA). Lives and works as a photographer in Berkeley, California. His main interest is street photography, to which he has devoted his artistic and educational work. He graduated in sociology from UCLA. Kim gives workshops in several parts of the world, including Canada, Holland, Vietnam, Japan and Australia, and has collaborated in a number of projects with Leica and Samsung. Hs work has been exhibited in Los Angeles and in Leica stores in Singapore, Seoul and Melbourne. and can be seen at: erickimphotography.com
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The Universal Texture

Clement Valla

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!-- Parrafo de eric kim

Eric Kim, "Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”"Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

-->

Clement Valla, "The Universal Texture.", Rhizome2012.

meyer cel
Images via Clement Valla.

These artists (...) counter the database, understood as a structure of dehumanized power, with the collection, as a form of idiosyncratic, unsystematic, and human memory. They collect what interests them, whatever they feel can and should be included in a meaning system. They describe, critique, and finally challenge the dynamics of the database, forcing it to evolve.1

I collect Google Earth images. I discovered them by accident, these particularly strange snapshots, where the illusion of a seamless and accurate representation of the Earth’s surface seems to break down. I was Google Earth-ing, when I noticed that a striking number of buildings looked like they were upside down. I could tell there were two competing visual inputs here —the 3D model that formed the surface of the earth, and the mapping of the aerial photography; they didn't match up. Depth cues in the aerial photographs, like shadows and lighting, were not aligning with the depth cues of the 3D model.

The competing visual inputs I had noticed produced some exceptional imagery, and I began to find more and start a collection. At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world - as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

3D Images like those in Google Earth are generated through a process called texture mapping. Texture mapping is a technology developed by Ed Catmull in the 1970's. In 3D modeling, a texture map is a flat image that gets applied to the surface of a 3D model, like a label on a can or a bottle of soda. Textures typically represent a flat expanse with very little depth of field, meant to mimic surface properties of an object. Textures are more like a scan than a photograph. The surface represented in a texture coincides with the surface of the picture plane, unlike a photograph that represents a space beyond the picture plane. This difference might be summed up another way: we see through a photograph, we look at a texture. This is an important distinction in 3D modeling, because textures are stretched across the surface of a 3D model, in essence becoming the skin for the model.

Google Earth's textures however, are not shallow or flat. They are photographs that we look through into a space represented beyond—a space our brain interprets as having three dimensions and depth. We see space in the aerial photographs because of light and shadows and because of our prior knowledge of experienced space. When these photographs get distorted and stretched across the 3D topography of the earth, we are both looking at the distorted picture plane, and through the same picture plane at the space depicted in the texture. In other words, we are looking at two spaces simultaneously. Most of the time this doubling of spaces in Google Earth goes unnoticed, but sometimes the two spaces are so different, that things look strange, vertiginous, or plain wrong. But they’re not wrong. They reveal Google’s system used to map the earth — The Universal Texture.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

The Universal Texture is a Google patent for mapping textures onto a 3D model of the entire globe.2 At its core the Universal Texture is just an optimal way to generate a texture map of the earth. As its name implies, the Universal Texture promises a god-like (or drone-like) uninterrupted navigation of our planet — not a tiled series of discrete maps, but a flowing and fluid experience. This experience is so different, so much more seamless than previous technologies, that it is an achievement quite like what the escalator did to shopping:

No invention has had the importance for and impact on shopping as the escalator. As opposed to the elevator, which is limited in terms of the numbers it can transport between different floors and which through its very mechanism insists on division, the escalator accommodates and combines any flow, efficiently creates fluid transitions between one level and another, and even blurs the distinction between separate levels and individual spaces.3

In the digital media world, this fluid continuity is analogous to the infinite scroll's effect on Tumblr. In Google Earth, the Universal Texture delivers a smooth, complete and easily accessible knowledge of the planet's surface. The Universal Texture is able to take a giant photo collage made up of aerial photographs from all kinds of different sources — various companies, governments, mapping institutes — and map it onto a three-dimensional model assembled from as many distinct sources. It blends these disparate data together into a seamless space - like the escalator merges floors in a shopping mall.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

Our mechanical processes for creating images have habituated us into thinking in terms of snapshots - discrete segments of time and space (no matter how close together those discrete segments get, we still count in frames per second and image aspect ratios). But Google is thinking in continuity. The images produced by Google Earth are quite unlike a photograph that bears an indexical relationship to a given space at a given time. Rather, they are hybrid images, a patchwork of two-dimensional photographic data and three-dimensional topographic data extracted from a slew of sources, data-mined, pre-processed, blended and merged in real-time. Google Earth is essentially a database disguised as a photographic representation.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

It is an automated, statistical, incessant, universal representation that selectively chooses its data. (For one, there is no ‘night’ in Google’s version of Earth.) The system edits a particular representation of the world. The software edits, re-assembles, processes and packages reality in order to form a very specific and useful model. These collected images feel alien, because they are clearly an incorrect representation of the earth’s surface. And it is precisely because humans did not directly create these images that they are so fascinating. They are created by an algorithm that finds nothing wrong in these moments. They are less a creation, than a kind of fact - a representation of the laws of the Universal Texture. As a collection the anomalies are a weird natural history of Google Earth’s software. They are strange new typologies, representative of a particular digital process. Typically, the illusion the Universal Texture creates makes the process itself go unnoticed, but these anomalies offer a glimpse into the data collection and assembly. They bring the diverging data sources to light. In these anomalies we understand there are competing inputs, competing data sources and discrepancy in the data. The world is not so fluid after all.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

By capturing screenshots of these images in Google Earth, I am pausing them and pulling them out of the update cycle. I capture these images to archive them - to make sure there is a record that this image was produced by the Universal Texture at a particular time and place. As I kept looking for more anomalies, and revisiting anomalies I had already discovered, I noticed the images I had discovered were disappearing. The aerial photographs were getting updated, becoming 'flatter' – from being taken at less of an angle or having the shadows below bridges muted. Because Google Earth is constantly updating its algorithms and three-dimensional data, each specific moment could only be captured as a still image. I know Google is trying to fix some of these anomalies too – I’ve been contacted by a Google engineer who has come up with a clever fix for the problem of drooping roads and bridges. Though the change has yet to appear in the software, it’s only a matter of time.

Taking a closer look, Google’s algorithms also seem to have a way to select certain types of aerial photographs over others, so as more photographs are taken, the better ones get selected. To Google, better photographs are flatter, have fewer shadows and are taken from higher angles. Because of this progress, these strange images are being erased. I see part of my work as archiving these temporal digital typologies. I also call these images postcards to cast myself as a tourist in the temporal and virtual space - a space that exists digitally for a moment, and may perhaps never be reconstituted again by any computer.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

Nothing draws more attention to the temporality of these images than the simple observation that the clouds are disappearing from Google Earth. After all, clouds obscures the surface of the planet so photos with no clouds are privileged. The Universal Texture and its attendant database algorithms are trained on a few basic qualitative traits - no clouds, high contrast, shallow depth, daylight photos. Progress in architecture has given us total control over interior environments; climate controlled spaces smoothly connected by escalators in shopping malls, airports, hotels and casinos. Progress in the Universal Texture promises to give us a smooth and continuous 24-hour, cloudless, daylit world, increasingly free of jarring anomalies, outliers and statistical inconsistency.

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

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Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

 


 

1. Quaranta, Domenico, “Collect the WWWorld. The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age,” in Domenico Quaranta et al., Collect the WWWorld, exhibition catalogue, LINK Editions, September 2011.

2. "WebGL Earth Documentation - 2 Real-time Texturing Methods," WebGL Earth Documentation - 2 Real-time Texturing Methods, N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2012.

3. Jovanovic Weiss, Srdjan and Leong, Sze Tsung, “Escalator,” in Koolhaas et al., Harvard Design School guide to shopping, Köln, New York, Taschen, 2001.

 

Clement VallaClement Valla (USA, 1979). Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BA in Architecture from Columbia University and a MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Digital+Media. He is currently an associate professor of Graphic Design at RISD. His work has been exhibited in several internationally places as The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Thommassen Galleri, Gothenbur, etc. His work is available at clementvalla.com

 

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!-- Parrafo de eric kim

Eric Kim, "Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”"Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

-->

Clement Valla, "The Universal Texture.", Rhizome2012.

meyer cel
Images via Clement Valla.

These artists (...) counter the database, understood as a structure of dehumanized power, with the collection, as a form of idiosyncratic, unsystematic, and human memory. They collect what interests them, whatever they feel can and should be included in a meaning system. They describe, critique, and finally challenge the dynamics of the database, forcing it to evolve.1

I collect Google Earth images. I discovered them by accident, these particularly strange snapshots, where the illusion of a seamless and accurate representation of the Earth’s surface seems to break down. I was Google Earth-ing, when I noticed that a striking number of buildings looked like they were upside down. I could tell there were two competing visual inputs here —the 3D model that formed the surface of the earth, and the mapping of the aerial photography; they didn't match up. Depth cues in the aerial photographs, like shadows and lighting, were not aligning with the depth cues of the 3D model.

The competing visual inputs I had noticed produced some exceptional imagery, and I began to find more and start a collection. At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world - as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

3D Images like those in Google Earth are generated through a process called texture mapping. Texture mapping is a technology developed by Ed Catmull in the 1970's. In 3D modeling, a texture map is a flat image that gets applied to the surface of a 3D model, like a label on a can or a bottle of soda. Textures typically represent a flat expanse with very little depth of field, meant to mimic surface properties of an object. Textures are more like a scan than a photograph. The surface represented in a texture coincides with the surface of the picture plane, unlike a photograph that represents a space beyond the picture plane. This difference might be summed up another way: we see through a photograph, we look at a texture. This is an important distinction in 3D modeling, because textures are stretched across the surface of a 3D model, in essence becoming the skin for the model.

Google Earth's textures however, are not shallow or flat. They are photographs that we look through into a space represented beyond—a space our brain interprets as having three dimensions and depth. We see space in the aerial photographs because of light and shadows and because of our prior knowledge of experienced space. When these photographs get distorted and stretched across the 3D topography of the earth, we are both looking at the distorted picture plane, and through the same picture plane at the space depicted in the texture. In other words, we are looking at two spaces simultaneously. Most of the time this doubling of spaces in Google Earth goes unnoticed, but sometimes the two spaces are so different, that things look strange, vertiginous, or plain wrong. But they’re not wrong. They reveal Google’s system used to map the earth — The Universal Texture.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

The Universal Texture is a Google patent for mapping textures onto a 3D model of the entire globe.2 At its core the Universal Texture is just an optimal way to generate a texture map of the earth. As its name implies, the Universal Texture promises a god-like (or drone-like) uninterrupted navigation of our planet — not a tiled series of discrete maps, but a flowing and fluid experience. This experience is so different, so much more seamless than previous technologies, that it is an achievement quite like what the escalator did to shopping:

No invention has had the importance for and impact on shopping as the escalator. As opposed to the elevator, which is limited in terms of the numbers it can transport between different floors and which through its very mechanism insists on division, the escalator accommodates and combines any flow, efficiently creates fluid transitions between one level and another, and even blurs the distinction between separate levels and individual spaces.3

In the digital media world, this fluid continuity is analogous to the infinite scroll's effect on Tumblr. In Google Earth, the Universal Texture delivers a smooth, complete and easily accessible knowledge of the planet's surface. The Universal Texture is able to take a giant photo collage made up of aerial photographs from all kinds of different sources — various companies, governments, mapping institutes — and map it onto a three-dimensional model assembled from as many distinct sources. It blends these disparate data together into a seamless space - like the escalator merges floors in a shopping mall.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

Our mechanical processes for creating images have habituated us into thinking in terms of snapshots - discrete segments of time and space (no matter how close together those discrete segments get, we still count in frames per second and image aspect ratios). But Google is thinking in continuity. The images produced by Google Earth are quite unlike a photograph that bears an indexical relationship to a given space at a given time. Rather, they are hybrid images, a patchwork of two-dimensional photographic data and three-dimensional topographic data extracted from a slew of sources, data-mined, pre-processed, blended and merged in real-time. Google Earth is essentially a database disguised as a photographic representation.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

It is an automated, statistical, incessant, universal representation that selectively chooses its data. (For one, there is no ‘night’ in Google’s version of Earth.) The system edits a particular representation of the world. The software edits, re-assembles, processes and packages reality in order to form a very specific and useful model. These collected images feel alien, because they are clearly an incorrect representation of the earth’s surface. And it is precisely because humans did not directly create these images that they are so fascinating. They are created by an algorithm that finds nothing wrong in these moments. They are less a creation, than a kind of fact - a representation of the laws of the Universal Texture. As a collection the anomalies are a weird natural history of Google Earth’s software. They are strange new typologies, representative of a particular digital process. Typically, the illusion the Universal Texture creates makes the process itself go unnoticed, but these anomalies offer a glimpse into the data collection and assembly. They bring the diverging data sources to light. In these anomalies we understand there are competing inputs, competing data sources and discrepancy in the data. The world is not so fluid after all.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

By capturing screenshots of these images in Google Earth, I am pausing them and pulling them out of the update cycle. I capture these images to archive them - to make sure there is a record that this image was produced by the Universal Texture at a particular time and place. As I kept looking for more anomalies, and revisiting anomalies I had already discovered, I noticed the images I had discovered were disappearing. The aerial photographs were getting updated, becoming 'flatter' – from being taken at less of an angle or having the shadows below bridges muted. Because Google Earth is constantly updating its algorithms and three-dimensional data, each specific moment could only be captured as a still image. I know Google is trying to fix some of these anomalies too – I’ve been contacted by a Google engineer who has come up with a clever fix for the problem of drooping roads and bridges. Though the change has yet to appear in the software, it’s only a matter of time.

Taking a closer look, Google’s algorithms also seem to have a way to select certain types of aerial photographs over others, so as more photographs are taken, the better ones get selected. To Google, better photographs are flatter, have fewer shadows and are taken from higher angles. Because of this progress, these strange images are being erased. I see part of my work as archiving these temporal digital typologies. I also call these images postcards to cast myself as a tourist in the temporal and virtual space - a space that exists digitally for a moment, and may perhaps never be reconstituted again by any computer.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

Nothing draws more attention to the temporality of these images than the simple observation that the clouds are disappearing from Google Earth. After all, clouds obscures the surface of the planet so photos with no clouds are privileged. The Universal Texture and its attendant database algorithms are trained on a few basic qualitative traits - no clouds, high contrast, shallow depth, daylight photos. Progress in architecture has given us total control over interior environments; climate controlled spaces smoothly connected by escalators in shopping malls, airports, hotels and casinos. Progress in the Universal Texture promises to give us a smooth and continuous 24-hour, cloudless, daylit world, increasingly free of jarring anomalies, outliers and statistical inconsistency.

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

meyer cel!--
Contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson in Seville, Spain, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos-->

 


 

1. Quaranta, Domenico, “Collect the WWWorld. The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age,” in Domenico Quaranta et al., Collect the WWWorld, exhibition catalogue, LINK Editions, September 2011.

2. "WebGL Earth Documentation - 2 Real-time Texturing Methods," WebGL Earth Documentation - 2 Real-time Texturing Methods, N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2012.

3. Jovanovic Weiss, Srdjan and Leong, Sze Tsung, “Escalator,” in Koolhaas et al., Harvard Design School guide to shopping, Köln, New York, Taschen, 2001.

 

Clement VallaClement Valla (USA, 1979). Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BA in Architecture from Columbia University and a MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Digital+Media. He is currently an associate professor of Graphic Design at RISD. His work has been exhibited in several internationally places as The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Thommassen Galleri, Gothenbur, etc. His work is available at clementvalla.com

 

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Self-representation and mystery

Adriana Raggi

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Throughout the history of art, humans have persistently looked at themselves, leading us all to perceive ourselves in an image that is repeated ad nauseam, yet is at the same time entirely essential. During earlier periods of art, whose productions are assumed to be of particular clarity, the self-portrait existed as a form enabling the artist to stand before others and declare who they were. Today, a complex process is taking place and we can therefore not call it self-portraiture, but seek other names, the most common being self-representation.

1.

Regardless of how we refer to it, a moment occurs in representation in which the artist carries out a performative act, in which he sees himself, which entails identification with the spectator. This action involves questioning the audience, the artist and the medium employed. One specific example is the key moment in Cris Birrenbach’s work Identidade, when he destroys himself before the camera, before us, to show us that gender and beauty can be referred to both playfully and violently, and that gender is merely a social construct achieved through performance. We act it out and repeat it, and in the same vein Birrenbach carries out an action before us which involves removing his gender and putting it on. He adopts it, discards it and then takes it up again. We are his mirror. We see him in this process of destruction, and feel strongly attracted to the image of a practice that we have undergone without realizing.

Identidade by Cris Bierrenbach

2.

On the other side of the mirror is Nicola Costantino, in her work Unfinished Rhapsody. In this video-installation presented at the Venice Biennial and embroiled in political controversy – when the Argentinian government wished to give it its own ending1 Argentina’s collective memory to bring us an intimate Evita, who is Eva and yet Nicola. In this work, self-representation is a form of self-destruction and reconstruction of the image of herself and of a historical icon of modern Argentina. It is a mise en scène, a performative construction of the artist’s body within Evita’s body. Costantino uses technology to reconstruct, through scenography and video, the history of the appliance that Eva allegedly used to support her sick body during her last public appearance. This was an Eva striving to maintain an image of strength. Meanwhile, Nicola’s body reveals a wound and a mystery.

Unfinished Rhapsody by Nicola Costantino

3.

The mystery of Eva is encapsulated in the work Meshes of the Afternoon  by Maya Deren, in which the artist uses her image repeatedly, thus confronting us with episodes from our daily life and psyche and placing us in terrifyingly familiar spaces. Deren is pursuing a mysterious figure to find herself over and over again. The representations of Maya are ominous yet sumptuously beautiful. They remind us that we are only here for an instant.

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

Final

When Guillermo Gómez Peña looks at us in his video performance To Death (Second duel), he says: “I have a surprise for you”, and from that moment onwards a mise en scène begins that enables us to understand the performance. Several questions remain unanswered. He puts on his body, as do Bierrenbach, Costantino and Deren. Here, his body is a self-representation but also a teaching tool. In his hands he holds a gun, the most powerful of tools. He aims it at us and shows us directly what all the other works have subtly demonstrated . A performative self-representation comments on the human being itself, and confronts us with what we are and are not. When we see Deren looking at herself, Bierrenbach destroying himself through violence, Costantino constructing herself in the body of another person, and finally, Gómez Peña aiming a gun at us, we realize that we are viewing out own finitude and fragility. What we are and do is determined by time, by the wound of knowing that we are going to die, the fragility of flesh and the absurd captivity of social limitations. At that moment, we can see each and every one of us.

To Death by Guillermo Gómez Peña



AdrianaRaggiAdriana Raggi (Mexico, 1970). Lives and works in Mexico. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts and a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM. She also followed the program Photo Narrative and New Media at the Pedro Meyer Foundation. She is professor at the National School of Plastic Arts and a member of the collective Las Disidentes. She has exhibited her work in Mexico and the United States, and also participated in more than twenty collective exhibitions. To see more of her work go to: www.adrianaraggi.net

 

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Throughout the history of art, humans have persistently looked at themselves, leading us all to perceive ourselves in an image that is repeated ad nauseam, yet is at the same time entirely essential. During earlier periods of art, whose productions are assumed to be of particular clarity, the self-portrait existed as a form enabling the artist to stand before others and declare who they were. Today, a complex process is taking place and we can therefore not call it self-portraiture, but seek other names, the most common being self-representation.

1.

Regardless of how we refer to it, a moment occurs in representation in which the artist carries out a performative act, in which he sees himself, which entails identification with the spectator. This action involves questioning the audience, the artist and the medium employed. One specific example is the key moment in Cris Birrenbach’s work Identidade, when he destroys himself before the camera, before us, to show us that gender and beauty can be referred to both playfully and violently, and that gender is merely a social construct achieved through performance. We act it out and repeat it, and in the same vein Birrenbach carries out an action before us which involves removing his gender and putting it on. He adopts it, discards it and then takes it up again. We are his mirror. We see him in this process of destruction, and feel strongly attracted to the image of a practice that we have undergone without realizing.

Identidade by Cris Bierrenbach

2.

On the other side of the mirror is Nicola Costantino, in her work Unfinished Rhapsody. In this video-installation presented at the Venice Biennial and embroiled in political controversy – when the Argentinian government wished to give it its own ending1 Argentina’s collective memory to bring us an intimate Evita, who is Eva and yet Nicola. In this work, self-representation is a form of self-destruction and reconstruction of the image of herself and of a historical icon of modern Argentina. It is a mise en scène, a performative construction of the artist’s body within Evita’s body. Costantino uses technology to reconstruct, through scenography and video, the history of the appliance that Eva allegedly used to support her sick body during her last public appearance. This was an Eva striving to maintain an image of strength. Meanwhile, Nicola’s body reveals a wound and a mystery.

Unfinished Rhapsody by Nicola Costantino

3.

The mystery of Eva is encapsulated in the work Meshes of the Afternoon  by Maya Deren, in which the artist uses her image repeatedly, thus confronting us with episodes from our daily life and psyche and placing us in terrifyingly familiar spaces. Deren is pursuing a mysterious figure to find herself over and over again. The representations of Maya are ominous yet sumptuously beautiful. They remind us that we are only here for an instant.

Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren

Final

When Guillermo Gómez Peña looks at us in his video performance To Death (Second duel), he says: “I have a surprise for you”, and from that moment onwards a mise en scène begins that enables us to understand the performance. Several questions remain unanswered. He puts on his body, as do Bierrenbach, Costantino and Deren. Here, his body is a self-representation but also a teaching tool. In his hands he holds a gun, the most powerful of tools. He aims it at us and shows us directly what all the other works have subtly demonstrated . A performative self-representation comments on the human being itself, and confronts us with what we are and are not. When we see Deren looking at herself, Bierrenbach destroying himself through violence, Costantino constructing herself in the body of another person, and finally, Gómez Peña aiming a gun at us, we realize that we are viewing out own finitude and fragility. What we are and do is determined by time, by the wound of knowing that we are going to die, the fragility of flesh and the absurd captivity of social limitations. At that moment, we can see each and every one of us.

To Death by Guillermo Gómez Peña



AdrianaRaggiAdriana Raggi (Mexico, 1970). Lives and works in Mexico. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts at the National School of Plastic Arts and a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM. She also followed the program Photo Narrative and New Media at the Pedro Meyer Foundation. She is professor at the National School of Plastic Arts and a member of the collective Las Disidentes. She has exhibited her work in Mexico and the United States, and also participated in more than twenty collective exhibitions. To see more of her work go to: www.adrianaraggi.net

 

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Instant, infinity and movement

Melissa Valenzuela y Ehekatl Hernández

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Photography has modified not only its devices for recording images but also its range of subjects and of course its means of dissemination. Traditional media such as paper and books were taken over a long time ago by their digital counterparts, which enable thousands of images to be shared on the Internet and mobile devices every day. As time went by and technology evolved, graphic formats emerged with a distinct advantage in terms of image quality, the use of animations and the layer of interaction. Many of these, such as Flash technology, were at first innovative and widely used, but rapidly replaced.

In this context, one of the formats that has existed alongside the Web since its inception, and remains popular, is GIF (Graphic Interchange Format), a form of technology developed in 1987 by the company CompuServe. Long before screen and monitor resolution brought viewers thousands or even millions of colors with sophisticated compression algorithms, such as JPGs or PNGs, the GIF already enabled graphics of a maximum of 256 colors to be inserted. A few years later, an improvement allowed more than one graph to be incorporated sequentially, and for the first time modest animations could be created on the emerging Web, with low weight and rapid display without extra plug-in. And so the ANIMATED GIF was born.


phena head bash HQ

Other formats have gradually fallen into disuse because of incompatibility with new devices, their high processing requirements for proper display and visualization, or their reliance on complex tools to add animation and interactivity. Meanwhile, the GIF has continued to function, thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with many different systems, browsers and even mobile devices. As a result, it has been widely used recently, and is no longer limited to publicists and marketers.

In this context, and as part of the current trend towards immediacy, GIF has established itself as an interesting tool for visual expression and experimentation, because of its particular technical, communicative and expressive qualities. Indeed, ANIMATED GIFs enable users to create authentic moving photographs that record short, repetitive actions. Reproduction in a loop (infinite repetition) emphasizes the idea of the redundancy of the moment, and consequently the instant grows, completes the action and highlights it. Time is no longer suspended for eternity, but is now redundant. This is the case of the so-called “Cinemagraph”, a variation of the animated GIF in which movement is restricted to an area or specific element of the shot. GIFs do not attempt to freeze the instant and instead insist on it, expressing itself time and time again in the image.

cinemagraph-gifs-leon-the-professional   

This narrows the gap between photography, cinema and video. These frames in movement allude to the first cinematographic films by the Lumière brothers, which captured instants of an action and reproduced the sequence to emulate movement. Unlike that era, viewers are currently not only accustomed to images but oversaturated with them. Observation is no longer guided by surprise, but by identification with an instant that is indefinitely prolonged.

melies-131-gif  tumblr mly5nhDL9M1rwe5aro1 250  tumblr m0l9f3fa4o1qg6rkio1 500

In contrast with the visual quality of cinema and photography, ANIMATED GIFs remind us of the texture of the first video cameras, a pastel-colored, poor quality image lacking depth. Cinema and photography maintain a certain expressive and visual independence from video and GIF. Those media refer to different concepts, as they have varied methods of dissemination and a different form of interaction with the viewer. They establish a relationship with an active spectator who repeatedly gives meaning to the image, reconstructing and reinterpreting in accordance with various factors that range from perception and the relation of each person to time, to external factors such as interface and the device supporting the image.

tumblr ljzitm3qHY1qzkq51o1 r1 500 

And yet, the contents manipulated by GIFs often draw on images extracted specifically from photographs, films or videos, and treated to emphasize a concrete action or some elements in movement. GIF narratives are ephemeral but reiterative, describing the instant and action, delving into content and the capacity for seduction and transmitting ideas and feelings. Indeed, action in movement is always the backbone of a visual construction charged with meanings.

Not surprisingly, this digital format is currently being explored by visual artists and photographers, to produce images in movement as an alternative to the formulas of cinema, video or animation shots. Though it may seem complex to understand the spectrum in which the ANIMATED GIF exists, the format has transformed its limited scope in the use of time into its greatest asset, with extensive expressive and conceptual possibilities. It also provides guidelines to redefine the notions and concepts, even at a theoretical level, involved in the constant evolution of photography, which will certainly not be the same in years to come.

 

Giuseppe Lo Schiavo  urbano  bill-429

 

 

Melissa ValenzuelaMelissa Valenzuela (Colombia, 1982). Lives and works in Mexico City. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Visual Arts from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Pláticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and studied Audiovisual Communication at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá. Valenzuela is an artist, and her work consists of self-portraits and recollections that address various nuances of perception, representation and memory. She also works in curatorship and education to integrate her artistic and research work..
 
Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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Photography has modified not only its devices for recording images but also its range of subjects and of course its means of dissemination. Traditional media such as paper and books were taken over a long time ago by their digital counterparts, which enable thousands of images to be shared on the Internet and mobile devices every day. As time went by and technology evolved, graphic formats emerged with a distinct advantage in terms of image quality, the use of animations and the layer of interaction. Many of these, such as Flash technology, were at first innovative and widely used, but rapidly replaced.

In this context, one of the formats that has existed alongside the Web since its inception, and remains popular, is GIF (Graphic Interchange Format), a form of technology developed in 1987 by the company CompuServe. Long before screen and monitor resolution brought viewers thousands or even millions of colors with sophisticated compression algorithms, such as JPGs or PNGs, the GIF already enabled graphics of a maximum of 256 colors to be inserted. A few years later, an improvement allowed more than one graph to be incorporated sequentially, and for the first time modest animations could be created on the emerging Web, with low weight and rapid display without extra plug-in. And so the ANIMATED GIF was born.


phena head bash HQ

Other formats have gradually fallen into disuse because of incompatibility with new devices, their high processing requirements for proper display and visualization, or their reliance on complex tools to add animation and interactivity. Meanwhile, the GIF has continued to function, thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with many different systems, browsers and even mobile devices. As a result, it has been widely used recently, and is no longer limited to publicists and marketers.

In this context, and as part of the current trend towards immediacy, GIF has established itself as an interesting tool for visual expression and experimentation, because of its particular technical, communicative and expressive qualities. Indeed, ANIMATED GIFs enable users to create authentic moving photographs that record short, repetitive actions. Reproduction in a loop (infinite repetition) emphasizes the idea of the redundancy of the moment, and consequently the instant grows, completes the action and highlights it. Time is no longer suspended for eternity, but is now redundant. This is the case of the so-called “Cinemagraph”, a variation of the animated GIF in which movement is restricted to an area or specific element of the shot. GIFs do not attempt to freeze the instant and instead insist on it, expressing itself time and time again in the image.

cinemagraph-gifs-leon-the-professional   

This narrows the gap between photography, cinema and video. These frames in movement allude to the first cinematographic films by the Lumière brothers, which captured instants of an action and reproduced the sequence to emulate movement. Unlike that era, viewers are currently not only accustomed to images but oversaturated with them. Observation is no longer guided by surprise, but by identification with an instant that is indefinitely prolonged.

melies-131-gif  tumblr mly5nhDL9M1rwe5aro1 250  tumblr m0l9f3fa4o1qg6rkio1 500

In contrast with the visual quality of cinema and photography, ANIMATED GIFs remind us of the texture of the first video cameras, a pastel-colored, poor quality image lacking depth. Cinema and photography maintain a certain expressive and visual independence from video and GIF. Those media refer to different concepts, as they have varied methods of dissemination and a different form of interaction with the viewer. They establish a relationship with an active spectator who repeatedly gives meaning to the image, reconstructing and reinterpreting in accordance with various factors that range from perception and the relation of each person to time, to external factors such as interface and the device supporting the image.

tumblr ljzitm3qHY1qzkq51o1 r1 500 

And yet, the contents manipulated by GIFs often draw on images extracted specifically from photographs, films or videos, and treated to emphasize a concrete action or some elements in movement. GIF narratives are ephemeral but reiterative, describing the instant and action, delving into content and the capacity for seduction and transmitting ideas and feelings. Indeed, action in movement is always the backbone of a visual construction charged with meanings.

Not surprisingly, this digital format is currently being explored by visual artists and photographers, to produce images in movement as an alternative to the formulas of cinema, video or animation shots. Though it may seem complex to understand the spectrum in which the ANIMATED GIF exists, the format has transformed its limited scope in the use of time into its greatest asset, with extensive expressive and conceptual possibilities. It also provides guidelines to redefine the notions and concepts, even at a theoretical level, involved in the constant evolution of photography, which will certainly not be the same in years to come.

 

Giuseppe Lo Schiavo  urbano  bill-429

 

 

Melissa ValenzuelaMelissa Valenzuela (Colombia, 1982). Lives and works in Mexico City. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Visual Arts from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Pláticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and studied Audiovisual Communication at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá. Valenzuela is an artist, and her work consists of self-portraits and recollections that address various nuances of perception, representation and memory. She also works in curatorship and education to integrate her artistic and research work..
 
Ehekatl HernándezEhekatl Hernández (México, 1975).received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Applications from the Universidad Poltécnica de Catalunya in Spain. He has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and planning, developing and implementing web projects. Hernández has given diploma courses in web design at UNAM. He has spent nine years contributing to the web design and multimedia area at zonezero.com, and also works as a consultant for various companies as well as coordinating the e-learning system of the Virtual Campus of the Pedro Meyer Foundation.
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About definitions

Pedro Meyer

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meyer cel
Pedro Meyer, 2011

The current proliferation of the photographic image is the result of two parallel situations. Firstly, human beings are primarily visual beings, and secondly, we feel the need to tell stories.

The tools to record images permanently are developing in a new and different way, as each click of the shutter is free of cost and can be shared immediately, unconstrained by geographical boundaries. They thus break previous paradigms.

Just as the advent of the printing press transferred the power of reading and writing from a few select monks to the masses, nowadays photography is not only produced by an exclusive group of “image monks" but by a mass of people with a story to share.

There is a very vocal point of view that “we are not all photographers”, expressed as vehemently as the monks would defend their profession of scribes and illustrators of handmade books against those mass-produced by movable type presses. It is clear who triumphed in this debate, and though there are still cases of books being made by hand, history has favored printed books.

There will certainly always be photographers with specific skills and techniques beyond the reach of the mass of “photographers of the people.” The former are concerned that professionals are referred to by the same name as a layman. 

We are facing an issue of identity, not photography. "Photography is no longer what it used to be” – the slogan of my Foundation – encapsulates the idea that we need to review what we call things to understand them better. It therefore appears that in the first instance we understand things by defining them.

Pedro MeyerPedro Meyer (Mexico, 1935). Lives and works in Mexico. He is a photographer and the creator of the ZoneZero portal. The founder and president of the Photography Council, he organized the first three Latin American Conferences on Photography and produced the first CD-ROM with sound and images, I Photograph to Remember. He simultaneously exhibited Heresies, a retrospective of his work in over 60 museums and galleries throughout the world. In 2007, he established the Fundación Pedro Meyer, and in 2014 he inaugurated the FotoMuseo Cuatro Caminos.
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meyer cel
Pedro Meyer, 2011

The current proliferation of the photographic image is the result of two parallel situations. Firstly, human beings are primarily visual beings, and secondly, we feel the need to tell stories.

The tools to record images permanently are developing in a new and different way, as each click of the shutter is free of cost and can be shared immediately, unconstrained by geographical boundaries. They thus break previous paradigms.

Just as the advent of the printing press transferred the power of reading and writing from a few select monks to the masses, nowadays photography is not only produced by an exclusive group of “image monks" but by a mass of people with a story to share.

There is a very vocal point of view that “we are not all photographers”, expressed as vehemently as the monks would defend their profession of scribes and illustrators of handmade books against those mass-produced by movable type presses. It is clear who triumphed in this debate, and though there are still cases of books being made by hand, history has favored printed books.

There will certainly always be photographers with specific skills and techniques beyond the reach of the mass of “photographers of the people.” The former are concerned that professionals are referred to by the same name as a layman. 

We are facing an issue of identity, not photography. "Photography is no longer what it used to be” – the slogan of my Foundation – encapsulates the idea that we need to review what we call things to understand them better. It therefore appears that in the first instance we understand things by defining them.

Pedro MeyerPedro Meyer (Mexico, 1935). Lives and works in Mexico. He is a photographer and the creator of the ZoneZero portal. The founder and president of the Photography Council, he organized the first three Latin American Conferences on Photography and produced the first CD-ROM with sound and images, I Photograph to Remember. He simultaneously exhibited Heresies, a retrospective of his work in over 60 museums and galleries throughout the world. In 2007, he established the Fundación Pedro Meyer, and in 2014 he inaugurated the FotoMuseo Cuatro Caminos.
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ZoneZero 3.0 and Photographic Convergence

Alejandro Malo

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meyer manifisto
Photo: Pedro Meyer, 1985

ZoneZero is, and has always been, a space for dialogue, with photography as a starting point and a subject. Today more than ever, the image has become the raw material of conversations worldwide, beyond any geographical, cultural, ideological or language barriers. Technological progress has enabled anyone with a photographic device to become a potential photographer. Thanks to the incredible abundance of images and the ease with which they can be exchanged, photographic projects can be produced without ever having touched a camera. In this context, the first task of our publishing team is to ask ourselves again, as many others have done, from which point should one speak from and about photography? Moreover, more urgently, what role can and should a space like ZoneZero have?

Half the answer comes from a fait accompli: The first version of ZoneZero fulfilled its role of accompanying photography’s transition “from analogue to digital.” These events not only confirmed its hypothesis but also exceeded all expectations in terms of the speed and scope of this transformation. Since the ZoneZero project was incorporated into the wider context of the Pedro Meyer Foundation in 2009, the decision was made to recognize this in its second version, and a growing trend was observed in the consumption of images “from the light screen.” However, within a few years, reality reasserted itself and it became clear that this was only one element in a new revolution in the photographic sphere. ZoneZero’s role as a privileged witness and promoter of the crossroads between photography and technology lost relevance in the face of unprecedented and rapid change. Indeed, five years ago no-one could have predicted the profound impact of the rise of mobile devices.

Today, ZoneZero is being reinvented in a third version, with a new role, modus operandi and opportunities. As part of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, we are committed to education, which we perceive as the collective development of knowledge with a practical application. In the current context, our role must be to encourage ongoing reflection on the evolution of photography. Our scope must be that of an inclusive but structured conversation. Faced with an avalanche of similar images, we seek to present our selections in context and provide a greater understanding of the processes that trigger new creative possibilities or have a greater social impact. In line with the medium and experience with which we begin, we aspire to have a worldwide reach and cultivate as wide networks as possible. To achieve this, we will explore various formats for distributing content and invite persons to collaborate in the dissemination or production of material that contributes to cultural exchange. Our publication aims to demonstrate coherence with these ideas in each piece presented.

Lastly, the other half of our response to these questions is more complex. Our initial reflections led us to conclude that the concept of expanded photography encapsulated many of the phenomena we thought deserved attention. The idea that the photographic has exceeded its own medium is encouraging for those who work in the field…but that is only half of the story. Cinema, theater, literature, social networks and many other media have also spread beyond their boundaries, moving towards photography. In reality, under a more reflexive analysis, it is not one media in particular that is expanding, but a process of convergence driven by technology that increasingly dilutes borders. What we could call photographic convergence is only a broader encounter towards which all persons working with the media are advancing. Though this meeting, in which all media, geographies, uses and social practices come together, we can carry out the thousands of tasks made possible by the future of visual culture. There is much to be done and a great deal to be learnt. We invite you to begin this with us.

 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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meyer manifisto
Photo: Pedro Meyer, 1985

ZoneZero is, and has always been, a space for dialogue, with photography as a starting point and a subject. Today more than ever, the image has become the raw material of conversations worldwide, beyond any geographical, cultural, ideological or language barriers. Technological progress has enabled anyone with a photographic device to become a potential photographer. Thanks to the incredible abundance of images and the ease with which they can be exchanged, photographic projects can be produced without ever having touched a camera. In this context, the first task of our publishing team is to ask ourselves again, as many others have done, from which point should one speak from and about photography? Moreover, more urgently, what role can and should a space like ZoneZero have?

Half the answer comes from a fait accompli: The first version of ZoneZero fulfilled its role of accompanying photography’s transition “from analogue to digital.” These events not only confirmed its hypothesis but also exceeded all expectations in terms of the speed and scope of this transformation. Since the ZoneZero project was incorporated into the wider context of the Pedro Meyer Foundation in 2009, the decision was made to recognize this in its second version, and a growing trend was observed in the consumption of images “from the light screen.” However, within a few years, reality reasserted itself and it became clear that this was only one element in a new revolution in the photographic sphere. ZoneZero’s role as a privileged witness and promoter of the crossroads between photography and technology lost relevance in the face of unprecedented and rapid change. Indeed, five years ago no-one could have predicted the profound impact of the rise of mobile devices.

Today, ZoneZero is being reinvented in a third version, with a new role, modus operandi and opportunities. As part of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, we are committed to education, which we perceive as the collective development of knowledge with a practical application. In the current context, our role must be to encourage ongoing reflection on the evolution of photography. Our scope must be that of an inclusive but structured conversation. Faced with an avalanche of similar images, we seek to present our selections in context and provide a greater understanding of the processes that trigger new creative possibilities or have a greater social impact. In line with the medium and experience with which we begin, we aspire to have a worldwide reach and cultivate as wide networks as possible. To achieve this, we will explore various formats for distributing content and invite persons to collaborate in the dissemination or production of material that contributes to cultural exchange. Our publication aims to demonstrate coherence with these ideas in each piece presented.

Lastly, the other half of our response to these questions is more complex. Our initial reflections led us to conclude that the concept of expanded photography encapsulated many of the phenomena we thought deserved attention. The idea that the photographic has exceeded its own medium is encouraging for those who work in the field…but that is only half of the story. Cinema, theater, literature, social networks and many other media have also spread beyond their boundaries, moving towards photography. In reality, under a more reflexive analysis, it is not one media in particular that is expanding, but a process of convergence driven by technology that increasingly dilutes borders. What we could call photographic convergence is only a broader encounter towards which all persons working with the media are advancing. Though this meeting, in which all media, geographies, uses and social practices come together, we can carry out the thousands of tasks made possible by the future of visual culture. There is much to be done and a great deal to be learnt. We invite you to begin this with us.

 

Alejandro MaloAlejandro Malo (Mexico, 1972). Lives and works in Mexico and is the director of ZoneZero. Since 1993, he has taken part in various cultural projects and worked as an information technology consultant. He has collaborated in print and electronic publications, and given workshops and conferences on literature, creative writing, storytelling and technology. In 2009, Malo joined the team of the Fundación Pedro Meyer, where he directs the Archives and Technology departments.

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