We have entered the digital age and the digital age has entered us

We have entered the digital age and the digital age has entered us

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photograph is a recording of activity.documentary photography is frame st, not moving in or taking out figure.

Photography shifting because of technology, called photoshop.

Digital photography makes the world malleable – to conform to our own image.

photograph has lost much of its credibility.Fred is trying to be fair to tell ppl what is going on.

“Photography is a quotation of peoples’ work”. This means, photographs should not be distorted.

Photography is not to celebrate itself but to make an impact in the world.

The first two sentences of your book After Photography are: ‘We have entered the digital age. And the digital age has entered us.’ Entered us how?

The concept is that all media change us. The media change us, we create new media, they change us ‑ it’s dialectical ‑ but it puts us on different pathways, so the fact that we created the telegraph machine or the camera then affects succeeding creations, and us.

The other issue is that the digital age is about an environment, it’s not just about tools. I think many people misperceive this revolution. You can’t have a revolution solely of tools. It’s not the transition from the pistol to the submachine gun that we’re talking about. We’re talking about a whole new environment in which we are going to reconceive ourselves and the world, and so when we create these digital machines, tools and so on, what we’re actually doing is creating a new environment for ourselves. But it’s largely unconscious. So the digital age entering us is about the idea that being surrounded by digital media is accelerating a reconceptualization of a worldview.

Photographers in the conventional analog sense have seen the medium functioning as cause and effect: the light comes down and the negative is exposed ‑ that’s Newtonian; that’s billiard balls. But in the quantum universe, the digital universe, you have these discrete pixels, you have these zeros and ones. Each can be changed independently. My sense is that 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now, the world is going to wake up and say: My God, the digital revolution was largely about reconceiving the world as quantum! The code‑based digital revolution was also about reconceiving the world in terms of genotype instead of phenotype! Phenotype is appearance, that’s what analog photography is about.

You’ve spoken about the revolutionary potential of digital and the opportunities out there, but university photography programs, generally speaking, seem to be rather traditional and pointed toward the past. How do you teach photography in an environment in which people are beguiled by digital but fundamentally afraid of how it’s changing the world they know?

Photography at its root means writing and drawing with light. It’s not about cameras. It’s not about tripods. It’s really about an attempt to describe and communicate what is important to the observer. In that sense, it’s not a mechanical age medium. It has the freedom of drawing, poetry, of meditation. It has as much freedom as the human spirit is capable of. So if you start with the human spirit ‑photography is an intermediary and an amplifier, and often a limitation as well ‑ then you’re starting in a place where anything is possible.

Having photographed at the White House, I saw how its Office of Production works to set up photo ops. Don’t a lot of people have a lot invested in maintaining the illusion?

I agree. This exposure of the manipulation doesn’t cost anything to do but nobody does it. Publications too often share in the sometimes fake authority of the politicians and the governments and the celebrities. They’re not always being honest.

How did we end up invading Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction there? How did we wind up basically kowtowing to those in power and photographing the invasion of Iraq as if it was a World War II rerun with a Mission Accomplished photo opportunity on top of it all?  Journalists really have to be wondering, to what extent are we doing public relations or are we doing critical investigations? The idea of doing public relations is you’re in with the power. If you’re exploring things critically, then you’re always outside the power. It’s actually quite painful to position oneself outside the power. It takes a lot of personal strength to look at things, evaluate them, and report on them from a position of curiosity, of questioning as opposed to wanting to participate. It’s like going to a banquet.  You don’t want to stand back and photograph it. You want to be part of it. You want to eat.

I think that photography, particularly photojournalism, lacks sufficient intellectual inquiry. It lacks intellectual frameworks. It gives prizes for all kinds of work that looks like other work but doesn’t really bring us somewhere else. At the end of the day what’s most important to me is the world, not photography. Often what happens in the business or the industry of photography is that photography usurps the world. The image itself becomes more important than the world. But we must ask, what’s the impact of the image? Did it change anything? Did it help the people being photographed?

So you’re essentially planting these seeds in students so that they develop tools and skills?

Students may think that they are entering this field and if they follow its traditions everything will be fine. Then you hear you’re at this extraordinary point in history where the possibilities and challenges have never been greater. It requires enormous confidence in your own intuitive abilities, your own belief in what’s authentic, to go and find pathways that are the most meaningful while knowing that we have all kinds of wonderful predecessors. But they are predecessors. You can’t necessarily do what other people did.  You as an individual are going to have your own needs and aspirations.

Maryellenmark.com, (2015). Foam – Fred Ritchin Awakening the Digital – 934P-000-001. [online] Available at: http://www.maryellenmark.com/text/magazines/foam%20magazine/934P-000-001.html [Accessed 16 Aug. 2015].


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