Week 7.

October 16, 2011

There are many societal advantages of digital creation and dissemination of images, and each come with a catch.

1) Freedom of the press. Governments that try to suppress freedom of speech w propaganda have less control; people share images and video of events etc without the permission of the government, so there is more accountability for institutions at fault. However, since these photos are taken and distributed by nonprofessionals,  their credibility may be just as questionable as there are no precautions to prevent extreme changes in the images that are untrue.

2) Ease and efficiency of digital reproduction. The development of digital technology has proven to be extremely cost effective when it comes to making photographs and using them. Digital images are cheaper to produce and reproduce. However, since pictures are so easy to reproduce and distribute digitally, especially through the internet, there has been great chaos and reconfiguring of copyright laws and their implications. The respect of intellectual property is often neglected by internet users, and many use photographs unethically and thoughtlessly, without attributing the maker.

3) Self publishing. Anyone can share images. (+) not as limited by publishers and the “system” of who can and can’t be published. (-) there is a LOT of garbage to weed through, since almost everyone who creates and disseminates digital images is less concerned with the quality of the images or the message the image conveys, and more concerned with getting a lot of images out at once. Even in a family vacation album on Facebook, for example, which is not intended to be high quality images, the viewer usually quickly clicks through a mass of images and stops on the most interesting ones. Those posting the albums don’t always weed through the images themselves, and present an edit containing their favorites, but instead upload everything that was on the memory card. This means the viewer has to simultaneously view and enjoy the images while creating their own edit, by either looking at a particular image longer than a second or by “liking” or commenting on it.

Personally, it is a good thing that anybody and everybody can digitally create and disseminate images. However, as a photography student, sometimes it is difficult to look at pictures my family and friends post without art criticisms floating in my head. I’m not just talking about technical quality here, but what these images say about this person and what they communicate visually–sometimes it is no where near what the author actually intended. Visual language in digital imagery seems to go unnoticed. Most people respond only to what the subject of the picture is or whether it is a “nice” picture, not whether it can mean something outside of what is in it.

My immediate family currently spans across 3 countries and 2 continents, so sharing pictures is very important to our communication with each other and keeping up with each other’s lives. We often send pictures via SMS messages, email, messages, and post pictures on Facebook. We connect across thousands of miles through still images. The same goes for my closest friends and I–we send each other pictures or post them to show what we have been up to, something we found strange, or something we came across that others would find interesting.

In my artistic practice, I try to post images of my work and works in progress on Facebook and my blog (similarslice.wordpress.com) and I also send them to family and friends who I think would be most interested. Last year I even did a photo project using cell phone pictures my dad sent me from work (in eastern Canada). Receiving and repurposing the images with new meaning was a means of connecting and responding to our relationship as father and daughter, as well as the vast distance between us.

Here are a few photoblogs that I have recently retrieved from cyberspace:

http://www.jingz.de

This blog has lots and lots of pictures. The photographer describes himself as a hobbiest. His pictures convey a sense of quiet curiosity in the surrounding things, and goes beyond random pictures of random things. Though there seems to be a tendency to use trendy color profiles to make things look cool, it is not used enough to be anything more than slightly irritating. That said, I wouldn’t mind looking at this blog often.

blog.laurenskuipers.nl

I found this blog very enjoyable to wander through. There are many photos taken in Europe, but the photographer does not show the token pictures of monuments and famous places; instead finding more abstract compositions that often utilize people in structure.

http://www.pdnphotooftheday.com

This site posts a photo, or a photo set, every single day. They have a great variety of images, so everyone can find something they find interesting. I liked the “uncategorized” category most, as the pictures do not fit strictly within other categories. As a viewer, you weren’t sure what to expect next, unlike visiting the “travel” or “landscape” categories.

We talked about several artists in class who use images from the internet in their artwork.

Elijah Gown has done several projects in which he uses pictures from the internet and physically and digitally alters them, to create new objects and to reassign meaning to them. One series he made, called Watering, used pictures of Christian baptisms in water to explore the human need to connect with nature and rituals. I found his process to be quite interesting because he prints out the digitally altered low-res images on paper, and then scans them to add the texture of fiber, which softens the imagery. The degradation of the imagery by processing it several times strips the images as documents and re-presents these scenes as the essence of a spiritual experience.

Jane Lindsay, a grad student here at ASU, is currently working on a project that also remakes images taken from the internet. There is a website that was created by a government agency (www.mcso.org) that posts mugshots of arrested persons–not convicted persons. The site encourages the humiliation and dehumanization of these people, and is not simply a public source for mugshots. Jane has been making tintype plates of dozens of these portraits, cutting out their names and any other information, and cutting them in circles to be placed in bottle caps. She thinks of the bottle caps as items that are discarded, as are the people in the portraits. Tintype is a historic process that was heavily used for portraiture in the 19th century; by using this labor intensive process and by giving each portrait special attention, she gives humanity back to the so-called criminals.

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