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Free Content Infinite exchange: The social ontology of the photographic image

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Abstract:

This paper approaches the problem of the ontology of the photographic image post-digitalization historically, via a conception of photography as the historical totality of photographic forms. It argues, first, that photography is not best understood as a particular art or medium, but rather in terms of the form of the image it produces; second, that the photographic image is the main social form of the digital image (the current historically dominant form of the image in general); and third, that there is no fundamental ontological distinction regarding indexicality between photographically generated digital images and those of chemically based photography. The anxiety about the real produced by digital imagery has its origins elsewhere, in the ontological peculiarities of the social form of value in societies based on relations of exchange. Distinguishing between the event of capture and the event of visualization, it is argued that it is in its potential for an infinite multiplication of visualizations that the distinctiveness of the digital image lies. In the digital image, the infinite possibilities for social exchange generated by the abstraction of value from use finds an equivalent visual form.

Keywords: digital image; photographic form; post-digitalization; social exchange; social form; social ontology; the photographic; use value; value form

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/pop.1.1.59/1

Affiliations: Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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