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Redundancy in photography

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In his text, ‘Information strategies’, written at the cusp of the emergence of digital photography in 1985, German artist and photography critic Andreas Müller-Pohle predicted that soon ‘it will be possible to generate and regenerate literally every conceivable – or inconceivable – picture through a computer terminal’. This realization coincided with Müller-Pohle’s critique of conventional photography, which he dubbed ‘photographism’ drawing on the philosopher Vilém Flusser’s work. For Flusser, photographers are functionaries of an apparatus based on automation, programmed to produce of pictures that correspond to certain general conventions and reconstructing the world as technical information. According to Flusser, the bulk of photography is ‘redundant’, exhausting itself stylistically and enslaved to apparatuses and programs. This paper revisits the ideas of Flusser and Müller-Pohle in light of developments in digital photography that throw new light on the idea of image saturation and redundant photography. In particular, I address cultures of online photo sharing in light of the actions enabled by the metadata contained within common digital file formats. I propose that the very excess of digital photographic images coincides with the reinvention of the embattled authorial image into an evolving collaboration between the photographer and the database.
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Keywords: Flusser; Photo sharing; digital media; photography; photography theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Monash University

Publication date: 08 December 2012

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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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