The Incoherent Light

Without the temporal and editorial mitigation that has emotionally and intellectually abstracted visual news, welcome to a media space in which we are consuming hostility and processing raw data and raw propaganda almost as quickly as the war correspondent, the fighter pilot, the governments, the diplomats and the antagonists themselves. With the rapid evolution of Twitter and Instagram, and the now-essential nature of these services (as Steven Mayes explains in a new interview with Pete Brook at Wired, and I outline in my three-part “State of the News Photo” essay), the imagery has literally become experiential.

Game Change for Social Media, Media and Photography: Israel, Hamas Draw Us Literally into War — BagNews (via photographsonthebrain)

Yes indeed, but one can’t help wondering about the extent to which this move into “experiential” image-making and consumption (as is unquestionably the case) can also grant a sort of unearned transparency with regard to how these images are read. Leaving aside the specifics of that divisive conflict mentioned above, the experiential nature of how photographs are now seen and used either conceals or outright denies the long chain of contexts and intentions that have shaped our encounter with that image - so that it really seems like the photograph is bringing “the world” to you. This is in keeping with a wider shift native to social media in general, whereby our assumptions about an image are grounded in their mode of exchange - no one seriously doubts the “reality” of profile pictures and Facebook albums, because the meaning appears seamlessly joined to the context (the same is true of all those pictures added to Twitter). But as such pictures, what John Berger* called the “private photograph […] appreciated and read in a context which is continuous with that from which the camera removed it" have now decisively entered the public realm, we often find ourselves without the means to determine a (non-photographic) context in which to "anchor" a given image.

*John Berger, in “Uses of Photography” from About Looking. Italics are in the original - first published in 1978, he’s obviously not referring to “social media” as such, but the idea is, I think, still applicable.

(via dvafoto)

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