Browsing Art and Design by Subjects
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Neither the One nor the Other: Photographic Errors - Subjectivity, Subversion and the In-betweenThe photographic error opens up a paradoxical space between machine and human and presents this space as a gap in the conventions of photographic practice both technologically and culturally. By undermining the certainty which attaches to our use of technology the error opens us to the possibility of playing with and against the technology we use, subverting the rules in order to create something new. In the third dimension of the error we are able to question the photographic practices and images which we are surrounded with daily. We can ask what purpose and meaning photography has to us: what are we trying to do when we take a photograph?
The Intermittent ImageErrors can occur in all photographic practice but the technology and culture of digital photography reduce opportunities for mistakes and the likelihood of any being retained or published. This has led to the removal of error from the prevailing image culture with the consequent foregrounding of accuracy and resemblance in relation to everyday photography practice. Error images disrupt the conventions of photographic representation and in so doing present an alternate conception of photography as emergent, processual and performative. The error image exposes photography as a human and technological ‘act’ and presents the viewer with a transformative visual experience which has aesthetic interest and value.
The value of uncertainty: The photographic error as embodied knowledgeThese days we rarely encounter photographs that have gone wrong: images that are blurred, out of focus, over or under exposed or just plain failed. But our failure to think about failure is having a detrimental impact on our relationship with photography and how we interpret photographic truth and meaning. A consequence of removing errors from the prevailing image culture is that accuracy and resemblance become the predominant visual signifiers of the photographs we see on a daily basis. Accurate photographs seem to depict things ‘as they are’, and to provide a transparent gateway to real events. These neutral, authorless photographs become the basis for an image economy where the tyranny of post-truth claims can take hold. Without a concept of photography as an embodied activity involving human decision making and the limitations of technology, the resulting image becomes the sole locus of attention for the truth claims about what it depicts. Photographic errors are important because they present us with evidence of the contingency of the photograph, breaking the spell of neutrality and reasserting human/technical relationship in the creation of the image. The proposed paper draws on my practice-based research project In Pursuit of Error which is a ethnographic study of the error in photographic practice. Theoretical models drawn from feminist theory, performance theory and aesthetics are used to interrogate the images and narratives collected from photographers. The error is revealed as a discontinuous but valued phenomenon which disrupts the conventions of photographic representation, and proposes the deliberate or accidental photographic error as an emergent, processual and performative act. The paper will argue that the error presents an alternative photographic epistemology from that found in contemporary visual culture: a form of ‘messy’, embodied knowledge which challenges a neutral and machine-led concept of photography in which veracity is the central signifier, proposing instead a concept of photography which acknowledges the subjectivity of the photographic ‘act-in-context’.