• The value of uncertainty: The photographic error as embodied knowledge

      Piper-Wright, Tracy; University of Chester (2018-03-26)
      These 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’.