Imageability today. Telling stories in images

Published on October 25th, 2019


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PEPI (2019–2022) combines psychology, visual studies and artistic research. The project studies photographic epistemologies in post-digital condition where the photograph has become a dynamic data object with three faces: the visible surface facing the viewer, the interface suggesting various connections, and the invisible subface of algorithmic processes. What do these three faces and their entanglement tell us? What kind of epistemologies do they imply?

Photographic Epistemologies

The Finnish Museum of Photography, Cable Factory, Tallberginkatu 1 G, 00180 Helsinki
Friday, October 25, 2019 – 10:00 to 17:00

Academy of Finland research project Post-Digital Epistemologies of the Photographic Image (PEPI) organises a seminar on Photographic Epistemologies at the Finnish Museum of Photography.

PEPI (2019–2022) combines psychology, visual studies and artistic research. The project studies photographic epistemologies in post-digital condition where the photograph has become a dynamic data object with three faces: the visible surface facing the viewer, the interface suggesting various connections, and the invisible subface of algorithmic processes. What do these three faces and their entanglement tell us? What kind of epistemologies do they imply?

PROGRAMME 
10:00 Welcome to the Finnish Museum of Photography / Museum Director Elina Heikka
10:05 Opening words. Janne Seppänen
10:15-11:00 Keynote. Barbie Zelizer: Why Invisibility Matters in the News: Notes from the Cold War
11:00-11:30   Discussion
11:30-12:30   Lunch break
13:15-14:00   Keynote. Laura Perez-Leon: Photographic Potentialities: Transparency, Opacity and Social Interactions
14:00-14:30   Discussion
14:30-15:00   Coffee
15:15-16:00   Keynote. Annet Dekker: Imageability today. Telling stories in images.
16:00-16:30   Discussion
16:30-17:00   Closing of the seminar

 

Imageability today. Telling stories in images

In the context of this conference my talk will not be about the representation of the image, but about the imageability of digital images. I’m particularly interested in what actually takes place inside the image and how this affects the value of the image – so not what is the story of image but what is the story in images. Storytelling here is no longer telling stories in a narrative way, but rather storytelling as an abstracted form that creates shifts in agency, which I will argue is constructed by human-machine relationships. It is clear that today’s images are not made through light and chemical processes anymore, and while even those materials could be used and manipulated in various ways to show or hide certain things, what happens when more and more images are made by webcams, satellites, security cameras, traffic cops, eBay sellers, Google StreetView cars, and tourists on a quest for the exact same photograph? Or, as Trevor Paglan mentioned, when referring to machine-vision, what happens when “the overwhelming majority of images are now made by machines for other machines, with humans rarely in the loop” [Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking at You), 2016].

In this new ecology of images, the actual taking of a photograph –if that is still the case– is merely one step in a long chain of abstractions in which the image is manipulated, recontextualized, sometimes in combinations with other images, at times these processes happen in unpredictable or irreverent ways. In other words, where does the image begin and end? While there is a over-abundance of photos and images around today, I will highlight 3 different positions that I think are crucial when discussing these specific aspects of contemporary images, and show how they relate to storytelling. This is an abstracted sense of storytelling taking place below the surface, while different narratives start to emerge. First, the digital as a tool in which traditional models of institutional cultural authority and disciplinary expertise still rule, here a digital image emphasizes but also questions the power of the original image through different modes of circulation; Secondly, the effect of optimization or automatic evaluation of image content in semi-automated algorithms; and related to that 3. The construction of value through machine vision [obscure algorithmic processes].

In the end it will become clear that we can’t judge a book (or its story) by the cover

 

Credit image: copied from http://youmustnotcallit.photography/


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