Photography and the Language of Things Parts 2-4

Stephen Shore, "Perrine, Florida, November 11", 1977, © Stephen Shore, from American Surfaces

The second, third and fourth installments of David Cunningham’s series of pieces on the theme of Photography and the Language of Things are now up on the Still Searching blog hosted by our friends at the Winterthur Fotomuseum in Switzerland: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Here’s the intro to the second:

In my previous post I tried to sketch out some of those questions provoked by a contemporary desire, in the words of Hito Steyerl, to side with and affirm the object. While this affirmation has coincided with a more general turn towards the object or thing in recent theoretical writing – and, consequently, away (or so it is said) from earlier concerns with language, text, discourse and sign – it has also been attached, in Steyerl and others, to a more specific call to rethink the character of ‘the image’, and of ‘our’ relationship to it, as one framed not by an “identification” with the image “as representation”, but precisely “with the image as thing”.

I want to focus in future posts upon some of the wider philosophical and political issues that are, I think, at stake in this, for photographic theory at least – including those quasi-animistic claims often made today for the capacity of the thing or object to speak of its own accord (sometimes combined with rather over-excited accounts of machine vision and photography’s automation), as well as, in my final post, the kinds of political oppositions, between, for example, a politics of representation and one of participation, that are frequently said to follow from this. In this current post, however, it seems useful, before doing so, to trace something like a ‘pre-history’ of the contemporary valorisation of the image as thing (as opposed to the image as representation) in order to try to draw out more clearly in my subsequent posts what might be distinctive about the particular ways in which this is conceived of today. [Continue …]

Parts Five and Six will be appearing before the end of June.

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