In an interview at the International Center of Photography in 2008, Fred Ritchin – professor, renowned expert and director of the PixelPress project that promotes the development of responsible photojournalism in the digital era – reflected on some of the challenges of photography in the digital age, what we have called Post-Photography, and suggested young applicants to photographers:
“What I would suggest to all those young people who want to be photographers in a postmodern world is that they become photographers of images. They’re the ones who select what’s important on Flickr. You can select those 50 images that need to be looked at today and avoid being overwhelmed by thousands or millions of unnecessary images. This is a new kind of working definition: editor or curator of images in a Web 2.0 world that would filter images as a service to the public”.
Following a similar line, although more exquisite arguments, Fontcuberta in his magnificent essay on the work of Joachim Schmid justified this return to the archive as a space of experience and a flag of visual ecology in these times in which the figures and the banality of the images cause vertigo and a certain unease respectively. A more critical stance is imposed in this situation and the artist must assume the role of curator, seeking and promoting strategies to reuse these vast resources.
The list of post-photographers operating in this territory includes names such as Joachim Schmid himself, Erik Kessels, Eva Sternram, Nicole Belle, etc… or the Spanish Carmen Calvo, Paco Gómez, Andrés Pachón or Javier Viver. As Ritchin suggests, it will be only in the act of editing, controlling what is included and what is excluded, that the image in the digital world will begin to make sense, and a new generation of visual artists exploit the possibilities of photographic phenomenology.
The early relationship between photography and tourism is analysed in almost any history of photography, but Carmelo Vega’s essay “Lógicas turísticas de la fotografía” studies in depth and from different perspectives the relationship between the two: If in the age of travellers, photography constitutes the instrument commissioned to compile, catalogue and present to the general non-travel public remote places, in the age of tourism it will be an essential element for visualising the staging of the industry that commercialises with the utopia of a new space and a new time as a substitute for paradise. The tourist photographs as justification of his presence in the scenes of the promised happiness, captures the trophies that certify the extraordinary thing of his experience. The tourist pilgrimage sites have been photographed; the tourist is eager to get a shot as close as possible to that of the travel agency’s advertising catalogue: the stylised haughtiness of the Eiffel Tower in a Parisian sunset, the mysterious presence emerging from the mist of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge or the sober rigour of the tower of the Palace of Westminster are images that any tourist dreams of including in his mobile gallery. Once the trophy has been captured, it must be uploaded to the SSR and wait for a gratifying dose of serotonin in the form of likes.
In her series “Photo Opportunities“, the Swiss artist Corinne Vionnet uses these images uploaded by tourists on Flickr from the same place. Stacking a hundred snapshots taken from nearby points of view, a new perspective of the monument emerges, wrapped in a kind of aura offers us a vision definitely far from the mass reality that dominates these places. Vionnet’s photography resembles a slow process of distillation, in which the visual impurities that contaminate the banal images of the tourist are slowly eliminated, and from which the insistent and divined figure of the place emerges, an identifiable but blurred profile that is perhaps more similar to the trace that these tourist destinations leave imprinted in our memory.
Such is the power of post-photography, of the old – in the tumultuous flow of social networks, two weeks bury any past under such a quantity of images, that perhaps it is not worth looking for it – something new is born, capable of promoting a new and unexpected debate. The recycling to which Schmid invited us has the virtue of extracting an aesthetic discourse digging through the waste of the “logics” of the tourist.
Fred Ritchin: PixelPress Project