IN DEFENCE OF IMAGES
Being a photographer myself, I believe — as you might expect — that the photographic medium is a very special and significant one. At its most complex, it brings together time, place, and narrative to diffuse objective information via a subjective gaze. That said, I hope you’ll excuse my saying that I sometimes feel exhausted by the presence of images — well, the sheer number of them that surround us, anyway.
The contemporary image, now liberated from the frame, has been thrust into the digital uncertainty. Best understood as a collection of easily accessible binary digits, this unconstrained digital macrocosm is comprised of billions of pixels organized within millions of images, stored across multiple platforms. They demand immediate acknowledgement but are rarely focused on for a sustained amount of time.
And it’s this lack of attention that potentially evaporates the photograph’s merit. In a world overwhelmed by an exponential flood of images, it’s no wonder that the unsettling question, ‘but is the image a photograph?’ continues to be posed by some, almost two centuries since the very first photograph was taken.
With contemporary photography having less to do with aesthetic creations and more to do with intellectual and emotional responses, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we don’t have any firm idea as to what the fine-art photograph is supposed to look like, anyway. The challenge, instead, is in defining what drives the image: why it was made, what it means, and the social or cultural conversations it participates in.
In this issue, our regular columnist Kaye Davis discusses Lisa Saad’s The Anonymous Man series — the work awarded Australian Institute of Professional Photography’s (AIPP) most controversial award of 2016, the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year. The series of composite images appeared to tease the boundaries of art and design, leading landscape photographer Ken Duncan to label the awards as “hijacked by manipulators”, among other things.
Another perspective, Ken: rather than adhering to the traditional photo-making process, Lisa’s process is in the service of ideas. Though made up of more than one exposure, each composite is the singular execution of the artist’s vision — and such a vision can be deeply compelling when carried out with conviction.