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Fellow Seminar

31 May 2018

Dr. Krassimir Terziev will present his research proposal on the topic: "The De-formation of the Photographic Image in the Post-media Condition" on 31 May 2018 (Thursday) at 16:30h.

Summary:

My research looks at the changing techno-scape of photography we are witnessing at the present moment and tries to contribute to the raising voices arguing for a necessity to revisit classical canons in photography theory in order to be able to think about photography taking into account the new practices. I am focusing on a particular technology of photogrammetry that, with the methods of computer vision called "structure from motion," turns the familiar two dimensional surface of photography into a source for building a three dimensional model of the photographed object.

Since the invention of celluloid film as a standard capturing media, photography and cinema shared history for almost a century with more or less fixed material practices of making and viewing. That was a history of two distinct media, based on identical material support, driven by quite similar apparatuses, but nevertheless each with its specific processes and protocols of production, presentation and distribution. In the 1990's a whole new universe of fermenting digital imaging technologies emerged on the ruins of the previous dominant design of „Kodak technological path in photography". The gradual replacement of the so-called analogue photography by digital image processing have had numerous effects on the practice and theory of the medium. The ecology of digital imaging is progressively more and more heterogeneous and ever-changing. The convergence of media created one highly dynamic media-scape, where no single media counts, but media mutate fluidly from one to the other creating new hybrid species. Looking at this digital media-scape reveals a dynamics in which we can see certain qualities of photography thought to be intrinsic for the medium loose their ontological value while new qualities emerge centre stage granted with new values. А photograph today could be anything, from a video still, screen grab, thumbnail in a website, a surveillance system snapshot, a satellite imagery, NASA composition from Mars, or a skin for a 3-D model.

Emerging photo-based technologies like drone photography, photogrammetry, or Google "street view" employ photography as a method of mapping space. In result the single shot is only a tiny bit in a gigantic collage turned into a new visual image-object.

The focus of this study in particular are the techniques that transform the familiar two dimensional surface of the photo in a three-dimensional model, projected with the aim of the computer vision method named "structure from motion".

What I will argue is that this transformation turns the entire ontology of photography (as analogon with indexical nature towards reality) upside down. In the process of photogrammetric modelling a new three-dimensional virtual object appears from a mass of photographs made from all possible perspectives towards the specific object of interest.

The conventional logic presupposes that a single maker takes shots from all possible angles in order to cover the object in focus from all its sides. Usually it is a relatively small object that can be placed in a studio setting and observed from a perimeter of 360 degrees. But the experiment I am interested in is a situation in which all those shots are made by large groups of different people with no connection to each other, all pointing to a shared object of interest: a public monument, an architectural ensemble, or an object capturing public attention in general. In such conditions it is assumed that it would be impossible to cover all angles in 360 degrees. So the final 3-D model would be inevitably imperfect. But that level of imperfection is exactly what I find most interesting for it would reveal collective patterns of movement and limits of reach. A new object would appear generated by the lenses of a multitude that shares an imaging device.

There are numerous theoretical speculations that can be drawn from this experiment that can help thinking what kind of new forms the current processes of "fermentation" in picture-making create, how these new forms relate to the past and the crystallised theories of photography, and what kind of new visual model is likely to replace this phase of "fermentation".

Following the theories of photography by scholars like Barthes, Dubois, or Metz, photography has been defined though its relation to time (death), distance (towards the photographed subject and the moment the picture was taken), framing (on-and-off-frame space) and objecthood (stillness). Those traditional approaches to thinking about photography feel increasingly anachronistic, facing the photographic landscape that surrounds us - the world of images and image-making that we inhabit.

In the practice of photogrammetric modelling the off-frame space is gradually collapsing in the direction of the photographed object. Instead the off-frame space become those blind spots where the camera was not able to reach. In the same process the stillness of the single picture becomes stillness of the resulted object. In the analogue era the "photographic take is immediate and definitive, like death", in the acceleration of the speed and ease with which snapshots are made in digital cameras, and the sheer quantities of the resulting image files makes such singularity and irreversibility less certain.

If we think of photography as a medium for ‘capturing moments', ‘treasuring memories' or ‘recording facts', in the long analogue period in XX c. these functions gradually became to be thought as inherent in the medium. The consecutive digital model of photography suggest that these are just roles that have been given to photography for a certain period of its history, but growing number of new roles are outlined by the convergence of media into one integrated post-media where no single media counts, but media mutate fluidly from one to the other creating new hybrid species.

What is the role of photography in these current technologies? Does a single shot matter, or photography became a continuous capture of spaces, in which the off-frame space gradually disappears.

 

 

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