Glitch Photography as a Practice in the Age of Post-photography

v. 1.1 { 07.03.2017 /////

Post-photography can be best understood not as a movement or a practice, but as an existential condition. This is the constellation where my generation of emerging visual artists finds itself situated, amidst technological, social, and political developments that are continuously transforming the artistic practice of photography. What has ushered in this moment of postphotography?

  • The expansion of mass-surveillance systems that capture visual, spatial, chronological, and biometric data on individuals and populations. 
  • The development of autonomous technologies that can capture, interpret, and process visual/photographic data without the need for human eyes. 
  • The rapid global consumerization of photographic cameras and its integration with mobile devices. 
  • The expansion of mass sousveillance systems as social media networks become de facto global distribution channels for photography, video, and new media. 
  • The emergence of digital and online environments as temporal spaces for performance and interaction, compelling viewers to witness and document. 
  •  A culture of the spectacle and a culture of identity production trickling through the generations in an age of growing authoritarianism and inequality. 
  • The wanton hybridization of distinctive forms of media that were once separated by the need to specialize labor within productions: photography, video, animation, 3D modeling, graphic design, programming, architecture, etc. 
  • The development of neural networks and machine learning algorithms that can generate unique photographs based off of a database of catalogued images.

On the one hand, creatives entering the labor market must now be proficient in many kinds of production workflows. On the other hand, traditional production methods are being replaced by virtualized workflows. i.e. corporate creative departments opting for rendered images instead of product photography. Amidst these shifts, digital artists live in a brief moment of fluidity (and economic precarity for many) that encourages them to unbind their creative workflows and aesthetics.

What does it mean to be a photographer when everything has already been photographed? 

Glitch photography is an approach that situates today’s artistic practice of photography within a larger apparatus of production, its interlinked networks, and its reverberation throughout the populace. Glitch photography understands how the apparatus of production envelopes the scene of where a subject (physical or digital) is captured in time with a camera device. One can trace the outlines of the apparatus beginning with the camera device itself, whether a virtual camera in a 3D rendering environment, or a physical object with its make and model, its metal and plastic case enclosing a choice of circuitry, its firmware with its limitations, the structure of its RAW image format and the compression algorithm of its JPEGs, and the type of storage media used. One can follow this outline towards how an image is processed, compressed, translated into a litany of formats; how the image is edited, corrected, colorized, airbrushed, and exported; or how images are stitched, composited, collaged, or transformed into 3D scans; or towards the way an image is organized into pixels or coordinates; or how its hexadecimal source code exudes a malleable mystery; or how an image file can also be interpreted as if it were an audio file or a three-dimensional object. One can trace it further towards the limitations of the screen, the graphics card, the internal memory, or hard drives yawning with age; even towards peripheral devices like scanners, printers, and a litany of input devices. 

Beyond the basic production environment, the apparatus extends towards the systems of distribution and cataloging, the way an image file is transferred between devices, or re-encoded during import, the way an image is compressed and stripped of its color profiles for a Facebook post, or the way an image is embellished through an endless array of apps with their own filters, stickers, and text; towards the way images circulate social media, onto other devices, some malnourished, others optimized. This apparatus extends further into the life of images, from the way interrupted transmissions break images in time, to the way images are remixed and recontextualized by disparate groups and reinserted into a seemingly endless circulation of content, right down to the methods used to limit or censor their visibility, or the systems used to extract their information and mine them as data, the neural networks that are learning to generate images from the wealth of our contributions, and the processes used to catalog their makers, their subjects, and their conveyors, so that one day it could reconstruct a human face, or the myriad visions and revisions before the taking of a toast or tea.

Glitch photography considers this expansive apparatus, with all its unmentioned facets and transversals, as well as the way we embody the apparatus and reify its demands, as sites for manipulation, disruption, and perversion, in other words, as sites for glitching. Glitch photography is a beast with two backs. On the one hand, it is a practice that interpolates glitch into the creation of photography. On the other hand, it can also be the practice of capturing the visual manifestations of a glitch within the apparatus, much like the way one captures a candid moment or a fleeting gesture. 

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