Above: A roll of 35mm film. Credit: Analogicus.
In his last text on photography, from 2007 (Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?), French theorist Jean Baudrillard made a case against digital imaging, CGI, and digital photo-proliferation. For Baudrillard, digital "leads inevitably to the death of photography as an original medium." For him the crucial aspect of analogue--film-based--photography is in the moment that the SLR-camera shutter-release fires and the viewfinder is temporarily blacked out, "the shutter release abolishing the world and the gaze for a moment, a syncope, a petit mort that triggers the machine performance of the image [something that] disappears in digital, numerical processing." For Baudrillard the essence of photography is the freezing of an instant during a moment of disappearance. What Baudrillard laments with digital is that "there is no time lapse. Nothing dies or disappears ... the image is merely the product of an instruction and a programme, aggravated by automatic dissemination from one medium to the other: computer, mobile phone, TV screen, etc.--the automatic nature of the network--responding to the automatic nature of the construction of the image." Baudrillard seeks to protect the quality of alienness and distance that an analogue photograph can possess and communicate as a document that is definitely separated off from the run of everyday life. Unfortunately, the digital era is an age where, "the visual flow in which we are currently submerged, there isn't even the time to become an image." Instantaneous digital seriality is another example of the way in which, "the digital image fills the void by self-multiplication ... we arrive at an unstoppable series of shots." Baudrillard's text was written before the rise to prominence of the Instagram feed, however, the images shared by 1.2 billion users perfectly exemplifies the way in which, for Baudrillard, we live in "a world that is always caught, captured, filmed and photographed even before it is seen." The issue here is that in its digital format, photography "merges with the real and simply immerses itself in the real and recycles it," so that, "there is no longer any image--at least not as exception, as illusion, as parallel world."
(9 December 2019)