The spectacle of the spectator

In white’s introduction on ‘not photography’ the author suggests that ,”the spectator is encouraged to view realistically rendered web site images as if they were photographs,” leading up the idea that, “many spectators equate photographs and photolike forms with what they represent” (147). Or in so many words a picture is worth a thousand words or in the case of digital photography a thousand bytes. I found this chapter particularly fascinating for the way in which it interrogates spectatorship and the instability of the image in digital culture.

Setting aside a long diatribe about reader-response and reception theory, the question that has always been in my mind as an amateur photographer is one of mediation. As Alan Trachtenberg and others have suggested is that the photo and its role in western society encourages the viewer to ignore its long gaze and the lens of production in order to overlook the fact that is not unmediated (153). It seems that as a culture we prize the evidentiary and aesthetic value of such a medium yet we somehow compartmentalize this aspect when it is subverted by a “photoshopped meme”. The simple technology of red-eye reduction which happens automatically in most digital cameras and the use of dodge and burn techniques in the darkroom belie the ‘real-ness’ of such a medium. Is a photo of a photo hanging in a museum valued the same as the original?

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