Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sterilized Images

This essay brings up many interesting assertions about the effect of technology on images and photography. For instance, Grzinic discusses the emergence of shorter exposure intervals to reduce uncontrollable movements that reduce blurriness in photographs. Grzinic says, “I am interested in this contraction of the interval of exposure time because it depicts a process of erasure, the desire to rid ourselves of the uncontrollable movements and imperfections of long exposure times.”(58) Grzinic interprets the shortening of exposure of time as an erasure because She states that the chance of the aura being present in the photograph is erased. Grzinic defines aura “as the unique appearance or semblance of distance, no matter how close the object may be.” (57) So, the emergence of crisp and clear photographs has reduced the distance between the viewer and the photograph, which she believes has also lead to sterilized images of the world.

First, Grzinic discusses aesthetic sterilization of images. To demonstrate this phenomenon Grzinic cites the photography of Renger-Patzsch who took stylized photographs of tenements and an electric cable factory in his book, The World Is Beautiful. Grzinic criticizes these photographs saying, “It has succeeded in turning abject poverty itself, by handling it in a modish, technically perfect way, into an object of enjoyment.”(58) Grzinic connects these photographs and images from the Gulf War as a continuation of the sterilization process in photography. Through stylistic techniques, Grzinic believes that images have become sterilized because their value lies in their aesthetic qualities not in their content. Grzinic does see hope in future technology to reinstate aura into photographic images. With the introduction of practical problems such as transmission time, bandwidth restrictions, and time delays Grzinic believes that the aura of an image could reappear. Grzinic says, “As I have already noted, Benjamin understands the aura as an appearance or semblance of distance. Telerobotic time-delay brings about precisely such an appearance of distance.”(60) So our technological frustrations, remind us that the image is distant.

Grzinic’s ideas on the aura of images are very interesting, but her ideas about the sterilization of images are complicated. With the Internet, it is difficult for me to believe that images have become sterile. With a quick Internet search, you can discover images of everything from pornography to violence.



Blogger josh m said...

I'm interested in this point you raise about how the ubiquity and accessibility of images online make them less sterilized. Does having the potential to appropriate and recontextualize a photograph (i.e. for relocatable images online) mean that the aura of material photography has been replaced by the aura of a particular digital context? Grzinic seems to be arguing that features such as buffer and delay reinstate the aura that Benjamin claims has been lost. But isn't it a little ironic that replication (this time electronic rather than mechanical) ends up facilitating, rather than destroying, the aura. Or perhaps this might be a potential critique of the way Grzinic appropriates Benjamin's argument in order to talk about digital media.

4/20/2007 7:20 PM  

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