Exercises: P. 65:Fred Ritchin’s lecture on key aspects of the digitalisation of photography and its future.

My notes taken from watching the lecture given by Fred Ritchin on “Toward a Hyperphotography”

  1. Ritchin was frustrated by his experiences in magazine reporting where there seemed to be a formula whereby the images were used to illustrate the text & different people made arbitrary decisions in how the pics were used. 1982 National Geographic moved the pyramids on their cover & people realized that you could manipulate photos just as you can edit texts = digital revolution in which we do only what the manufacturers allow us to do . It’s just a photo, people are not going to believe it.
  2. People in photography don’t know what is going on in it, whereas people outside it do.
  3. Chicago Times fired all their photographers on the same day & gave iphones to their reporters because they could take their own pics. So why do we need photographers & people, incl professional photographers doo not know how to answer it.
  4. 1984 he took a pic of the NY skyline & got someone to manipulate it – if people begin to understand that manipulation, how will they ever trust pics = power relationship bet people in power & those poorer who need help.
  5. Photos are not fixed in time because they can be changed.
  6. Editor of Time on photo of O.J.Simpson: A common mug shot raised to the level of art with no sacrifice to truth.
  7. Tell people u have manipulated an image.
  8. Photography doesn’t trust itself anymore; it has reduced its vocabulary; they are 1930s driven in journalistic, documentary images. Work seems corporate & weighted to 1 point of view.
  9. Superimpose images so that when the mouse goes over it you see the other – the setup / secret not to be shared = the point of view changes.
  10. By rolling the mouse over the picture u could get a heading, the photographer’s opinion, other contextualizing info.
  11. The mainstream of photography is imploding. Raymond Depardon: Foreign affairs he would run a photo & a written text = 30 yrs ago a blog= Harlem girls having fun = photo with a written piece.
  12. People on social media = amateurs – photographs = it’s happening to us; Professional photographers frame their pics & the message = it’s happening to them. Enormous meaning difference between them & us; it’s not over there it’s here.
  13. We have so many images that we don’t know what to do with them, curate them. Several attempts to curate it – to verify the images.
  14. Susan Sontag: all war photos are seductions to go to war & found only 1 that is anti – war “Dead men speak” Geoff Wall put the pic together = pretending to be in Afghanistan – actors, pretending to be soldiers in Vancouver pretending to be Afghanistan. Geoff Wall said:”I didn’t make dead men speak to comment on the Afghan war, I did it to make a picture of dead men conversing.” With all the billions of images how can she only find 1 which is anti-war.
  15. So why was she saying that? Peace photographers don’t exist. War photographers can say they are anti-peace.
  16. How do you go to war without thinking of peace? Or are you just using the people for good pictures?
  17. Family album: John Berger: Don McCullen: how can you see that pain ? If it’s of them it is bearable – you wouldn’t do it for a family = it’s us.
  18. You don’t think that during a war, they are just blowing each other up , you don’t think that people have personal family times. The pics make them human again.
  19. The family album makes them one of us.
  20. Susan Meiselas has mounted the pics from the Sandinista war”Reframing history” & put them in the places she photographed them so that the young people can see their history = she’s giving back to the community.
  21. Resistance: do something differently if what you are saying doesn’t make sense.
  22. 1996 after peace treaty between muslims & croats : they wanted people to investigate not in a linear way : the reader feels that they don’t know what is going on, what do you do, where do you start?
  23. JR: women are heros: women bear the brunt for all the physical work & are not respected for it. Puts the large images on the roofs of houses & he waterproofs them: useful.
  24. Photograph the future so it does not happen.
  25. Dec 1968 – the earth from outer space: photograph from outer space could say we’ve got to do something about the earth. Today there is no such credibility in photography.
  26. How do you filter all the images so that u know what is going on in the world.
  27. 2017 no more front pages. No way of keeping /coherent way of seeing things. What would you put on the front page? Different people would put together something that we could all discuss.
  28. We all have the tools of publishing & production to make things happen.
  29. Gideon Mendell: AIDS anti-retroviral project of following a woman with HIV AIDS for a month & his work made a difference to 8m people.
  30. If your pictures aren’t good enough you don’t read enough: Pappageorge.

Ex: 3.1

From “After photography”

The basic question Ritchin asks is: How do we use a quickly changing medium in a way that can respond to “some of photography’s frailties, its lies and limitations” now that nobody trusts digital photographs any more?

“Not only are bytes, unlike chemistry and film, not palpably physical but they become metaphors for a depiction of reality as informational. While photography is conventionally thought of as depicting the present to be seen as the past, we have also, unbeknownst to ourselves, been making coded images of the future — our own as transformed humans, or what some are calling, with justification, ‘post-humans.’”(p. 42)

Ritchin embraces the idea of “photographing the future” by digitally inserting ourselves into scenes in advance of being there. Rather than waste the time of posing in front of the cathedral of Notre Dame, we could send our friends those manufactured images and proceed to actually exploring the streets, culture and conversations of an unfamiliar new land. No longer will the checklist of “most-photographed” sites separate us from actually being present at the scene. (1)

Ritchin also rethinks how the changing relation to a photograph in the digital age as something mutable compares to memory. Our recollections are not photographic. They are subject to mood, timing, emotion, time and selectivity. Photographs could easily become more of an expression of memory than a perceived-as-subjective document. “The past would be recreated, rethought and reinvented, the process more resembling an oral tradition where divergent views of the community are taken into account.” (p. 58)

“The photographic frame would then move beyond an excerpt from a visible reality, radiating outward, connecting to ideas, events and images that were previously thought of as external. The photographer, cognizant that framing both does and does not exclude the rest of the world, could then try to be more present, aware, less confident that it is the camera that will ‘remember.’ And as author and viewers grapple over time with the photograph’s meanings, creating new links and interpretations, it will become evident that the photographic process necessarily involves an ensuing contextualization. Rather than encouraging forgetfulness, the photograph might invite too much remembering.” (p. 59) 

“The new photograph will be read and understood differently as people comprehend that it does not descend from the same representational logic either of analog photography or of painting that preceded it.” (Ritchin, 2009, p. 144)

Toward a Hyperphotography”: Fred Ritchin

Visual examples of “cubistically unmasking photo opportunities”:

In “Unmasking Photo Opportunities Cubistically” Ritchin notes that we should contextualize the invented realities by including documentation of the whole planned scene from different perspectives.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 12.06.24.png

In a 1994 photograph we see U.S. soldiers invading Haiti, lying on the airport tarmac pointing their rifles at unseen enemies. The heroic image supports the claim of the U.S. government that it is invading to support democracy, liberating a neighboring country from a dictatorship.

The curious reader [of the future], however, might want to place the computer cursor on the image. Another photograph appears from beneath it; it is of the same scene but from another vantage point. U.S. soldiers are pointing their guns not at any potential enemy but at about a dozen photographers who, lined up in front of them, are photographing them. In fact, the photographers are the only ones doing any shooting

The contradictory “double image” is cubist; reality has no single truth. Perhaps these soldiers are heroes, and perhaps the U.S. government is justified in its invasion. Maybe they have to lie prone on the tarmac, anxious about an unseen enemy. The additional photograph asks the question “Is this for real?” Or is this a simulation of an invasion created for the cameras? (4)

2.  Using cctv in the homes of elderly people who live far away from their families, Digital Family Portraits: Supporting Peace of Mind for Extended Family Members, explores ways in which layered portraits can be hung on the wall (in place of a static 2D image) or on a bookshelf, or on the mantelpiece, & creates collections of the subjects over time and helps the distant family to see if/how the elderly are coping with their eating, mobility etc. Similarly, the subject can see what the rest of the family is up to. Through reporting as in the digital album, the creators have designed work to illustrate the lives of loved ones abroad, and provide methods for the work to be contextualized by the subjects, adding depth and multiple perspectives to the story telling.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 13.54.28.png(5)

  1. Ritchin argues in “Photographing the Future so a Version of It Does Not Happen,” that we could illustrate visions of the result of our actions. With the reader let in on the idea, we paint in visceral images the predictions of a warmed planet, for example.

4.  Multiple points of view around a single news event or story:

“Enfranchising the Subject/s,”: we give a voice back to the subject of the photograph, first, by making no assumptions about them, but also by handing the camera directly to them.  This all started on 7th July, 2005 when people in the Kings Cross tube in London took images with their phones of what was happening around them: democratised reportage started there.

5.  FR wants us to be aware of the consequences of our work & that there is never just 1 side to a story.

6.  In considering how digital photography has, in the 21st C, changed how we see images and, looking back to a time between the camera obscure and digital imaging, we can ask how did the Kodak Brownie affect the practice of 20th C image making?

Multiple points of view on a single news event or story:


Jeremy Corbyn gets seat on Glasgow serviceScreen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.39.45.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.41.15.png
The original image which sparked the story.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.43.33.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.46.16.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.46.30.png


  1. http://2010dmsresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/after-photography-by-fred-ritchin.html
  2. Ritchin,F. 2009 After photography.W.W.Norton & Co.
  3. Ritchin, F.: Bending the frame
  4. http://designobserver.com/article.php?id=11447
  5. https://research.cc.gatech.edu/ecl/sites/edu.ecl/files/C.33-Mynatt-CHI-2001.pdf

6 thoughts on “Exercises: P. 65:Fred Ritchin’s lecture on key aspects of the digitalisation of photography and its future.”

  1. Haven’t got to this yet but it looks as if there’s so much information to take in there. Strangely enough as I was reading about photography of the future I thought of Blade Runner and how amazing it seemed way back then that he could zoom in to that small part of an image and see what was there. I still remember the fascination I felt and here we are now being able to do just that!


  2. Yes, I will, as soon as I have been unblocked from it! I have tried to reply to John U and another person & I can’t get past the sign in page! Alice is getting another email from me tomorrow!


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