An object is frequently not seen, from not knowing how to see it, rather than any defect in the organ of vision. (Babbage, 1830)
This assignment follows on from my previous one, in that it also considers the material nature of the photograph, but in this case the digital image. The concept of materiality with regard to photography is now well-embedded in academic culture, but on the whole it tends to focus on analogue photographs, with their physical characteristics of paper and ink. Rachel Smith’s fascinating OCA Symposium lecture  discusses the ‘object’ nature of the analogue image in detail, including its surface, location, the processes involved and its history. She considers Geoffrey Batchen’s idea that the photograph consists of both a subject and an object, and that generally people look past the object to the subject without really seeing it. ‘In order to see what a photograph is of, we need to supress our consciousness of what it is.’ (Batchen, 1997:2) The notion of materiality refutes that concept and argues that the object itself carries contextualisation and meaning which adds to the viewing experience. I have written a separate post about this and some photographers who consider this in their work here .
It has also been argued that the rise in interest in materiality has come as a result of the the so-called ‘death of the analogue’, with the appearance of the digital image and its apparent lack of material characteristics. Smith argues that time has the same degrading effect on the digital image as occurs with an analogue photograph, through glitches, altering metadata and missing pixels instead of scratches, dustmarks, etc. and that one can think of the digital image as material despite its lack of physicality. Joanna Sassoon posits that the photograph can be considered as a multilayered laminated object in which meaning is derived from a symbiotic relationship between materiality, content and context. (Sassoon, 2004:189)  either separately or together, but that the digital image lacks the material aspect. Smith, on the other hand argues that the vehicle for the image (the phone, laptop, screen) should necessarily be viewed as part of its materiality. The phone screen is the same as a sheet of photopaper in its function, i.e. that of carrying the image.
While Barthes talks about a photograph’s inseperable relationship to its subject in Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1980;13), Fontcuberta (2014:62) posits that either the image itself might be the subject of interest, or the object. For example, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s current exhibition in its new Photography galleries offers a very different experience from a regular gallery, with the objects being as important as the images they hold. Fontcuberta encourages us to choose which variables of a digital image we want to alter in order to break the conventionality of the analogue photograph.
Taking this concept of looking at the materiality and layers that make up a digital image, A Derridian deconstructive approach seemed appropriate. Derrida theorised that in order to fully understand anything, one needs to take it apart (deconstruct it) and to examine its constituents. This is the best known part of his theory, but he also adds that the final part of the exploration is to reconstruct the object again. (Derrida, 1983)
In order to present this series as a blog post, I have had to re-photograph the images. Like my two previous assignment, this work is something that is inherently physical in nature and it does not have the same effect when viewed on a screen, either in still or video format. In order to fully understand it, one has to be able to move it around, and raise and lower some of the images. The digital transparencies can be viewed from either side, and their relationship to the images above and below is part of the work. I have therefore included another post on the effects of re-photographing on a piece of original work  and how it can change the meaning of it in ways which may add to, detract from or completely alter that meaning. This is further accompanied by a post on the photographers whose work as influenced my series and another on how digital images are encoded and decoded. 
This physicality has also influenced my choice of presentation. I see this piece as a work in progress, to which I may add other interpretations as I think of them, and that the final assessment presentation will most probably be quite different. At present, it takes the form of a ringbound A5 notebook, to allow the viewer to flip over the pages vertically and reveal the next image. Some images are double sided, some are transparent and others need to be viewed collectively as well as individually. I felt that this format was the simplest way of enabling the viewer to play with the work and to consider the reality of the variations on a theme it includes. As yet, I am unsure how the final version for assessment might look, but it could potentially be similar to a book of wallpaper samples, with a solid spine and looser pages.
For this series, I have used a conceptual approach around Derridian deconstruction and the notion of a photograph being both an image and an object to dissect the nature of a digital image into its various elements, each of which has its own reality and potential meaning, both separately and together. I have attempted to ignore the subject and concentrate on the object, but a virtual object – the digital image – rather than a real-life one, and the subject is irrelevant: merely a vehicle to visualise the processes.
Digital images are by their nature virtual. In this work, that virtual reality has to be reconstituted into something solid, that one can hold. By making this a physical book of images, I have tried to blur the lines between the digital/virtual and reality, to consider how they differ and are the same. This book has then been re-photographed, which takes it back into the digital realm.
Assignment images (some of which have been photographed more than once, alone and in combination with another.)
- Babbage, C. (1830). “Reflections on the Decline of Science in England: And on Some of Its Causes, by Charles Babbage (1830). To which is Added On the Alleged Decline of Science in England, by a Foreigner (Gerard Moll) with a Foreword by Michael Faraday (1831).”, p.210 [online] At: https://archive.org/details/reflectionsonde00mollgoog/page/n234. (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
- Open College of the Arts (2016) The Materiality of Images: Rachel Smith lecture. [online video] At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQzobcFrY9Y (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
- Batchen, Geoffrey (1997) Burning with Desire: the Conception of Photography. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Woodward, H. (2019) Photography and New Materiality. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/photography-and-new-materiality/
- Sassoon, J., (2004). Photographic materiality in the age of digital reproduction. In: Photographs objects histories: On the materiality of images, pp.186-202.
- Barthes, R. (1980) Camera Lucida. New York: Hill & Wang
- Fontcuberta, Joan (2014) Pandora’s Camera. Mackbooks.
- Derrida, J. (1983) ‘Letter to a Japanese Friend’ In: Wood, D. & Bernasconi, R. (eds.) Derrida and Différance. Warwick: Parousia Press 1985, p. 1-5. [online] At: https://grattoncourses.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/letter_to_a_japanese.pdf (Accessed on 9 March 2019)
- Woodward, H. (2019) What Happens when One Rephotographs an object? [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/what-happens-when-one-rephotographs-an-object/
- Woodward, H. (2019) Assignment 2 – Contextual Background. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/assignment-2-contextual-background/
- Woodward, H. (2019) Unencoding the digital image. [online] At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/unencoding-the-digital-image/