reviews

Stan Douglas, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008, digital C-print, 114 1/2 x 70". From the series “Crowds and Riots,” 2008.

Stan Douglas

Stan Douglas, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008, digital C-print, 114 1/2 x 70". From the series “Crowds and Riots,” 2008.

GIVEN NEW TECHNOLOGY, the user often trades convenience for control. Take the cell phone camera. Because cell phone camera designers are knowledgeable about what a conventionally “good” photograph looks like, everyone now takes “good” photographs, which is to say that everyone’s photographs tend to look exactly the same. Previously, the photographer either had an intimate technical understanding of what the camera was and so could control the image, or didn’t understand the inside of the camera at all but, because of the particular “mistakes” he or she inevitably made, still produced interesting images. It wasn’t until I switched to digital that I became interested in the mechanics of photography, because I had to be sure it would be at least as good as analog. I learned that lenses matter more than the recording medium because photography is all about converging light, compressing four dimensions into two, and that this is in the end an optical problem.

Nevertheless, the switch to digital imaging changes the relationship between the act of recording (or constructing) a photograph and its transmission. Although photography is implicitly a scaleless medium, I have always thought of my images as having a just scale, inherent color, and a particular surface. Of course, I know that my work is often seen in print or on a screen and is therefore constantly circulating as something else entirely. This isn’t a factor I aim to control; nor am I eager to participate in this grand convergence of content, wherein everything that is digitized should then also be distributed on the Internet. I guess it’s incredibly convenient to have various formats—photography, film, interlaced video, etc.—available via a single stream on a single screen, but can it really be said that the phenomenological information the body registers when experiencing the work in its original format is not part of the work as well?