The Event of Imaging

The color images presented here are all taken with the Canon Digital Elph S110 camera. They started from an idea about the event of photography — and my relationship with the camera and the image. This was not dissimilar to the black and white camera images also presented here — and the particularities of that instrument and the images to which it lead me. The Elph is a very particular instrument and at the same time very common, and in today's terms, even at three years old, out dated. What's interesting about these digital cameras is that they're cameras, but they really aren't. That's the uncanny part, the fascinating part, they mimic the camera and are cameras but they are also something else. It is this something else that this work is about.

Roland Barthes observed in Camera Lucida, 'in photography what can be reproduced infinitely occurs only once'. But what is it that occurs only once, the moment in time, or the occurrence of imaging?

It was this idea of the event of the image, the occurrence of imaging that I began to see as an approach that I took everywhere in imaging, from environmental spaces to photographs, friends, strangers, myself, video, cinema, books, objects, architecture, staged events, - anything in my purview of interest I saw with the idea and application of this approach to imaging, to the image. What the work is in pursuit of is not the image per se, but the imaging of the event of myself with the camera in the occurrence of these things being imaged. As such the images are presented always in series, or continuum, or as a traversing of the event of these things becoming image. Let me try and explain.

In the past year I have become interested in the very notion of imaging and what remains there in the presence of the image. In modernism, artists explored the unique qualities inherent in photography, from composing the exact moment, finding varied subject matter and with cultivating a signature, and of course exploring the very properties of light exposed by lenses and the properties of the darkroom — in the last thirty years, with the advent of conceptual art, artists moved away from photography's aesthetic or formal properties and used the photograph as an instrument of documentation, appropriated photographs, constructed photographs — photography was not so much continuous with the world as it was an instrument for the invention of one's own world and though appropriation, the re-contextualization of the image and its very sense. In the nineties photography is recovered with the work of the objectivist school of photography, but photography as a medium in art stakes out positions in multiple and combinatory trajectories.

With the advance of digital photography, the image becomes a set of numbers or instructions, as well as with the vast amplitude in the register of the camera, both in terms of effects, light sensitivity and number of images that can be stored at the time photographing — imaging is the very text of images — the camera, a simulated or software camera, instructions itself, performs the camera — but indeed it something else. There is something about it as I mentioned that is strange and uncanny.

Having worked in computation and the network — with the algorithmic and databases, the idea of the image as indexical or sample of a scene started to grow on me as a way to think of the photographic. Digital photography instruments became a way to examine photography; in a similar way that video became a way for Godard to look at Cinema. The digital both mimics or imitates photography, never quite being photography and becomes something of the uncanny of photography. For me digital photography is the image of disappearance, is the recording of recording. All photography now is in a sense conceptual and about materialization, the materialization of something in the event of a kind of appearance.

Perhaps there is an image of the image, the image imaging. What could this mean? In this work I am as interested in recording as an occurrence, as a complication and fabrication of time, as much as in the image as an index, a moment, particular to recording. The moment of the image is not a prized moment but one of many moments that involve the surveying of a site, the site being an event, a photograph, the cinema, all the things mentioned above. It was this same procedural approach, this rules based approach, which in a sense moved me out of the picture, and allowed for the getting on of imaging for the work to become algorithmic and for me to proceed by way of approach and not result.

The this, or thus ness of this work as photograph (which it really isn't, it's an image that reads backwards as a photograph or carries forward with the aura of the photograph and as such is given those attributes) is turned to imaging photography itself. It turns the occurrence of time to the occurrence of imaging.

Marc Lafia

New York, August 2002