The Post-Photographic Era Controversy

“If the nineteenth century invented photography, the late-twentieth-century began to disinvent it.” — Alan Trachtenberg (115)

A technological definition

Quotations such as those from Trachtenberg suggest that digital cameras have killed ‘traditional photography’ as digital practice in its own right is a new medium of pixels as opposed to chemical reaction.

One of the early proponents of this technological definition was William J. Mitchell. In 1992, Mitchell published a book entitled The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era. In it, he suggested that the “post-photographic era” began in the 1990s with the advent of digital photography. He also predicted that digital technology would produce social and cultural changes that would render traditional photography obsolete (Murray 152). Still, Mitchell’s was a definition based primarily on technology; any cultural or behavioral shifts were merely the logical consequences of this technological change.

A cultural-behavioral definition

I would like to propose a definition of post-photography that inverts—or at least alters—this relationship. Some scholars, like Susan Murray, José van Dijck, and Nancy Van House have laid the groundwork for this new definition, but they have not described their ideas in terms of post-photography. Under this new definition, post-photography relates primarily to the practices and attitudes of the photographer rather than the technology that he or she uses. As a result, post-photography intersects with—but does not encompass—digital photography. To be sure, some people who use digital cameras are practicing post-photography. Others, however, are simply using digital technology to practice traditional photography.

Essentially, what is predicted is that Post-Photography will over rule photography as the age of photo-sharing trough digital practice becomes even more popular.

In a sense, the post-photographic age is losing touch of conventional photographic techniques.

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