Photography and the Virtual

HYPERIMAGE reloaded by Karin Mihatsch, Roswitha Schuller, and Markus Hanakam/ Digital Ethos: Transformations in Contemporary Photography Aesthetics subsequent to Computational Art by Murat Seyda Germen/ The Rhetoric of the JPEG by Daniel Palmer/ CODEC. On Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs by Ingrid Holzl and Remi Marie/ Investigating the Digital Sublime through Photographers’ Views of Reality: Nathan Baker’s Occupation Project as an Example by Yi-hui Huang
Sunday, 18 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:40
Chair Person: 
Jack Toolin
Karin Mihatsch
Roswitha Schuller
Markus Hanakam
Murat Germen
Daniel Palmer
Ingrid Holzl
Remi Marie
Yi-hui Huang

“HYPERIMAGE reloaded. The expansion of the photographic image in virtual spaces”

by Karin Mihatsch, Roswitha Schuller, and Markus Hanakam

The proposed lecture “HYPERIMAGE reloaded. The expansion of the photographic image in virtual spaces” is based on the ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration between the artistic practice (by Hanakam & Schuller; artists, Vienna/Austria) and the art/cultural sciences (by Karin Mihatsch; researcher, Paris/France). “HYPERIMAGE reloaded” will broaden and deepen some of the issues raised during the interworking for the online-work “Palaces & Courts”. “Palaces & Courts”, by Hanakam & Schuller questions the structures on the Internet. The work – based on the imagination of photography – was created within the ongoing discourse with the researcher Mihatsch. Thereupon she has written the essay “Photographic Representations of Imaginary and Its Beholders in the Light of Web 2.0.” to refer “Palaces & Courts” to a theoretical background.

In this context, some of these issues were critically examined on the occasion of a panel discussion named “HYPERIMAGE. The expansion of the photographic image in virtual spaces” (Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna/Austria, 2010). HYPERIMAGE reloaded” will broaden and deepen the raised themes by focusing on the references to “Palaces & Courts”.

By his concept of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee paved the way to a wide distribution of images on the Internet starting in 1990. Images on the Internet follow other regularities than the printed images and are committed to the process: links between images may be set by respecting a network or structure called “Hyperimage”. According to this structure, any image can be integrated in any network or sequence. These sequences may be narrative or not, transparent or not. As mentionned, images on the Internet have a processual character contrary to printed images; but they can loose this characteristic by being transferred to another medium.

By referring to the idea of ”Hyperimage” to the work “Palaces & Courts”, Mihatsch and Hanakam & Schuller evoke the following sections in the lecture HYPERIMAGE reloaded”:

1. from exhibition structures and guiding systems to image structuring in networks

2. narrative aspects, associations and role of the beholder in hierarchical and net-like structures

3. photography in the light of the transformation of its materiality in depictions of exhibitions, printed and online exhibition catalogues


The lecture by Mihatsch and Hanakam & Schuller will not only deal with theoretical practice but also with artistic practice.

Digital Ethos: Transformations in Contemporary Photography Aesthetics subsequent to Computational Art

by Murat Seyda Germen

Photography is one of the creative fields at which technological advances influence artistic expression the most. The ease of manipulation brought by software and extra features available in cameras made artists (using photography as an articulation tool) reconsider their visions, themes, narration, syntax and ways of sharing their artwork. Sharing sites like Flickr, which expedite encounters of various individuals from different cultures, help in changing the perception of the much vital notion of time and enable artists to get faster feedback, revelation, exposure and layering of information to be conveyed.

While some photographers, who are deeply obsessed with analog processes, deny digital technology; it is quite obvious that artists, who are aware of the complexity and particular advantages that this technology brings, indeed end up with a novel aesthetics of photography. In addition to the regular montage and collage methods remaining from the old analog days, digital imaging techniques allow artists to work with notions like augmented perception, chronophotography, subreal encounters, pictorialism, palimpsest-like superimposition, interlacing, simplification / minimization, creation of new worlds, delusion, synthetic realism / artificiality, appropriation...

Digital tools available for photography allow the artists in the field to think in a more daring and free way. This freedom influences the content and also the visual aesthetics of the recently created artworks in the universal practice of contemporary photography. Photography is probably one of the visual art platforms that is influenced most extensively by digital construction and creativity. Fortunately, it seems it will continue to be so in the future and digital means will strengthen photography’s position in the art world as one of the most progressive expression platforms. This paper will focus on the significance of digital technologies in changing aesthetics, planning, vision, fiction and realization of photography and various avant-garde photography forms nourished by digital culture.

The Rhetoric of the JPEG

by Daniel Palmer

The JPEG, an acronym for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a technical standard that specifies how an image is compressed into a stream of bytes and decompressed back into an image. As a method of compression for digital photography closely associated with the World Wide Web, the JPEG is today the default mode by which we experience on-screen images from computer monitors to mobile phones. Curiously taken for granted in discussions around the web and digital photography, this paper argues that attention to the development of file formats provides a method to understand the way a camera ‘sees’, and how digital photographs function online. 

For instance, today’s digital cameras invariably use a related EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) format, to record extra interchange information to image files as they are taken. EXIF data, embedded within the image file itself, includes metadata such as date and time, technical information and, increasingly, geo-coding in the case of GPS-enabled cameras. JPEG/EXIF data therefore includes both the compressed sensor data and a description of the environment in which the image was taken. This paper asks what is at stake in the development and implementation of these common standards? It also looks at contemporary artists who have taken up these ideas and questions in their practice. Ultimately, it proposes that the JPEG – which is only visible by its side effects such as compression artefacts – is an ideological phenomenon and a metaphor for the informationalisation of imaging in general.

CODEC. On Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs

by Ingrid Holzl and Remi Marie

Through a close analysis of Thomas Ruff's JPEGs series, we will explore the JPEG codec as the new paradigm of the digital image. Trained with Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff is one of the leading figures in contemporary photography. For his JPEGs series, he took his own images and digital photographs from the web and compressed them using the maximum rate; he then decompressed them into large-scale prints. This method exposes the mathematical infra-structure of the digital image, the pixel blocks into which the image is split during the compression process. We will trace the passage from archive to archetype at play here, the double meaning of taking an image from the web or from the wide world, and the possible return of beauty as a means of societal reconciliation. We posit that JPEG compression calls for a new conception of photography in which the perspectival projection gives way to the mathematical abstraction of the numerical tableau.

Investigating the Digital Sublime through Photographers’ Views of Reality: Nathan Baker’s Occupation Project as an Example

by Yi-hui Huang

The digital sublime refers to digital-composite photography that presents “the existence of something unpresentable” (Lyotard, cited in Linn, 1996, p. 97) and that renders a matchless look – a sophisticated fabrication, a perfect and clean composition, a maximum color saturation, a multiple-point perspective, and stunning or new-fangled content (Foster et al., 2004; Lipkin, 2005; Marien, 2002; Ohlin, 2002). Dissatisfied with the representation of the outer world that can be easily accomplished by pressing a single shutter button, photographers who painstakingly synthesize images together to create the digital sublime seem to be compelled to create personal versions of the world, which may be closer to the beliefs through which they interpret and interact with the world.

To gain a better understanding of these photographers’ digital sublime photographs, I propose that we investigate the artist’s views of reality by asking, “What is your definition of reality?” and “How do you visualize your reality in digital composite?” This paper cites the photographic project Occupations by contemporary photographer Nathan Baker of Chicago as an example.

I first introduce Baker’s process of photographic creation, including his initial feelings, thoughts, ideas, and finally, the actual production. I then relate his definition of reality, and the strategies that he employs to visualize reality in his composite photographs. Next, I interpret and find Baker’s four layers of reality, and cite suitable theory, realism, to explicate his work. Last, I conclude with the finding that the “unpresentable” substance that his photographs try to present reflects Baker’s experiences, comprised of sensory stimulation and intellectual ideas. This study has implications for how digital sublime photographs can be studied and taught.