Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ has conditioned the way we think about photography and reproduction but it cannot account for the new paradigm shift that is taking place in a digital age of fast computers and big data. Benjamin observed that mechanical reproduction of a work of art represented something new. He was writing the first version of this essay in 1936, almost one hundred years after the accepted date for the discovery of photography and at a time when mechanical reproduction was well established and shaping aesthetic and political thinking. He observed that works of art exist in their specific time and place and that they reflect the ways they have been valued and looked after. To articulate this materiality he turned to the nebulous and quasi-religious idea of an aura. To prove its existence he could have commissioned electrographs or other methods to visualise this invisible force as a ‘figure’ but in the age of digital reproduction originality and authenticity may not be as in separable as Benjamin had assumed. The digital revolution is moving so fast that it is hard to foresee its many implications. Only a few years ago the focus was on virtual technologies—now the physical has taken centre stage. In this physical environment photography is no longer just producing images, but making maps and charting previously unimagined destinations.
Focusing on Form – The Future of Photography
By: Adam Lowe