José van Dijck
Digital Photography : Communication , Identity , Memory
The principle use of vernacular snapshot photography prior to the digital age was as a means to aid recall and preserve memory .
Despite photography’s traditional connection during the 19th and 20th century with remembrance it has additionally always been used as a device for communication and sharing events.
Rather than existing as a physical print , kept in a box or album for private viewing and as a device for remembering , many personal images are now globally shared.
Manipulation and distortion of memory is neither new or unique to digital imagery however digital technologies enable a far greater proportion of people to alter pictures with relative ease.
Despite how digital imagery is disseminated José van Dijck contends ‘that photography’s function as a memory tool is still equally vibrant , even if its manifestation is changing in the digital era’ (p.g 59)
Change in how we use photography:
Camera frequently used as a device for communicating daily experiences not just special occasions.
Whilst older generations use ‘the primacy of photography as a memory tool , particularly in the construction of family life, …teenagers and young adults use camera-like tools for conversation and peer-group building’ (p.p 61)
Camera-phone ‘permits entirely new performative rituals’ (p.p 62)
Instant communication–email / social media
Photo blogs used to keep in touch / albums not kept
Intangible and ephemeral ‘camera-phone pictures are meant to be thrown after they are received ‘ (p.p 62)
The importance of a photograph becomes momentary rather than taken as a keepsake.
The images are occasionally accompanied by a brief note ‘pixeled images , like spoken words , circulate between individuals and groups to establish and reconfirm bonds’ (p.p 62)
José van Dijck suggests our changing relationship with photography does not originate from digitalisation but ‘is part of a broader cultural transformation that involves individualisation and intensification of experience’ (p.p 63)
‘ the individual has gradually become the nucleus of pictorial life’ (p.p 61)
‘self-presentation –rather than family re-presentation –is now a major function of photographs’ (p.p 61)
‘Digital photo cameras have been touted as novel instruments of identity formation , particularly as they allow users to manipulate their own images’ (p.p 63).
But photography has always been used as a tool to shape identity.
Has manipulation become a fundamental component of digital photography ?
Can check image immediately after taking on display
Can be instantly deleted
Subject/s can view & assess their appearance , this may determine their subsequent pose
Images viewed and stored on a computer
Images manipulated by software
Although manipulation is not unique to digital photography what is unparalleled ‘is the increased number of possibilities to review and retouch one’s own pictures’ (p.p 67)
Old family photographs easily restored /altered — ameliorate identity and appearance .
‘Software packages supporting the processing of personal photographs often bespeak the digital image’s status as a liminal object; pixeled photographs are touted as bricks of memory construction , as software is architecturally designed with future remodelling in mind’ (p.p 68)
Memory & digital photography
Digital photography is frequently used as a device to disseminate daily events and shape identity ,
hence its perceived function as an aide-mémoire seems increasingly tenuous in the ‘post photographic era’ as images are more commonly shared via social media sites and emailed to relatives and friends.
Yet José van Dijck suggests ‘we can hardly conclude these newly foregrounded functions to annihilate photography’s commemorative function’ (p.p 69)
The post-photographic era offers a different way of commemorating:
e.g Abu Gharib —see notes project 2
‘Snapshots’ taken by soldiers not journalists to be shared amongst colleagues and family at home.
The sickening Abu Ghraib images ‘connote the function of these pictures as symbolic resources for communication. The last thing thing these pictures were meant to be by their makers, were objects of lasting memory ‘ (p.p 71) . Yet precisely the opposite occurred when the incriminating images , intended to be discarded once seen by their recipients , paradoxically entered the public domain.
‘The awareness that any picture unleashed on the internet can be endlessly recycled may lead to a new attitude in taking pictures:anticipating future reuse , photographs are no longer innocent personal keepsakes , but they are potential liabilities in someone’s personal life or professional career’ ( p.p 71 )
The veracity of a photograph as a factual token of memory has always been unreliable but ‘since the emergence of digital technology, pictorial manipulation seems to be a default mode rather than an option’ (p.p 71)
Can digitally modify and alter identity with relative ease ; photographs portray who we desire to be and how we are recalled.
van Dijck suggests digital photography is not exclusively the reason why people do this:
It ‘derives its revamped application as a memory tool from a culture where manipulability and morphing are commonly accepted conditions for shaping personhood. Flexibility and morphing do no apply exclusively to pictures as shaping tools for memory , but also more generally to bodies and things. Memory , like photographs and bodies , can now be made picture perfect;memory and photography change in conjunction , adapting to contemporary expectations and prevailing norms’ (p.p 72)
She further proposes this process of altering identity could be a lasting task as the past is constantly altered and re-invented. ‘Even if still a memory took , the digital camera is now pushed as an instrument for identity construction , allowing more shaping power over autobiographical memories’ (p.p 72)
Private pictures globally shared.
‘Personal photographs are increasingly pulled out of the shoebox to be used as public signifiers’ (p.p 72)
Archived images are digitally enhanced and publicly shared to be used in present day contexts .
The downside of undetectable manipulation is how personal images might be used in the future and the function of a once private images globally shared . ‘The picture taken ….as a token of instant and ephemeral communication may live an extended life on the internet , turning up in unexpected contexts many years from now’ (p.g 60) .
Context and memory susceptible to modification ‘but since the framing of a picture is never fixed for once and all , each re-materialisation coms with its own illocutionary meaning attached , and each reframing may render the ‘original ‘ purpose unrecognisable. So even if taken with a communicative use in mind , a picture may end up as a persistent object of (collective) cultural memory–evidenced by the Abu Ghraib pictures’ (p.p 73)
How we share in the public domain or via email private images has consequences for their future use , over which the individual may have little control.
van Dijck , J. (2008) . “Digital photography:communication , identity , memory” . Visual Communication , 7(1) 57-76