“We want, in short, to record reality unrealistically.”
– Anton Giulio Bragaglia, 1914
Today we testify that photographic imagery is challenging the paradigm of the written word as the de facto method of knowledge transference. Images are now able to transcend the semantics of word-based communication, crossing linguistic and cultural borders with previously unattainable ease. Visual language is confronting the abstractions and limitations inherent in the interpretation of the word. It is time to realize the significance of this shift and to act in accordance with the new reality.
The sustained and ever-increasing flow of images has become fundamental to human interaction, acting as scaffolding for our concept of reality. The framework of our thinking and understanding is being effected as our cognitive toolkit shifts towards the visual. It is imperative to expand the visual discourse as we engage with the ubiquitous photographic stream.
Now is the time to generate a vast new vocabulary of visual communication. New tenses, structures, register and forms are necessary. Let us, as practitioners of this medium, make manifest a new visual linguistics and semiotics. The poetry, freeverse and philosophy of the visual are our mandate.
At this point in history, the photographic vocabulary has amounted to scarcely more than descriptive mimicry of visual experience. The precise and static nature of the ‘technical image’ has disturbed our collective sensorium. It has seduced us into conceiving reality as fixed and finite, a visually rational simplification. We must make our imagery sensitive to the latent spirit and character of reality. Time, interaction, emotion and movement are aching to be captured, interpreted and transferred.
It is due time to use the camera for more than simply “obscene, brutal and static realism.” We have no interest in obtusely halting time, we do not wish to linger in a falsely static present. Habitual transcription of the visual field only hinders the most human experience of direct observation. Let the technocratic machinery of the 21st Century take over the monotonous role of reproduction and archivism.
Our call is to utilize light to interpret gesture and nuance, transition and interaction – to be visual scribes who capture the fluid character of both space and time.
Just as the cultural significance of the photographic image is becoming clear, we are at risk of losing control of its means of creation.
To control the apparatus is imperative.
Contemporary cameras provide little more than a choice between pre-programmed visions of the world. The image-making apparatus has become an extraordinary reproducer of a two-dimensional physical environment at the cost of automation and homogeneity. With it we do not control the medium of capture, we no longer choose the size, shape or angle of the frame. Nuance and independence are being lost in this struggle.
In essence, our visual vocabulary has become limited by the finite imagination of the camera industry. In the quest for ever perfect clarity and accessibility we have sacrificed our connection to the medium, risking mental and linguistic uniformity for the sake of convenience and fidelity.
So this is what we do: We break our lenses and disrespect our film, hack our firmware and overheat our sensors. We use lines, squares and pin pricks as our apertures and seduce every random sort of shutter. We merge pixels with grain, use entire rolls or sheets of anything light-sensitive. We make our own papers, expose our materials to light we cannot see. We neglect lenses with their hegemonic color coatings, and betray any rules of focus or composition that have been handed to us. We demand open software, we will write it ourselves if need be. We reach beyond flatness in our imagery to the third and fourth dimensions. We choose the dynamism of Bragaglia over the dynamic range of industrialized gimmickry. We remain impartial to the means of light capture, so long as we are not told how it should be used. We do whatever is necessary to retain control of our means of expression. We eschew banal fidelity, sharpness and resolution, instead demanding trueness of spirit, precision of vision, expansion of experience and depth of consciousness. We reclaim and expand the photographic work of alchemists and inventors. We channel the experience of photography as magic.
As our medium assumes its position at the pinnacle of human communication we mean to direct its inevitable cultural development. We do not intend to leave this to the camera-makers, institutions or any other cultural gate-keepers.
Our role is to facilitate the vast potential of the visual as language.
Our charge is to provoke expansive, profound and enlightened communication in the emergent photographic era.