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November 6, 2017| Professor Nina Lager Vestberg (NTNU: Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
Analogue Ancestors and Digital Descendants: On Genealogy and the Archival Cultures of Photography
This presentation addresses genealogy as an epistemological trope in the archival cultures of photography, using case studies both from the historiography of photography and from contemporary digital culture. Some of the classic writings on photography abound with genealogical metaphors and impulses, from Walter Benjamin observing that all nineteenth-century portraits seem to carry a ’family resemblance’ to Roland Barthes recognising photography’s noeme in an image of his own mother. Similarly, online archives and image resources are steeped in the logic of genealogy, from the ’parent directories’ and ’child pages’ that organise content at file level, to content-based search algorithms, like Google Image Search, which retrieve and sort digital image files based on machine-recognisable visual – ’family’– resemblance. Outlining a current research project on online museum collections, which explores how photographic images insert themselves between museum objects and the digital user interface, the presentation invites discussion of how originals beget reproductions, and surrogates perform reproductive services, in the increasingly multi-layered and large-scale image collections that constitute the online avatars of museums and archives.
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