Redundancy in Photography
In his text, ‘Information Strategies’, written at the cusp of the emergence of digital photography in 1985, German artist and photography critic Andreas Müller-Pohle predicted that soon “it will be possible to generate and regenerate literally every conceivable – or inconceivable – picture through a computer terminal.” This realization coincided with Müller-Pohle’s critique of conventional photography, which he dubbed ‘photographism’ drawing on the philosopher Vilém Flusser’s work. For Flusser, photographers are functionaries of an apparatus based on automation, programmed to produce of pictures which correspond to certain general conventions and reconstructing the world as technical information. According to Flusser, the bulk of photography is ‘redundant’, exhausting itself stylistically and enslaved to apparatuses and programs.
This paper revisits the ideas of Flusser and Müller-Pohle in light of developments in digital photography that throw new light on the idea of image saturation and redundant photography. In particular, I address cultures of online photosharing (such as Flickr, Photosynth and Woophy) and stock imagery in light of the actions enabled by the metadata contained within common digital file formats. I propose that the very excess of digital photographic images coincides with the reinvention of the embattled authorial image into an evolving collaboration that aggregates a multiplicity of perspectives. I argue that this shift from individual views to aggregations has potentially important consequences for how we understand acts of resistance, or ‘interference’.