Burgin Chapter 6

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S.R. .Now we have reached already the second issue of questions – because I wanted to ask you how you see the difference in the documentary photography to the contemporary ... digital influence ...

V.B. ... there is more to be said there, always.

S.R. ... practical approach and theoretical approach ... theory of documentary photography has to be differentiated vis-à-vis your old approach, to digital influences; or is it possible to continue the old documentary idea.

V.B. The whole issue of documentary has to be rethought ... if one were writing about it now, one would have to rethink it. It comes down basically to something rather abstract, it comes down to the question of indexicality ... of the photograph .. the image as witness; I think that a lot has been made of the fact, in the wake of Baudrillard; the notion »simulacrum« ... with digital photography there's no negative, so there's no point of origin to which you can refer ... a piece of film originally exposed to the light of that event; you can no longer argue that it's been changed, that it's been falsified; in digital photography there is no negative... you cannot move back to that original document ... That's rather missing the point .... I don't think that there's been a substantial amount difference established between the original film-based documentary and digital documentary; if we take the example of the pictures taken by American soldiers in prisons in Iraq ... of atrocities committed upon prisoners ... someone said these are digital photographs therefore we cannot trust them, you can have the same argument of film. The point is that the photograph on its own never stands on its own as a witness, it always has to be supported by testimony; court of law, somebody says, I was there, this did happen, I saw it. Indexicality is an issue that can't be separated from questions of jurisprudence, you can't determine issues of indexicality in the abstract, through either a philosophical or a technological argument the issue of indexicality, where it bites, makes a difference on the world – is a question of witness, testimony ... it cannot be seperated from the word and from the body ... Some of the changes that people have got excited and written at great length about are really not that important in the end.


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