Photography, Materiality and Chance
The article thematises one of the least theorised aspects of photographic theory – medium’s relation to chance. Since the very invention of photography, writings on photography have sought to minimise medium’s dependence on chance, a tendency that was later canonised by medium’s historians and art theoreticians. From the writings of Henry Fox Talbota to those of Roland Barthes, the role of chance has been confined to the stages of making and the process of perceiving photographs, while its influence was minimised through ideas of the artist’s superior vision, and the photographic apparatus’s non-discriminatory ability to record reality. The article extends these considerations to include a third dimension of photography’s relation to chance – chance findings of photographs, a dimension dependent entirely on the medium’s materiality. Given the loss of materiality of photography in the age of ubiquitous digital and networked photography, this third dimension of medium’s relation to chance and discoveries of accidental masters, masterpieces and histories has been endangered by photography’s integration into the increasingly (self-)controlled and commodified online communication.
This post is also available in: Slo