Trailer for the lecture "Image Capital"
by Estelle Blaschke and Armin Linke
in the series THOUGHT & DEBATE: OÙ EST LA PHOTOGRAPHIE ? / VIDÉO ET APRÈS
curated by Florian Ebner
10 November 2018, at 17:00
Cinéma 1 - Centre Pompidou, Paris
"Entrée libre dans la limite des places disponibles"
For the last decade, tech companies and investors have engorged photography. The un- precedented photographic and film production and the digitization of photographic and film archives has become a much sought-after digital content. In 2016, the Visual China Group took over the visual assets of the image bank Corbis, now managed by its former competitor Getty Images. The Visual China Group grew to be one of the largest image pro- viders worldwide, a fact that went widely unnoticed. The same year, the iconic photo co- operative Magnum accepted its first outside investment through the creation of Magnum Global Ventures in order to “grasp the challenge of the digital age.” Recently, Kodak, once the uncontested leader in photo industry, launched the KODAKCoin, a “new economy for photography” allowing photographers to sell and manage their work through a block- chain platform. These developments indicate a fundamental shift: the digital technol-
ogy has changed the very nature of images. The camera turned into a device for making images and for collecting data. Digital photographs and films have become hybrid forms of image and metadata, which ultimately changes the ways in which they are valued and diffused. To these investors, as to many social media platforms, film and video are a virtu- ally unlimited resource of the future – an image capital – that can be controlled, filtered, and mined for specific purposes, such as customer targeting, or that serves the develop- ment of new search and content identification mechanisms, especially the enhancement of computer vision.
Image Capital develops around the contemporary concept of photography and film as an image carrier and a carrier of data, as well as on the notion of image as “currency” that has marked its history, from the metaphor of photographs as bank notes to the photographic treasure troves of the past. It traces these concepts back in history where photography and film was not only a medium to amass and create vast archives of reproduced visual and textual content but also the material basis for the fantasy of an externalized memory machine, as epitomized by Vannevar Bush’s Memex, described in his 1945 essay As We May Think.
Image Capital is a joined research project by Estelle Blascke, a historian of photography and microfilm working in the intersection between art and media history, the history of science and cultural history, and Armin Linke, a Berlin-based photographer and filmmaker, interested in the circulation of images and image infrastructures in the digital age.