Statement of responsibility: Catherine M. Weir
Captured from life, the photograph was long regarded as an image with an indexical link to its referent, a quality which set it apart from other forms of pictorial representation (Krauss, 1977). With the arrival of digital photography, however, many theorists divested the digital photograph of this link; arguing the photograph, no longer physically imprinted on chemical film, but stored as numbers, became an image open to manipulation and no longer reliant on anything in the world for its existence. The referent, as William J. Mitchell put it, had become “unstuck” (1994, p.31).Nearly thirty years since those arguments were first made, we can see that the mere fact of becoming digital did not exhaust the belief in the photograph as an image taken from the world (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2008). Today’s digital photographic images, however, are no longer the straightforward remediations (Bolter and Grusin, 2000) of chemical-based photography which prompted those debates. Instead they represent a convergence of digitally-produced photographs and computer programs; and viewed on screen become what Ingrid Hölzl (2010) has described as “moving stills”. It is against this backdrop, this research project explores the concept, and different definitions, of indexicality; and how the index might be reframed in a digital context.After beginning with the concept of metadata as mechanism to guarantee the digital photograph’s origins in a particular time and place; my practice-led research moved to consider how our experience of the digital photograph changes when it is merged with real-time or recorded data which describes a phenomenon. Specifically, to question if the integration of this data could constitute an indexical link to the world, and amplify the photographic artwork’s sense of immediacy (Bolter and Grusin, 2000). Drawing on both photographic and computational arts practices, I developed a series of custom software works merging my digital photographs with an additional element of data – ranging from the direction of the wind in a Scottish glen, to the recorded beat of my own heart – visually expressed through changes in colour, composition, and movement.The thesis documents and discusses these works from the perspectives of both artist and viewer, with the latter’s position drawn from a series of qualitative interviews conducted during the artworks’ exhibition. Drawing on these dialogues, my contribution proposes the merging of digital photographs, data, and bespoke program code constitutes an expanded digital photographic practice; and a form of gesture on the part of the artist to a secondary referent which sits outside, or cannot be depicted within, the frame of the photograph.
PhD (Practice-Based) Glasgow School of Art 2018
206 p. : ill. (some col.) + 1 book of source code, 1 book of works, 1 USB drive