BA Phot

DIC: Part 1, Page 2

Project 2 - Through a digital lens

- Back - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4

Project 1.1 The origins of photomontage - Exc 1.1 - Project 1.2 Through a digital lens - Exc 1.2 - Project 1.3 The found image in photomontage - Exc 1.3 - Project 1.4 Photomontage in the age of the internet - Conclusion - Upsum - Eval

Burson - Doisneau - Guillot - Hara - Kárász - Khan - Lotar - McMurdo - Maar - Rejlander - Sear - Teichmann - Vionnet - Wall - Yevonde - name -

Balthus -

Batchen - Fontcuberta - Rubinstein & Sluis -


Prelude - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - LPE - I&P - C&N - EyV -

[spellchecked 20Mar]

[9Mar23] As contextual background to Jeff Wall's large, backlit exhibition images, the cmat. states,

The introduction in the late 1980s of professional digital backs suitable for rendering high- quality images meant that many artists working with photography now turned towards digital methods of production. DIC p.22
first scan
Box A
The first scan,
Russell A. Kirsch, 1957
image source:

I am not sure that is accurate. As far as I am aware:

The first digital scan was made in 1957 by a team at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards. The development team was led by Russell A. Kirsch and the image (176 pixels on a side) was of his infant son, Walden (fig. A1, Norman, 2023).

The Hasselblad H Series, favoured by Andreas Gursky, launched in 2002 (Ayton, 2015).

Notwithstanding the above, Jeff Wall's signature exhibition approach was large backlit transparencies such as A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993 (Fig. B1). The Hokusai print from which it derives is shown in fig. B2.

The cmat. states, quoting The Tate,

For Wall, applying this technique to photographic material is a process akin to cinematography. In common with film, the image on a light box relies on a hidden space from which light emanates to be seen. Wall believes that this inaccessible space produces an ‘experience of two places, two worlds in one moment’, providing a source of disassociation, alienation and power. DIC p. 22, quoting The Tate.

That's a stretch. Also on that Tate page is a far more reasonable and feasible quote,

I felt very strongly at that time that ... painting as an art form did not encounter directly enough the problem of the technological product which had so extensively usurped its place and its function in the representation of everyday life ... I remember being in a kind of crisis at the time, wondering what I would do. Just at that moment I saw an illuminated sign somewhere, and it struck me ... that here was the perfect synthetic technology for me. It was not photography, it was not cinema, it was not painting, it was not propaganda, but it has strong associations with them all ... It seemed to be the technique in which this problem could be expressed, maybe the only technique because of its fundamental spectacularity. Manchester, 2003, quoting Barents, 1986, p.99

The cmat. continues, "In After Hokusai Wall shows us that our belief in photography as a mirror on reality is misplaced. Rather, photography is a highly subjective medium, which can, like painting, bring disparate elements together to create a fictional whole" (DIC p.23). As occasionally noted elsewhere in these pages, the extent of the general public's belief in the inherent truth of photography is often overstated and can be patronising. That belief will probably vary with the context, for example, the regular readers of a particular newspaper will probably tend to trust the photographs printed therein, but less so the photographs in some other newspapers, other media and other sources and some not at all; they may well regard some photo-sources as habitually false and may be aware of the nature of all photographs to be made intrinsically partial in some way by the choices of the photographer and by others in the transmission path.

Wall Hokusai
Box B
1. Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993, transparency in lightbox 229 x 377
2. Katsushika Hokusai – Suruga Ejiri (Eijiri in Suruga Province), from Fugaku sanjurokkei (Thirty-­six Views of Mount Fuji), Japan, 1831
© the artists, their agents or their estates
image sources: 1. Tate ; 2.

I am intrigued by the Wall image — I was previously aware of his large backlit pieces and of this particular image, but not of his pioneering role in the digital transformation of photography and his essays. I will pursue this further elsewhere, possibly in Exercise 1.2.


Box C
Wendy McMurdo,
Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre (The Glance), 1996
image source: DIC p.24

[10Mar p.23] To Wendy McMurdo, co-author of this module and the most helpful OCA tutor I have encountered (I had one of the authors for LPE, Wendy again for DIC would be pleasing).

The cmat. describes McMurdo's (I will revert to formality hereafter) practice as exploring the "relationship of photography to painting" (p.23). The 1995 project In a Shaded Place – The Digital and the Uncanny is examined where, through collage, individual children meet a copy of themselves. They are described as ‘digital natives’, children born in the digital era - a link is given for the derivation of this term but it is dead, see below . There is also a citation for an interview with McMurdo and there is a copy on the artist's site -'

Box D
Eli Lotar,
La Villette Abattoir, 1929
image source:

This interview was published in Creative Camera in 1995 and reprinted in the anthology Creative Camera – 30 years of Writing, Brittain ed. 2000. McMurdo mentions Eli Lotar's  Abattoir, 1929 (fig. D1) as "[o]ne image which is very important to me". She continues,

[my] work did, in part, arise from an interest in historically located developments (or disruptions) but, more importantly it came from an interest in and a desire to respond to the shifting relationship between the subject/object and the viewer which has been brought about by the introduction of the element of the digital. Wendy McMurdo, Dopplegangers, interview with Sheila Lawson, 1995

There is more on Lotar below.

McMurdo touches on Buñuel’s films as moving between versions of reality (all of which, being film, are false). Channelling Buñuel’s films in stills (or at least plausibly citing him) is a noble ambition - the image of dinner guests sitting round a table on toilets and occasionally excusing themselves to eat in a small room behind a bolted door has remained with me since I first saw it soon after its UK release at (I think) The Curzon.

Box E
1. Still from Luis Buñuel Le Fantôme de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty), 1974
© the artists, their agents or their estates
image sources: 1. jebivjetar85, YouTube

Freud's definitions of fears of the uncanny (including Doppelgängers) is discussed, along with historic precedents for this kind of notion in photography. It is an impressively erudite exposition of a plausible motivation for the series, but fails for the usual pair of reasons:

1. Any photograph must ultimately stand on its own visual merits;

2. irrespective of the photographer's intentions, each viewer will bring their own baggage to bear in interpreting an image.

And McMurdo's images, such as C1, do pass muster on their own merits because they are technically sound and sufficiently intriguing to draw and retain the attention of the viewer.

Both Wall and McMurdo, we are told (cmat. p,24) reference historic images and traditions, both photographs and paintings, using digital methods and in doing so, "critique the status of the photographic image as document" in a way "emblematic of a post-modern generation". And so does Hisaji Hara, to whom we turn next,

digital natives link - (,%20Aslib%20Proceedings%202009.pdf)

Eli Lotar
b: 1905 Paris
d: 1969
Guardian - Wikipedia

Eli Lotar

Lotar was an associate of Germaine Krull and photographer André Kertész and also worked in films and was the cinematographer on Buñuel's Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread), 1933.The Guardian describes his work as, "images full of dread and dark wit … perched brilliantly between surrealism and documentary" (

Lotar Lotar Lotar Lotar Lotar Lotar
Box D
Eli Lotar
1. The Meat, 1929
2. Punishment, 1929
3. Draining of the Zuiderzee, Netherlands, 1930
4. Untitled (Lisbonne), 1931
5. Giacometti, Bust of Lotar, 1965
6. Portrait of the Actress Wanda Vangen, 1929
© the artists, their agents or their estates
image sources: The Guardian

Hisaji Hara
b: 1964 Tokyo
Site - Wikipedia

Hisaji Hara

[13Mar p.24] Hara created a series A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus, three examples of which are shown as figure E1. These are beautifully crafted and the references are clear. The image set is taken from an anonymous 2012 Lomography interview.

I am about to read the interview but, before I do so, an initial reaction to the set. The paintings by Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, 1908 – 2001) depict young people lounging around, often in vaguely erotic poses and so, being more-or-less faithful homages, Hara's photographs depict the same. Were the photographs not to be given some legitimacy by being derived from Art (big "A"), then they might be considered inappropriate and exploitative.
I oppose censorship in any form, but merely note that Hara's motivation might be called into question.

We learn from the interview that Hara admired Balthus as a student, forgot about his work for 20 years until 2005 when one came to mind and thence "my Contemporary Art had stopped to be contemporaneous …and started to be connected to our long history of Art … [and the series to explore[s] the universality in his paintings which transcends time".
"the “schoolgirl” as an icon of Japanese contemporary culture acted in the role of a metaphor, of crossing over the boundary between the two cultures — the East and West"
Hara at first used multiple exposures on film cameras but moved to digital cameras when their quality improved.
He intended to expand the treatment to include other painters.
The quotations are from the Lomography interview.

My view is not changed by the interview. My admiration for the quality of Hara's product remains.

Box E
Three Hara / Balthus pairings
© the artists, their agents or their estates
image source:


Algorithmic Photography and the Crisis of Representation by Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis, Chapter 2 in Lister's The Digital Image in Photographic Culture(2013)Abingdon: Routledge (pp.22–40).

Rubinstein and Sluis argue that there is a qualitative difference between analogue and digital photography.
While there is some truth in that, the fact remains that if the photographer intends to depict the subject accurately (that is, as they perceive it) and the picture is successful technically, then there is no functional difference between analogue and digital. The distinction lies in the ease of diverging from accurate representation, the proliferation and speed of distribution channels and the dilution of image ownership and control.

Watch American artist Daniel Gordon discuss his work and his digital montage methods at Link 3.

Waiting for this course material to arrive with a link, for now, it's on the ToDo List.


quote cite

E 1.2
Box B
The writer as Marat

Exercise 1.2

This is shown on a separate page.

Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews, 2007

[11Mar] This section of the course has raised my awareness of and interest in Jeff Wall, particularly as a theoretician. I have looked for the MoMA book, Selected Essays and Interviews, but they sell for £70-80 so I have found a list of contents and will look for the individual essays.


Pt. I. Essays
A draft for "Dan Graham's Kammerspiel"
Dan Graham's Kammerspiel
Unity and fragmentation in Manet
Into the forest : two sketches for studies of Rodney Graham's work
An outline of a context for Stephan Balkenhol's work
Photography and liquid intelligence
Roy Arden : an artist and his models
Monochrome and photojournalism in on Kawara's today paintings
"Marks of indifference" : aspects of photography in, or as, conceptual art
About making landscapes
Frames of reference
Pt. II. Interviews
Typology, luminescence, freedom : selections from a conversation between Jeff Wall and Els Barents
Representation, suspicions, and critical transparency : an interview with Jeff Wall / Jay T. J. Clark, Claude Gintz, Serge Guilbaut and Anne Wagner
The interiorized academy : an interview with Jeff Wall / Jean-Francois Chevrier
Jeff Wall in conversation with Martin Schwander
Mark Lewis : an interview with Jeff Wall
A democratic, a Bourgeois tradition of art : a conversation with Jeff Wall / Anne-Marie Bonnet and Rainer Metzger
Arielle Pelenc in correspondence with Jeff Wall
Dirk Snauwaert : written interview with Jeff Wall
At home and elsewhere : a dialogue in Brussels between Jeff Wall and Jean-Francois Chevrier
Boris Groys in conversation with Jeff Wall
David Shapiro : a conversation with Jeff Wall
Interview between Jeff Wall and Jean-Francois Chevrier
Post-'60s photography and its modernist context : a conversation between Jeff Wall and John Roberts. Format 352 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.



quote cite


[20Mar] With diginet (digital imaging and the internet) photographs are no longer bound to real physical subjects. I argue that this has always been optional, starting with Julia Margaret Cameron's tableaux, Oscar Rejlander's multi-negative extravaganzas and many later examples throughout the photographic realm.

DIC 1.2


References for Part 1 are shown on the first page.

Page created 09-Mar-2023 | Page updated 20-Mar-2023