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to and from abstraction

April 10, 2012

Indigenous reporting has profoundly transformed the landscape of journalism. Transmitted directly from site of production, the images have inundated all possible venues of distribution and reception, from television to social media to even radio (it is not uncommon to hear the sound of videos on radio). This phenomenon has effected the traditional methods of framing, selection, inclusion and exclusion, dissemination and positioning of images and has opened up the possibilities of representation to unprecedented extent. The formerly excluded from frames of representatbility, ‘technically’ have now the means of representation previously unavailable to them.  Other than the larger social/political implications of this visual tsunami, and consequent theoretical battles, the production and reception of the image itself has fundamentally changed. This is due to the fact that the move to and from abstraction and the various aesthetic categories and genre distinctions it entailed are rendered untenable.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

Documentary, journalism and all modes of representation that relied on the technical images’ claim to truth, generally refrained from formal abstraction (unless the footage was produced under particular circumstances, and was usually highly edited or left out of the final cut). Sharp pans and tilts, rapid zoom in/out, swinging the camera around, running with camera running, instant cuts, etc, in various combinations all belonged to the experimental realm or formal investigations.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

In the new images, digital zoom inserts pixels into reality.  Rapid zooms can turn buildings and landscapes into lines and plains, zoom out into buildings and landscapes again. War zone pans into the picturesque tilts into monochrome. Pixels could suddenly turn into rubble, and cobble stones and gravel can at once turn into pixels. Interview turns into conversation to commentary to narrative, into rambling, murmurs and shouts, into jokes, into orders. The camera makes no distinctions between the stretcher and the barbed-wire, the sniper and the runaway sneakers, crying babies and the food dispensers. These instantaneous moves from representation to abstraction and vice versa are now commonplace in big and small media and the viewers have easily accepted this type of imagery. By exposing the pixels, [digital] abstraction moves to data and back, the person working the camera and the camera at work.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

 

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