The physical image, a product of paper and chemistry, has existed since the birth of photography as an unavoidable component in the process. The inaugural edition of the pocketbook series Materialities explores topics related to photographs as material objects. It is only through the proliferation of digital image-making technologies that we have come to scrutinize the value of the material image. In other words, we are losing our relationship to physical images. The ability to sit down with a family album or flip through Polaroids are becoming rare occurrences, at least in proportion to how many digital images are created daily. This, a crisis of modern times, is the loss of our physical relationship to photos and the cultural subtexts embedded in the practice of possessing physical photos.
As a result of what has been called a ”‘physical image deficit” artists and writers are increasingly contemplating the importance of physical images. Some artists are collecting and re-appropriating images, while others are questioning the authenticity of the document through projects that manipulate and collage physical images. Writers are tracing the history of the photographic prints and the importance of tangible objects in a digital society, while other initiatives are helping bolster analogue communities. It is with the physical image and these social actors in mind that Materialities is undertaken. The goal is to revisit our relationship to the material image at a point in time when it is in crisis.
With the exception of the Dutch publisher and all-around guru creative Erik Kessels, the following contributors—Christopher Pinney, Craig Campbell, Jon Wagner, and Derek Sayer are established educators working in social sciences fields ranging from cultural anthropology to visual studies/photography. My own contribution to this publication straddles the space between creatives like Kessels and academics like Wagner and Sayer. As a photographer and researcher, for the past few years I have been navigating the space between popular forms of creation, that is being a photographer, and the academic process of writing by adopting rigor and methodology.
From what I have witnessed there is a much-needed dialogue between those who primarily create (photographers) and those who critique (academics). There seems to be a disconnect between the two groups, possibly explained by varying views, approaches and intent. There have been exemplary instances of when photographers and academics engage with one another and although this occurrence is rare, the results are powerful. I believe that establishing an ongoing dialogue between the two groups can result in new outcomes for creating. It is important to note that this is not a one-sided exchange, each has something to learn from the other. This is to be thought of as a mutual and reciprocal undertaking. With this in mind, the writers have been chosen from areas that most photographers and photography enthusiasts are unlikely to have come in contact with.
In the golden age of photography, these authors are still largely on the outside of photo-specific conversations. This collection brings their insights and incorporates them into mainstream discussions on photography Simply put, their work has influenced my creative practice by challenging me to think about photography from a unique perspective and I hope it does something similar for you.