Tuesday, July 18, 2006

modern visual culture

As I wind down my last week here at the photo agency in Milan, I thought I might as well do a retrospective. I feel so affected with my title and first sentence, sorry, I am going to be a bit academic. Deal. Yesterday, the woman after which the photo agency is named came in and asked me if I now understood how a photoagency worked. I responded yes and we went about our business. But the question got me thinking.

Before I arrived, I only imagined that the manipulation and trafficking of images (sounds like drugs no? sorry.) was fast and copious thanks to the digital age. Concepts like digital archiving and the trajectory of image from receival (is that even a word? no, reception. ha, receival, that doesn't even exist, thank you academic brain) to printing were both undefined, abstract. Arriving and being stuck on the forefront of the digitization process was, in theory, exciting. I was part of the digital age, ushering the agency into the 21st century for quick easy access to images, goodbye analog. Well, the process proved interminably (where are these words coming from?) boring, scanning images from movies starting with B from Borstal Boy to Bloodsport. I kept telling myself that this is an exciting process as I waited ten minutes to scan and identify 5 slides. The afternoons were spent sorting through the analog archive, one slide sheet at a time, looking for slides from certain companies we no longer represented. Though music alleviated the drudgery a little, the going was still slow. On the verge of insanity, and rethinking life, I finally changed jobs, not wanting to wait another week before switching up the all-day archive routine.

Upstairs in the sunlight, I worked with current photo projects coming in that needed preparation to be sold in Italia (wow that was instinctive writing, I was thinking Italy). Contact sheets, summaries in Italian, dog-earing magazines with marketable materials, burning CDs of images, in sum editorial research. My Italian improved with more conversation and my understanding of the flow of images from the picture desk to sales and into the archive now all made sense. Images move quickly here with reportages coming in, the world changing, movies coming out, people doing interesting things every day.

The amount of photos that come in here is astounding. Yesterday, for instance, I processed two scientific servizi (services, which is basically a dossier), two movies to be released and a reportage on children in Bangladesh rummaging through trash to find metal to sell in order to eat. Photographers have the power, by making connections in their community or when they travel, to uncover human interest stories and little known phenomenons. Then, they can capture that world and broadcast it to the world. Whether it be the gold-searching ninjas of Mongolia, the women of the PKK, or C├ęzanne's Provence, there is an even more immediate power of communication between photographer and audience. There is so much that happens in this world; while images don't really do anything to help, spreading the message to the world raises awareness and social consciousness. One would hope others live differently with that awareness of others. Photos become a marketable message, while also, on the other hand, serving simply as a means of visual draw to promote and illustrate a movie or a scientific breakthrough.

Nowadays, many more people can just snap a picture. It isn't that simple. There is a visual language, a way of capturing life, light, in order to transmit and provoke emotion, communicate message, or simply create a visually interesting picture. Or, perhaps, just take an image that illustrates an article. Just like words illustrate our way of seeing and feeling through text, photography transmits point of view in a more raw manner. Photos concretize the photographer's journey, what catches his eye, how she sees light. Each project that goes beyond the banal, communicates an individual view silently. Witnessing that clear enunciation pushes you back in reaction if only mentally but instinctually, realizing that the photo you are seeing goes beyond image on paper to art.


Carly said...

great post, actually.

good mix of humor and nonchalance mixed with total academia and a little nostalgia.


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