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"Cultural analytics, software studies, and photography." Interview by Gloria Sutton.
Foam no. 27, Summer 2011.


Gloria Sutton: What happens to formal issues like seriality or sequencing, when artists present photographs in a fixed order as opposed to thinking about them as a variable data set that you describe? Will the fixed formal attributes associated with analogue photography and film retain their significance? For example, does 16mm film's 16 frames per second no longer function as a reference for time within the conditions of digital seamlessness that you have articulated? What then become the mnemonic devices for time?

Lev Manovich: You raise a very important question. Now we have a born digital generation that never saw analogue cameras but still uses software applications to simulate the look of earlier analogue technologies. How long this will continue? This brings us back to the question of what is 'media.' For instance, what is photography's medium? Is this a valuable concept? Given all the scholarship on photography that traces its history from the 1830s till today, many people obviously think so. However, I find that highly problematic. I don't think we ever had a single medium of photography. Think about the very first daguerreotypes which required eight hours to capture an image and had a relatively low level of detail- and contemporary colour photographs shot with various lenses at high speed at a resolution in the dozens of mega pixels. Add to this all digital manipulations, which can be done with software. Think also of HDR and other techniques of computational photography, which rely on algorithms (as opposed to the manual use of image applications.) The resulting possibilities, image uses and aesthetics are so different that it is hard for me to accept that daguerreotypes and contemporary photography belong to the same medium. Perhaps there was never such a thing as photography. It was just a series of different media lumped together.

2011  Interview