What is the Post-photographic Condition?


K Madhavan

The strange. The mundane. The lost. The found. And the unfound. The not-so-very-obvious, and the utterly obvious. The obviousless. The moment, fraught with anticipation, that has not yet come to be. The moment that has reached its full potential, filled, with all of nothing. Found objects. Found moments. Fleeting but interminable. Momentary but intractable. More is less. Less, so much more. Negative spaces. Not meant to balance, but to unbalance. Juxtaposed with negative content. Select the subject and frame it. Then unselect it and unframe it. Defocus it. Remove its immediate worth. The remains are then truly worthy. Break the rules or follow them. Forget them. Make them. Be truly unruly, visually. Just be. Simply, A to B. Be to see. To thine own self be true. Wherever that takes you. Stare into the abyss and the abyss may just stare back at you. Now do you see? The poetry? Of fact stranger than fiction? Of fiction wholly devoid of fact? Of the inescapably strange within the visibly mundane?

The question about the post-photographic condition was posed to us by a reader, and selected to be featured in this issue, in the second volume of ‘Tough Questions, Tough Answers’. I must say, some of these questions made us rethink our own understanding of the subject and the medium. Describing photography today as ‘postphotographic’ is apt, but not entirely easy to define. And so we thought of dedicating an entire issue to it, which we will down the line, but the question deserves to be answered.

It is odd that it is a bit difficult to trace the origin of the term… given that the condition is thought to have emerged in the internet era. It describes the unconditional, spontaneous production of images to serve the instantaneity of immediate and momentary need to use a camera within a social media driven landscape, where both photography and the camera are completely secondary. In earlier instances, I have described it as a mass consumption of photography, as opposed to thoughtful, carefully driven production of images. While this form of imagery is generally devoid of stereotyping as a mass, selective viewing through social media, even as an untinted mirror to our own generic realities, these images tend to propagate prejudices and ethnocentrism. It is, perhaps, somewhat of an irony that it takes a lyrical eye to see the joy, rhythms, and the artistry in these visuals.

On the other hand, there is the undeniable strength and power of intent in photography. Seen in the extremely moving works of Nick Ut, Showkat Nanda, and Nastaran Farjadpezeshk, the stories told, and the meaning within them, are plainly unmistakable, absolutely to anyone.

This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Better Photography. 

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