Typology
Title
Author
Text

MEMORY

Estelle Blaschke

Photography is a mechanical eye and a copying device. It is a medium for visualizing and representing the visible world with the help of the camera and, at the same time, an instrument for reproducing images.

Photography is a mechanical eye and a copying device. It is a medium for visualizing and representing the visible world with the help of the camera and, at the same time, an instrument for reproducing images.

The notion of mechanical reproducibility, so fundamental to photography, refers to two conceptually and historically distinct processes: the creation of an image through a mechanical process on the one hand, and the production of multiple identical images from a single negative or digital master on the other. Photography produces and reproduces. Its special characteristic as a means of recording is its unparalleled ability to capture detail. In its function as an information technology, it stores the visual content on photographic film or in a digital file. It can then be recreated, viewed, replicated, and reused in a wide variety of forms and formats, independent of time and place. With photography, images become mobile.

The ability to produce and reproduce images of all kinds at low cost and with comparatively little effort made photography, alongside writing, an instrument of the archive. It enabled the accumulation of images in photo archives, which are repositories of visual memory. The history of photography has therefore always also been a history of bringing things into a certain order and of devising organizational tools, from the photo album to the contact sheet, the card catalogue to the image search engine. Photo archives serve a variety of purposes: they contain visual documentation of people, places, and events; they are operated for commercial purposes or to expand surveillance systems; they support scientific work and, in the second half of the nineteenth century, were instrumental in the development of numerous scientific disciplines such as anthropology, astronomy, medicine, and art history. In and through photographs, historical, political, and cultural memory is formed, controlled, and preserved.

Digital technology and the digitization of images emphasize and reinforce photography’s storage and copying function: whether as record or document, scan or screenshot, photographs convert things of all shapes and sizes into a processable format, detaching their original content from their contexts and in turn giving rise to new collections, new contexts, and potentially new visual memories.

Die Fotografie ist ein mechanisches Auge und ein Kopiergerät. Sie ist ein Medium zur Visualisierung und Repräsentation der sichtbaren Welt mit Hilfe der Kamera und gleichzeitig ein Instrument zur Reproduktion von Bildern.

Die Idee der mechanischen Reproduzierbarkeit, die für die Fotografie so grundlegend ist, bezieht sich auf zwei konzeptionell und historisch unterschiedliche Prozesse: einerseits die Erzeugung eines Bildes durch einen mechanischen Vorgang und andererseits die Herstellung mehrerer identischer Bilder von einem einzigen Negativ oder von einer digitalen Vorlage. Die Fotografie produziert und reproduziert. Ihr besonderes Merkmal als Aufzeichnungsmittel ist ihre unvergleichliche Fähigkeit, Details zu erfassen. In ihrer Funktion als Informationstechnologie speichert sie den visuellen Inhalt auf einem fotografischen Film oder in einer digitalen Datei. Dieser kann dann unabhängig von Zeit und Ort in den unterschiedlichsten Formen und Formaten wiederhergestellt, betrachtet, vervielfältigt und weiterverwendet werden. Mit der Fotografie werden Bilder mobil.

Die Fähigkeit, Bilder aller Art kostengünstig und mit vergleichsweise geringem Aufwand zu produzieren und reproduzieren, machte die Fotografie neben der Schrift zu einem wichtigen archivarischen Instrument. Sie ermöglichte das Sammeln von Bildern in Fotoarchiven, die Speicher des visuellen Gedächtnisses sind. Die Geschichte der Fotografie war daher immer auch eine Geschichte der Herstellung von Ordnung mit Hilfe ihrer Werkzeuge, vom Fotoalbum zum Kontaktbogen, vom Zettelkatalog zur Bildsuchmaschine. Fotoarchive dienen einer Vielzahl unterschiedlicher Zwecke: Sie enthalten visuelle Dokumentationen von Menschen, Orten und Ereignissen, sie werden zu kommerziellen Zwecken oder zum Ausbau von Überwachungssystemen betrieben, sie unterstützen die wissenschaftliche Arbeit, und sie waren in der zweiten Hälfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts maßgeblich an der Entwicklung zahlreicher wissenschaftlicher Disziplinen wie der Anthropologie, Astronomie, Medizin und Kunstgeschichte beteiligt. In und durch Fotografien wird das historische, politische und kulturelle Gedächtnis geformt, kontrolliert und bewahrt.

Die digitale Technologie und die Digitalisierung von Bildern betonen und verstärken die Speicher- und Kopierfunktion der Fotografie. Ob als Aufzeichnung oder Dokument, Scan oder Screenshot: Fotografien verwandeln Dinge aller Formen und Größen in ein bearbeitbares Format, lösen ihren ursprünglichen Inhalt aus seinem Kontext und formen dadurch neue Sammlungen, neue Sinnzusammenhänge und potenziell neue visuelle Speicher.

La fotografia è un occhio meccanico e un dispositivo per la copia. È un mezzo per visualizzare e rappresentare il mondo visibile con l’ausilio di una macchina e al tempo stesso uno strumento per la riproduzione di immagini. 

L’idea della riproducibilità meccanica, tanto fondamentale in fotografia, si riferisce a due processi concettualmente e storicamente distinti: la creazione di un’immagine attraverso un sistema meccanico da una parte e la produzione di più immagini identiche da un singolo negativo o master digitale dall’altra. La fotografia produce e riproduce. Il tratto peculiare della sua natura di mezzo di registrazione sta nella capacità ineguagliabile di catturare i dettagli. La sua funzione nell’ambito della tecnologia dell’informazione consiste nell’archiviare contenuto visivo su pellicola fotografica o in un file digitale. Può essere ricreata, vista, replicata e riusata in un’ampia gamma di forme e formati, senza vincoli di tempo e di luogo. Con la fotografia, le immagini diventano mobili. 

La capacità di produrre e riprodurre immagini di tutti i tipi a costi ridotti e con uno sforzo relativamente contenuto ha fatto della fotografia, come della scrittura, uno strumento utile nell’ambito dell’archivio. Questo medium ha consentito la raccolta di immagini in archivi fotografici, che sono depositi di memoria visiva. Per questo motivo, la storia della fotografia è sempre stata, tra l’altro, una storia della collocazione delle cose in un certo ordine, così come dell’ideazione di strumenti per la loro organizzazione, dall’album fotografico ai provini a contatto, dallo schedario al motore di ricerca di immagini. Gli archivi fotografici servono molti scopi: contengono una documentazione visiva di persone, luoghi ed eventi; sono consultati per fini commerciali o per espandere i sistemi di sorveglianza; supportano la ricerca scientifica e, nella seconda metà del XIX secolo, sono stati fondamentali per l’evoluzione di numerose discipline come l’antropologia, l’astronomia, la medicina e la storia dell’arte. Nelle fotografie, attraverso le fotografie, si è formata, controllata e preservata la memoria storica, politica e culturale. 

La tecnologia digitale e la digitalizzazione delle immagini enfatizzano e potenziano le funzioni di archiviazione e duplicazione della fotografia: in forma di dati o documenti, scansioni o screenshot, le fotografie convertono oggetti di qualsiasi forma o dimensione in un formato processabile, svincolando il loro contenuto dal contesto di origine e dando vita a loro volta a nuove raccolte, nuovi contesti e potenzialmente nuove memorie visive. 

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Quote

If you don’t have a photographic memory, get one.

Kodak, 1966

Wenn Sie kein fotografisches Gedächtnis haben, besorgen Sie sich eins.

Source: Kodak ad for the Recordak Miracode System, 1966. George Eastman House, Legacy Collection.

Quote

[Photographs are] not so much an instrument of memory as an invention of it or a replacement.

Susan Sontag, 1973

[Fotografien sind] nicht so sehr ein Werkzeug der Erinnerung, als vielmehr deren Erfindung oder Ersatz.

Source: Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), p. 128. 

Quote

The issues raised by electronic technology become that much more difficult to grapple with if one does not take the photograph itself seriously.

Fred Ritchin, 1990

Es wird immer schwieriger, sich mit Fragen auseinanderzusetzen, die durch elektronische Technologien aufgeworfen werden, wenn man die Photographie an sich nicht ernst nimmt.

Source: Fred Ritchin, In Our Own Image. The Coming Revolution in Photography (New York: Aperture, 1990), p. 145. 

Typology
Title
Author
Artwork

DIF_000461_12

Armin Linke
Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, Photothek, Florence, Italy, 2018.
This image combines different moments in the history of photographic library techniques: the card catalogue, the key to searching the photo library; the white stand-up display detailing the terms of the library’s scanning and copying services; and the surveillance camera, placed atop the cabinet.
Artwork

DIF_000909_177

Armin Linke
Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Picturae, the Entomology Conveyor, processing and digitizing insects, Berlin, Germany, 2022.
For the digitization of its Entomology collection, comprising millons of specimen, the Museum of Natural History collaborated with the private Dutch company Picturae, which invests in the preservation, management, and enhancement of culturally significant historical collections. 
Artwork

DIF_000600_115

Armin Linke
Italian Geographic Military Institute (IGMI), archive of historical photo negatives, Florence, Italy, 2019.
View of the IGMI archive office where photographic prints, and models related to aerial photography, cartography, and photogrammetry are collected. 
Archival

REF_000475_39

Kodak ad for the Recordak Miracode System, 1966. George Eastman House, Legacy Collection.
Advert for Kodak’s Recordak Miracode System: “If you don’t have a photographic memory, get one.” This short-lived machine, designed by Kodak, employed the photographic film as data storage in combination with an electronic retrieval system.  
Archival

REF_000506_1

Photographer unknown, Recordak viewing devices on a photo labelled “Detroit, 1940”.
University of Rochester, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP), Kodak Historical Collection. Alongside the typewriter, these early microfilm readers paved the way for adapting user behavior to reading on screen and preparing them for the entry of visual machines in study room and office settings.
Archival

REF_000475_33

Recordak ad, published in the Fortune Magazine, May 1965. George Eastman House, Legacy Collection.
Object

REF_000927_3

Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think: A top U.S. scientist foresees a possible future world in which man-made machines will start to think,” in Life Magazine, Bd. 19, Nr. 11, September 1945, S. 112f.
In 1945, scientist and engineer Vannevar Bush presented his “memory machine”—the Memex—through which unprecedented amounts of photographically copied information were to be stored and retrieved. Even though Bush’s design could not be put into practice, the Memex is considered a prototype for today’s search engines.
Video

Interview

Sarah Scott Kubiak

Getty Images,Iron Mountain Data Center, Boyers (PA), USA, 19.03.2018, 3 min
Head archivist Sarah Scott Kubiak gives a tour through the extensive collections in the subzero preservation vault comprising over 18 million items.