Photography Sets the Image Free
About the lecture
Photography is commonly understood as a static medium that 'freezes' the moment.
This characterisation of photography privileges certain kinds of practice, draws a sharp distinction between it and moving-image media such as film and video, imagines the photograph as primarily a print, and underpins arguments about the predatory nature of photography and about the novelty of digital images.
In her inaugural lecture, and through a close reading of aspects of Walter Benjamin’s Little History of Photography (1931) Michelle Henning argued for a different understanding of photography as something that sets images loose.
Benjamin, following the art historian Heinrich Schwarz, characterised the photographs of David Octavius Hill in terms that would shape his theory of “aura” as an oscillation between distance and proximity.
Drawing on her background in art history, cultural studies and artistic practice, Henning discussed this oscillation, this slipperiness of the image, in relation to questions of academic and artistic freedom, as well as in relation to ideas of imagination, contemplation and attention.