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Continuities and differences between photographic and post-photographic mediality
Susanne Holschbach


At the end of the 1980s through the beginning of the 1990s, photo curators, art and media theorists began to examine the significance of electronic image technology for the status and the practice of photography. [1] The rapid permeation of digitally processed photographs in the commercial and journalistic areas, the introduction of relatively high-performance and reasonably priced PCs, software, scanners, printers, etc., which made electronic image processing accessible to artists and amateurs as well, gave cause to speak of an epoch-making turning point: «From the moment of its sesquincentennial in 1989 photography was dead—or, more precisely, radically and permanently displaced—as was painting 150 years before.» [2]

However, the focus on the difference between analog and digital media, which in the second half of the twentieth century advanced to become the dominant difference in media history and theory, [3] conceals their common starting point in the nineteenth century and the radical turning point associated with the invention of photography: As the first technical imaging method, it ushered in the


radical change between ‹old› and ‹new› media. In this sense, the media theorists Marshall McLuhan and Vilém Flusser, both of whom think in terms of generously measured eras, place photography at the beginning of the information age and the telematic society. In his anthology «Understanding Media,» [4] which was first published in 1964, McLuhan writes: «Photography was … decisive in making the break between mere mechanical industrialization and the graphic age of electronic man.» In his work «Ins Universum der technischen Bilder» (Into the universe of technical images), which was published 20 years after McLuhan's, Flusser establishes that «technical images are a completely new type of media, even though in many respects they may be reminiscent of traditional images, and that they have a completely different ‹meaning› than traditional images. In short: they are indeed about a cultural revolution.» [5] Both of them see the age of the computer as a consequence or a continuation of this ‹photographic revolution.› Following McLuhan and Flusser in this respect, this contribution begins with a return to the fundamental qualities of photographic mediality and their manifestation in the various ways

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