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Tatorte (Sternfeld, Joel), 1996The Shadow (Der Schatten) (Calle, Sophie), 1981L’Hôtel (Calle, Sophie)

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the securing of criminal evidence—uses that have been adopted by artistic photography in many ways (for instance «On this site» (Crime scenes) by Joel Sternfeld, or «The Shadow» and «l´Hôtel» by Sophie Calle). [10]

Photography's promise of reality, [11] which goes beyond realistic depiction, is based on this physico-chemically based indexicality: because it claims to be capable of verifying reality. In doing so, indexicality relates only to the «photographic act,» [12] the moment of releasing the image; all of the other factors that lend meaning to the photographic image—choice and choreography of the subject, processing the print, material and discursive contextualization—are blended out in the process.

Mechanical Reproduction

In early proto-photographic experiments, the search for a simplified process for duplicating existing masters was equally as important as the goal of fixing the camera obscura's images. As early as the 1820s, Niépce dealt with the transfer of engravings onto lightsensitive carrier material, which was then meant to serve as a printing plate. Talbot, whose positive/negative process


provided the prerequisite for what was in principle the infinite duplicability of photographs, also had in mind the production of «multiplying at small expense copies of rare or unique engravings.» [13] Indeed, the reproduction of works of art and historical monuments from throughout the world advanced to one of the most successful branches of photography in the nineteenth century. In his canonic essay «The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical ReproductionWalter Benjamin described the resulting consequences for the function of art as the loss of its aura: Outside of their context—released from the here and now—works of art lose their uniqueness as originals and thus their cultural value. Assembled in an «imaginary museum» [14] and disregarding their original function and integration into a cultural context, works of different origins and of different epochs can be compared as purely visual data (surfaces). This kind of comparison was first made possible by form analysis, thus establishing an aesthetics based on the history of style at the end of the nineteenth century. At the same time, however, the photographic ‹parity› of artifacts goes beyond the boundaries of disciplinary aesthetics: Aby Warburg,

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