The Democratic Image: Introduction

April 3, 2007

by John Perivolaris, chairman and co-organiser of the Democratic Image

The Gulf Wars, 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, Abu Ghraib mark changes in the currency of both the political and visual economies of representation that are redefining democracy in ways that are not yet clear.

While democracy currently serves as the questionable banner under which the current world superpower goes to war in foreign lands, access to the media of visual representation has undergone a radical democratisation driven by the same digital technologies that are consolidating the ability of global capitalism to project its power across cultures by economic or bellicose means.

In this context, what is the meaning of democracy? Can unprecedented access to visual means of self-representation on a global scale translate into meaningful representation in a sociopolitical sphere increasingly mediated by digital technologies? Is the basic condition of the new world order of digitised democracy a creative consent to capitalism? Can a democratic republic of photography be glimpsed on the horizon?

Photography’s investment in the visual economy of globalisation is now more than ever ironically obliged to recognise the inequalities of access to technologies of digital representation in the year that Time Magazine voted `You’, the citizens of a virtual world brought together by Web 2.0, as `The Person of the Year

Norway’s Foreign Minister recently declared that `far away’ is a concept that does not exist anymore. At the same time, Stuart Hall has reminded us that globalisation has `knitted together’ grimly unequal parts of the world. This being so, he asks how people are to occupy the same global space. How much difference can the democratic image tolerate?

It is questions such as these that The Democratic Image raises and which its participants will address, each in their own way.

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One comment

  1. Yes, who is visually representing who? And who has access to this representation? And who is checking the accuracies and inaccuracies, the truths and fabrications that photography is so wonderfully-poised to present?

    A Dutch newspaper printed an ‘un-tampered’, colour image taken just after the Atocha bombing in Madrid. In the foreground, a severed body part was present. One man purchased this paper in Holland, arrived to the UK and subsequently picked up a copy of The Guardian on the same day. He noticed that the same photograph was featured, this time with the body part muted in colour. Several UK papers featured the same photograph with the body part digitally removed entirely.

    Where do ethics feature in the democratisation of photography?

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