« The digital age of anything-is-possible and everything-has-been-done-before. »

“the absence of truth is an inescapable
fact of photographic life”


The photograph emerged in the 19th century as an instrument for verifying reality: whatever was photographed was real. Nowadays, this authentication-of-reality function falls to Google and, depending on the results we find, the quantity of responses and how convincing they are, we either believe it or we don’t. However, in the same way that we can manipulate a photo, so too can Google be manipulated. What is the first thing a counterfeiter would do these days? They would enter information on the Internet so that when we look for a certain thing we would find a plausible number of results that reassure us. That is why we must maintain a sense of scepticism.

Post-photography is something else entirely, not necessarily because the technology has evolved but because it corresponds to a completely different context. Why do we need images today? We need them to tell us “I’ve arrived”, to tell us “I’m coming”, to tell us “look what I’ve seen”. Photographs have become our voice, our words.

In post-photography, images become a message and therefore shatter one of the major historical functions of photographs: memory. These days, we take a photograph, send it and delete it, because once we have transmitted whatever content we wanted, there is no sense in keeping it. In the past, when images were more valuable and less common, this duty to preserve memory was inherent in photographic images, but nowadays it’s just an option. Before, creating a memory was an obsession, now it’s an option.

The overabundance of photographs is also a form of censorship, because it prevents us from finding what we need. Traditional censorship consisted of banning an image; now, censorship involves giving you an image and ten million more so that the one you are looking for is obscured.

The selfie and the selfie stick take precedence as proof that we are here. In contrast to Roland Barthes’ “ça a été”, or “that has been”, inherent to photography, these days we say “I was there”. We’ve gone from a document to registering ourselves in a place and time.

In the past, photographs were for private consumption: they were for us and us alone; at most, we showed them to a small circle of people. Today, in comparison, the aim of images is to build social consensus, to become an element of communication. They are images that are made to be shown to a generic group of recipients. These days, privacy does not exist, it has gone to a better place. Almost everything is public and everything is shared. As for Snapchat, it seems to be a good example for understanding the difference between photography and post-photography. Snapchat is the great metaphor for a photograph that is taken, completes its task — to transmit certain information — and then automatically disappears.

The main argument of the book was that digitisation brought
about a reconfiguration of the relation between photography and truth that was
seen as very much necessary within a nascent postmodern understanding of the
world and our relation to it. Against what Mitchell describes as an essentially
positivist medium, put to pseudo-scientific uses, digital photography appeared
as the corrective which “has irrevocably subverted these certainties, forcing us
to adopt a far more wary and more vigilant interpretive stance”