Jan Babnik

Jan Babnik

  • University of Primorska / Ljubljana
  • The Faculty of Humanities
Participant in 2013

Phd Projects


Documentary and Transparency

Walter Benjamin’s and Vilém Flusser's imperative of photography as a media which should exploit its potential of discovering and revealing is in deep contrast with modernistic notion of photography as the media which is focused on exploiting its formal, representative, and in case of documentary - highly referential potential. The imperative put forward by the two authors is ever more actual while reflecting upon contemporary photography, especially those practices which are more oriented towards investigation and research and are focusing at the same time on both: the investigation of its subject matter and of the representative ability of the media itself. Such practices must no longer be limited by the classical division of the two contrasting poles of documentary and art – on the divide which is best understood through rapture between photojournalism paradigm (in general this is a discourse that focuses on the notions of: real, representation, documentation, testimony) and art photography paradigm (a discourse that focuses on the notions of creativity and depiction). Photo collages, found images, constructed narratives, mockumentaries, assisted photographs, have indeed become almost a norm for such practices, still precariously oscillating between the investigative and the representative ability of photography (oftentimes even using the tactic of dissimulation). But the investigative imperative carries in itself a particular change in the notion of author – photographer which is now quite distinct from the one presupposed by the modernist tradition of though on photography. The thesis will try to point on the role and the function of documentary photographer in view of contemporary media, distribution and production conditions. In essence it will trace the changing notion and understanding of contemporary photography through the changing notion of the photographer itself with focus on notions such as: representation, self-representation, reification, “photo-genesis” and objectivity. Through examples of contemporary documentary projects, media representation of events the thesis will follow the logic that drives the transformation of a photographer as a classical producer of images into a photographer as a producer of photographers (enabling the becoming of photographs – the “photo-genesis” of the world) and a transformation of a photographer into a critic, a decipher, skilled reader of images. The thesis argues than in view of contemporary media condition of the world the image of a photographer as the being denoted primary by his or hers gaze through the viewfinder of the camera is no longer pertinent and should be reconsidered. Keywords: documentary, transparency of the media, research and photography, investigative photography, author and photography, “photo-genesis”, Vilém Flusser, Walter Benjamin

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