Friday, August 07, 2009

Towards A Philosophy of Photography by Vilém Flusser

The difference between the old and the new form of witchcraft may be so formulated: Pre-historical magic is a ritualization of models called "myths," and the current magic is a ritualization of models called “programs.” Myths are models transmitted orally by an author who is "god," that is, someone who stands outside the communicative process. Programs are models transmitted in writing by authors who are "functionnaries," that is, people who stand within the communicative process.

the majority of people is currently occupied in servicing the programming and controlling activity of the apparatus. Prior to the invention of apparatus, this kind of activity was somehow peripheral, and used to be called "services," "mental," "the tertiary sector," and so on. It has now become central, which is why any future critique of culture must substitute the category "work" with the category "information."

‘The camera is not a tool, but a toy, and the photographer is not a worker as such, but a player: not "homo faber," but "homo ludens." Except: the photographer does not play with, but against, his toy. He crawls into the cam-era in order to discover the tricks hidden there. The pre-industrial craftsman was surrounded by tools, and the industrial machine was surrounded by workers, but the photographer is within the camera, intricaled in it. This is a new kind of relationship, where man is neither the constant nor the variable, but one where mart and apparatus form a single function-unit. This is why the photographer should be called the "functionnaire" of an apparatus.

photographs constitute a magical circle which surrounds us in the form of the photographic universe. It is this circle which we must break through.

download the whole essay here


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