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2018, Jan 10
Rodrigo Zúñiga, La extensión fotográfica

Zúñiga, Rodrigo. La extensión fotográfica: ensayo sobre el triunfo de lo fotográfico. Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Metales pesados, 2013.

Found on a recent trip to Mexico City.

The book (a collection of five essays written separately) is an attempt to account for photography’s contemporary situation, that is to say its condition as a digital object. Some of Zúñiga’s ideas are worthwhile. For example, he argues cogently that we should not succumb to the discourse of the end of photography. While the strictly indexical model of photography that Barthes took to be stable ontological ground is now nothing more than “aesthetic region,” this is only a segment of the much broader space that the photographic now takes up. (81) The point here, in short, is that “the end of indexical hegemony does not mean the end of photography.” (80) Well and good. I’m also more or less in line with the idea that seems to drive his project as a whole: “we find ourselves obligated to rethink photographic potentiality [la potencia photográfica] itself, now that it seems to determine—in the age of connections and exchanges of images on a global scale—dynamics and processes of subjectification that we could not have even imagined until a few decades ago.” (8) This is an alluring formulation, but here problems creep in. Zúñiga is a philosopher, and so he does not introduce any concrete examples of photography in order to support his position. The result is that the essay (I’m referring to the titular one) comes across as ahistorical, if not simply presentist. In other words, for all that Zúñiga wants to make clear that the digital has not destroyed the validity of the concept of the photographic, he also has not made it clear exactly what is new about digital technology. But without any reference to, say, the 1930s, it seems a bit strange to suggest that photography has never before produced subjects in the way it does now. I don’t think this is convincing, and it’s a frustrating quality of philosophy that it operates in such an abstract way.

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