The Photographic Image in Digital Culture – Martin Lister

I had identified that this book was extremely likely to be beneficial to me as I have become increasingly interested in the digital age and the impact on the image. In relation to my symposium however there was one chapter that appeared to be more relevant than the others so I made the decision to focus on that however there were some points in the introduction that could be useful too. My notes and the evaluation can be seen below…


  • There is more photography than ever and this has become hard to grasp
  • We should approach photography as a socio-technical object’
  • Photography can be perceived as hybrid and relational
  • Photography appears to be everywhere and nowhere
  • Is photography a ghost medium or a residual practice
  • The theory of photography must be studied with the theory of software and computation
  • Visa: Pur L’Image is a French photojournalist festival
  • Will photography (along with other elements) and software become one meta-media?
  • Phrase ‘it has been photoshopped’ has become part of society
  • Software automates, simulates and augments an existing medium whilst adding functionality
  • Nina Lager Vestburg is a picture research for the Guardian, they moved premises to suit the digital age
  • Getty Images have expanded their interests and reach into a ‘crowd-sourced’ stock

Chapter 11 – Blurring Boundaries (Stuart Allen)

  • Andy Grundberg (1990) of New York Times said that with film, photography was always rushing to keep up with news and now it’s the other way around
  • Digital world usurped the photojournalist mainly because of television – now images and articles support television
  • Pat Kane from London’s Sunday Times said “the claim of the photographic to bear true witness is currently collapsing from in side and outside” – the digital image culture will bring knowledge for the public to decide what is real and what is not
  • Life Magazine folded in 1972 – people said that photojournalism was dead
  • Digital cameras meant that photojournalism could compete with TV
  • In the UK especially photojournalists and paparazzi were being confused (in the lead up to Diana’s death)
  • Journalism on the Internet was changing to journalism of the Internet
  • 911 was one of the major catalysts for the increase of citizen journalism (less than ten minutes after the first plane was hit, there were eyewitness accounts on the internet)
  • Columbia Space Shuttle explosion in 2003 – the image from cardiologist Scott Lieberman taken with an SLR
  • Similarly was the case of Iraq Prison Abu Gharib where the citizens actually involved took images
  • The Asian Tsunami also showcased the power of the citizen journalist – the eyewitness imagery would and could contribute massively to mainstream media
  • Citizen journalism is bottom-up contribution
  • With the London bombings there was a lack of information so news organisations collated images/footage from citizens to produce a comprehensive view on the event
  • Nick Danziger photojournalist from ‘The Times’ said recording human existence was not a job for the amateur as professional journalism goes beyond the eyewitness and delves into inquiry
  • Yahoo and Reuters wanted citizen journalists to contribute and ‘work’ for the company/news service
  • Citizen journalists inspired a celebratory language of revolution
  • New technology has made it easier to capture and distribute imagery
  • ‘Incorrigible sensationalist’ – hooked irreversibly on subject matter designed to please
  • Kyle MacRae “if you can only find a way for them to sell their stuff, you have the potential to create something very big”
  • Flickr and Twitter would be the next foreboding challenge to photojournalism’s discursive authority
  • Vinukumar Ranganathan, Mumbai Colaba attack – he posted a slideshow of 112 images on Flickr, London’s Daily Telegraph stated it was the best first hand account
  • Aran Shanbhag used Twitter to upload audio and Flickr to upload photographs and told the New York Times he had a “responsibility to share my view with the world”
  • Janis Krums used iPhone to upload a photo of US Airways emergency landing in Hudson River to TwitPic
  • Citizen journalists have redefined the power of information with some footage exposing officials such as the police to be lying
  • Content from citizen journalists can be left completely unseen unless a professional journalist funds and uses it effectively
  • In the London Riots, professionals and citizens collaborated together however uneven – photojournalists with SLR’s just weren’t safe (Lewis Whyld from the Press Association switched to using his Blackberry and the images were published in newspapers around the world, the photographs themselves helped to incriminate people and count for losses claims)
  • Photojournalism is in a state of flux, open to a new definition
  • Citizen witnessing has proven to be powerful and useful in terms of exposing and telling news events
  • What is gained in immediacy is lost by skill – David Levene (Guardian Photography)
  • Many news organisations are struggling and need to cut costs therefore photojournalists are considered a luxury in terms of expenditure
  • Some photojournalists have transformed their practice to resemble that of a documentary photographer, drawing their process out and choosing exhibitions to display their work
  • The rigid ‘us’ and ‘them’ binaries will prompt questions regarding the integrity of norms, values and protocols


There are many perceptive points in this chapter and there is a lot of content examining citizen journalism which is a subject I plan to discuss in my research paper. I am particularly interested in the role of the smartphone as a tool in citizen and professional photojournalism which is something Stephen Mayes also addresses so I can combine the two ideologies together. In addition to this, Charlie Beckett writes on citizen journalism so I can integrate his viewpoint as well to form a comprehensive argument. The Abu Gharib Case is definitely an influential example of the way in which social media and the citizen have become influential in the digital age of photojournalism as the citizen can be a producer and publisher of content. I plan to address the relationship and opposition between social media and conventional media in an independent blog post however I feel it might not be quite important enough to address in my research paper as it is more of a comparison rather than an examination with a moral behind it. There are various case studies such as the Scott Lieberman image of the Columbia Space Shuttle and the case of the London Riots which I will definitely be considering using in my research paper because I believe that they are influential and relevant examples to use. The book itself does appear to be quite current in the discussions and case studies used, I did try and address the fact that book sources might not be recent enough in relation to discussing the current state of photojournalism by seeking the most recent edition of this book. In response I believe that I have obtained current, effective and topical information and this content will be very influential in the writing of my research paper.


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