David Levi Strauss
[Writer and critic, b. 1953, Junction City, Kansas, lives in New York.]

 The first question must always be: Who is using this photograph, and to what end? 
 Photographic images used to be about the trace. Digital images are about the flow. 
 It’s not that we mistake photographs for reality; we prefer them to reality. 
 One terrible truth about photographs is that they can only ever show us what happened, never what is happening or will happen. They are always about something that is gone, and so are in league with death. 
 Access to images and information has certainly increased, but has this led to better informed citizens? No. It has led to more docile, who spend more of their time collecting images and information… and less time on analysis, critical thinking, or real “socializing.” 
 Images online are both more ephemeral (in form) and more substantial (in number). They flicker across our eyes and jitter through our minds at incredible speeds. We spend more time collecting and sorting images, but less time looking at any one of them. One can never step into the same data-stream twice. 
 Photographs by themselves certainly cannot tell ‘the whole truth’—they are only instants. 
 The idea that the more transformed or ‘aestheticized’ an image is, the less ‘authentic’ or valuable it becomes, is one that needs to be seriously questioned. Why can’t beauty be a call to action? 
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