Selections from Almost White by Bernhard Garnicnig (source: flickr – images taken between 29 Mar 2006 & 04 Aug 2010)
Photographs taken to set a camera’s white balance.
“Almost all cameras allow the user to set the photographic white point manually. To make this setting on some cameras, you have to shoot a picture of a usually white surface and set it as the white point reference.
These pictures, usually deleted right after confirming the setting, question the concept of subjective realities in the photographic process and document the photographers surroundings from his part unconscious, part mechanic eye. This is one of the last kinds of photography where no post processing is applied by a human while it shows how much the camera is manipulating the image already.
Its one of the last snapshots of photographic truth in the digital imaging age.” — B. Garnicnig
So much of the world is left on the cutting room floor. This is a necessary part of relating experience, whether in the transmission of factual information or the telling of story based on fact. Not every detail is needed in order to give a general picture or to convey the essence of an idea or experience, nor can every detail be captured, recalled, or communicated. Exactly what is omitted reveals the circumstances (bias) around and through which the material aspects of an experience are transformed by the process of relating and crafted into media.
Where lived subjective experience is often filled or obscured by the mediated experience of information displayed or rendered through electronics, today those scraps are increasingly difficult to find. Our culture of digitally mediated exchanges has been carefully structured to remove the perception of the framework through which we conduct our daily activities. The unwanted bits are tucked away on our hard-drives or tossed in the recycling bin—in some cases, deleted in-camera. Everything is curated, edited, cleaned and polished (even the raw webcam feed is a considered choice to convey honesty).
It’s not so much an issue of noise—the din of cellphone rings, tinny ear buds cranked way too high, the drone of our air handling systems and refrigeration units, the screeching, grinding and rumbling of our transportation machines is certainly something we will not easily rid ourselves of—the dust that imposed itself on the grooves of a record, the grain of a piece of paper and the pen-in-hand overcoming it to scrawl a letter, the grit of static and dead air between the stations, are all disappearing.
It is not so much a sense of nostalgia but a reflection, looking back on where we were but a few years ago, while understanding that today digital media strives for higher levels of fidelity (which ironically force television personalities to pursue more extreme methods to alter their physical appearance; this in addition to the artificial sharpening and saturation applied to just about every image these days) in an attempt to look forward into the potential media of the future where everything is so radically fabricated and manipulated that there is no honesty, no substance, no reality left but a simulated phantom of what once was.
What is striking to me about Bernhard’s Almost White series is that it brings to the surface issues of the photographic medium, how its digitization has been quietly accepted as Photography wholesale. The question of what makes photography different than digital imaging has been unearthed. By using these artifacts as evidence of the manipulation nearly every digital image undergoes, Bernard opens the door to questioning the honesty behind every media image. Even tempting us to ask exactly how staged are these white balance calibration shots? Has “fidelity” in the digital (dark) age become a matter of passing off artificially enhanced hyper-realism as reality? Or has it becomes something more subtle, staging reality in such a way that the extraordinary seems mundane?