The Automated Photography Research Project is part of the MA in Photography at ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne with the support of the HES-SO, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland. Automated Photography is a continuation of the HES-SO Augmented Photography research project conducted at ECAL in 2016/2017, which aimed to question the mutability of the digital image. Automated Photography focuses on a specific aspect of these changes: it stems from the premise, that automation is a core process shaping contemporary photographic practices and visual culture. The project aims to critically investigate this notion by specifically examining five perspectives : the automation of capture systems (e.g. smartphones, lidar, UAVs, satellites), the creation of images without cameras (e.g. CGI, GAN), the automation of image processing, circulation and analysis (e.g. face filters, AR, machine vision, facial recognition), social and political implications of these images (e.g. race and gender biases, digital colonialism, digital identities, digital labour) and the automation of vision and agency (e.g. seeing machines, non-human photography).
For the past twenty years, many photographers have been integrating images produced autonomously by machines into their work. We witness a paradigm shift in the process of creating photography: From photographic capture in the strict sense to appropriation, automated and computational practices, which respond to a conception of space that is less and less built on the equivalence between the human eye and the machine.
The project is in-between theoretical and applied research: while it is necessary to contextualize the changes introduced by automation into a broader history of photography and visual culture, as well as into a theoretical reflection on the automated image, it is also essential to produce a tangible and factual understanding of their technical and aesthetic challenges. By combining an analytical and theoretical approach with a reflection resulting from the practical confrontation with these technical devices, the project aims to take advantage of the crossroads of these different fields. The synthesis is based on a practical approach (by applying these technologies), an aesthetic approach (by analysing the visual qualities of these devices and their creative potential) and a theoretical approach (by placing the practical results in a cultural, social and political context).
Director of ECAL
Head of Research & Development
Head of Photography
Picture : Elephant Juice, Simone C. Niquille, 2020