Photography from Turin Shroud to Turing Machine

Photography from Turin Shroud to Turing Machine
Yanai Toister

Intellect Books, Bristol, UK, 2020
215 pp. Paper, £37.00; ePub, $34.00; PDF, $34.00
ISBN: 9781789381566; ISBN: 9781789381580; ISBN: 9781789381573.

Reviewed by
Ana Peraica
November 2020

Photography from Turin Shroud to Turing Machine by artist, curator, and scholar Yanai Toister is a compact overview of theories framing classic discussions in philosophy, or more precisely epistemology of photography, dealing with differentiation between photography and other visual media. Toister organizes the book into two sections. The first offers an overview of discussions inherited from debates on the analogue medium of photography. In the second he sketches out directions for new discussions.

The two sections are organized around two paradigms: The Turin Shroud, which stands for the mimetic imprint, and a hypothetical machine imagined by Turing. In the first section the author sums up the discussion in photographic ontology, epistemology, and aesthetics. He also deals with photographic semiotics (the most notable are Kendall Walton’s ‘seeing through’ and Nigel Warburton’s criticism of transparency thesis, Walton and Gregory Currie’s debate on ‘blind Helene’, Cohen and Meskin’s introduction of egocentric and allocentric information in photography). The second section, on computation photography covers theories by Vilem Flusser’s apparatus program, Gottfried Jager’s computation photograph and also the writings of Frederic Kittler and Lev Manovich.

In conclusion, Toister defines photographs through new qualities of granularity (their capacity to be broken down into discreet units), its correlative appearance to visual reality as well as data preservation and presentation. Two of these qualities, granularity and indexicality, are common to both analogue and computed photographs. The the third quality of data preservation and presentation is not present in the latter. In two chapters, Toister demonstrates a knowledge of the debate in photographic theory, summing it up into an in-depth overview. He presents this an explanative style, yet without setting out his own theory or conclusion. We can use this book as a comprehensive introduction to further studies in fields of photographic ontology and epistemology.