Why be a Photographic Image?

Many contemporary imaging systems share a striking quality: their output need not be limited to images. Instead the raw data such systems collect and generate can just as easily appear as acoustic signals or as text. Furthermore, of those images an unexpected proportion bears the familiar form of the photograph. These two phenomena, I argue, stem from an unconditioned bias towards images, on our behalf, and from the cognitive accessibility of photographic images in particular. This should be seen as a unique epistemic advantage. Arguably, this advantage has not diminished much in the course of the last decades. This is especially surprising given the wide anxiety about the ‘end’ of photography and what will, or has, come after it. Confusingly, this anxiety has given rise to the term analogue photography, which is, I argue, somewhat misguided. Accordingly I propose revised definitions for the terms ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ in respect to photography. These facilitate an alternative understanding of what photographic images are.