A Media-Based Comparison of Fragment Migration: Photographs in Periodicals and Books in the Twentieth Century (SP 5)


Following on from the preceding project ‘Fragment Constellations’, the project ‘Fragment Migrations’ builds on the premise that the practices of photographic culture understand the photographic image as a fragment that must be provided with an aesthetic, contextual and media framework in order to lend it meaning. The focus however is not only on how journals place photographs in meaningful constellations; rather the project also seeks to shed light on these strategies from an intermedia comparative perspective. Ever since the mechanical techniques of reproducing photographs that emerged in the 1880s allowed photographic images to be included in printed images and placed in relation to each other, the journal and the book have represented competing, alternative contexts for the presentation of photographs. It is through the use of photographs in these different formats that the distinctions between the two different media become most apparent. A longitudinal analysis of twentieth-century sources will provide a nuanced picture of how the mediality of the journal and the book has changed throughout history in that each medium employs its own photographic constellations.

Using photographs published in both journals and books around the same time, and thus migrating between the two media, as it were, the project will identify the characteristic strategies employed for such constellations by each medium. Specifically, the study will focus on images appearing in illustrated magazines (e.g. Stern, Life, Paris Match), fashion and lifestyle magazines (e.g. Die Dame and the various issues of Vogue) and sports magazines (e.g. Sports Magazine, Match l’intran, Sportillustrierte) and in books. The project examines how the use of images in books differ in terms of characteristics such as unity, coherence, permanence and quality and  how the re-use of photographs initiate processes of canonisation in contrast to the journal’s logic of continuous photographic consumption. It is anticipated that each photographic genre will display different transformations. For instance, while the shift in context between the fashion magazine and the photo album might be predominantly characterised by a transformation from commerce to art, from a bulletin from the world of fashion to an artwork, commemorative issues celebrating the Olympics published by the popular press will make a more conscious attempt to anchor events in the social memory. The main focus will be on publications in English, French and German from the 1920s, when the photo album began to become established as a genre using previously published photographs, to around 1980, before media and media difference were once again fundamentally reformatted by digitalisation and new modi of image migration set in.

The thematic, international and historical range of the corpus serves to illustrate the extent to which the media difference between the journal and the book is generalised, unified or qualified by specific formats according to topic, country or era. In some cases (e.g. Walker Evans’ American Photographs or the Weltausstellung der Fotografie), photographic exhibitions represent a kind of halfway house for fragment migration; on the one hand, they pave the way from the journal to the book, and on the other hand they can render photographs in books relevant for publication in journals. In terms of intransience, exhibitions are similar to journals, while by accentuating cultural value they also suggest a permanence pointing to the medium of the book. A selective analysis will investigate the media and intermedia logic of this intersection.

In an epoch in the history of media in which the ‘illustration’ represents one of the central features of journal publications, the various uses of photographic images exemplify the media difference between the journal and the book. In so doing, they play a significant role in shaping the media identity of the journal. Media and media formats are not understood as given; rather they are produced in a constant performative process. The mediality of the journal in its respective concrete form is a prerequisite for the concrete publication, but at the same it is constantly affirmed, varied and sometimes also transformed anew. In this respect, the mediality of journals has historically been produced in constellation with other media: ‘internally’ in its constellation of photographs and text, and externally in its demarcation from the book, which uses photographs in a different manner. The research project thus represents an important contribution to the media history of photography, the journal and the book by observing how they are constituted as media via their respective differences.