The liberation of images online

In the case of an artist’s digital images upholding the established categories of refinement, value and expertise, high-resolution images are valued highly within society. We fetishise this high level of quality as they stand out, due to their immersive, seductive and economic force which is heightened further by advertisement, graphic design, military and scientific devices. In the past low- resolution images substantiate a failure of technology and amateur production; therefore, they are not valued as highly within the hierarchy of images.  The idea of an artist’s work now being resurrected as ‘poor images’ is put forward by Hito Steyerl, it potentially rejects this notion of an artist intentionally aspiring to poverty. Instead this described poverty is due to survival, as the ‘the neoliberal restructuring of media production began slowly obscuring non-commercial imagery to the point where experimental and essayistic cinema became almost invisible’ (Steyerl, 2009). With the liberating promises of the Internet came the liberation of these avant-garde and essayistic films and they now exist as ‘poor images’ online. It serves as a rejection of neoliberal structures and aligns with the original intention of avant-garde films, this being a dismissal of the constraining limitations of commercial cinema. These films are no longer restricted to galleries in the metropolitan centres like London and New York. Although these films now exist as ‘poor images’, which shifts the potential value of the piece, they are in turn being exposed to whole new audiences, this new form of presentation has indicated the possibilities of the Internet as a main distributor of art. As Chanan explains ‘The state retains control over the public media, but there is now another sphere that operates through both email and the circulation of digital media’.

These new platforms, and online sharing communities ‘enables people to express and manifest themselves in an organised way through the formation of channels and communication networks, thus opening new possibilities of expression to change public awareness and social attitudes’(Bambozzi, 2009, pg. 5) this alternative model of creation and distribution questions the role of the ‘poor images’ production, authorship and property in a digital realm.  An example of this new type of configuration is ‘Mídia Ninja’, which was originally created by a collective of journalists who actively provided coverage of the protests in Brazil in 2013, following a personal manifesto of ‘no cuts, no censorship’. This dismissal of refinement, value and expertise acted as an opposition to the high- tech, specialised image production featured in mainstream media news. It alternatively created a new collective narrative, an unbiased documentation of real-time events which were live-streamed to their online audience.

The frequently featured blurred, out-of-focus and unedited image aesthetic ultimately forged a ‘realistic effect’ which is charged with emotion and truth, as the image transforms from a piece of documentation into an experience that is then shared. Andrea’ and Ziller’ argue that the ‘collective enunciation co- created by people on the streets and at home rendered a higher diversity of points of views visible and increased the likelihood of dissension between them.’ More importantly this reorientation allows ‘new possibilities of expression’ in the sense that the technical quality of these ‘poor images’ and their accessibility through this new kind of distribution actually corroborates the importance of amateur labour and a decentralised mode of production, where the audience is mobilised to become genuine co-authors.


Steyrerl, Hito, 2009, In Defence of the Poor Image, E-flux, http://www.e-

Chanan, Michael, 2011, Neoliberalism and Global Cinema: Capital, Culture, and

Marxist Critique,Routeledge, pg. 92

Bambozzi, Lucas, 2009,Microcinemas e Outras Possibilidades do Video Digital. São

Paulo: @Livros Digitais, pg. 5

d’Andrea, Carlos& Ziller, Joanna, Violent Scenes in Brazil’s 2013 Protests: The

Diversity of Ordinary People’s Narratives, 2016,Sage Publications Vol. 17(4) 324–334, pg. 328