In his photographic journey spanning more than four decades and more than 40 countries, Frédéric Brenner has investigated the multiple expressions of life in diaspora. His archive is a comprehensive visual record of the Jewish people from the late 20th into the 21st century. It features contemporary debates and challenges of individual and collective identities and narratives not only concerning Jewish life, but also beyond. Shifting between documentary and artistic works, it involves over 100,000 black-and-white and color negatives, 8,000 contact sheets, color transparencies, fine art prints, interviews, and paper-based diaries.
The project builds on research in cultural studies, digital humanities, information visualization, and human-computer interaction. While great efforts have been made in recent years in digitization and online publication, the modes of presentation continue to rely on grids of thumbnail images of the same size and format, which are arguably not able to harness the potential that lies in digital access. Our research aims to find means of making the dimensions of processuality, selection, and materiality, which have been left behind as traces in the archive, visible. We aim to design and evaluate visualization and interaction techniques to enable navigation between different levels of granularities with regard to semantics, relations, hierarchies, photographic processes, and visual elements. Our central ambition is not to reduce the data in favor of uniformity or clarity, but to show the richness and depth by conceiving visual instruments that reflect the archive’s complexity and harness emerging technological developments to do justice to the cultural artifacts.
For the study and design of visual interfaces for photographic collections, we focus on two research threads: a) the representation of dispersion of diaspora, b) the visualization of photographic materiality and selection processes. These two thematic threads will be complemented by c) an exploration of methods to visualize and connect their multiple granularity levels, exploring the possibilities of interactively moving between visual, structural, relational, and contextual granularities.
GraDiM is funded by the DFG program Das Digitale Bild (grant no. 510079995), which focuses on transdisciplinary research in the realm of digital visuality through formalizing and reflecting phenomena, theories, and practices.