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Making Grandfather Come Out Better

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Portraits of Ancestors and Digital Manipulation in Contemporary Turkey

In contemporary Turkey, a growing number of lower to middle-income families bring old and often damaged photographs of their deceased family members to digital studios for restoration. Digital restoration artists, whether working online or from photography studios, retouch these photographs in often highly creative ways, such as adding color and fantasy backgrounds, or combining discrete portraits into fictional (diachronic) family portraits. Digital technologies such as the Photoshop program are here called upon to perform a very old desire: that of ensuring a dead person’s continued presence. Engaging with debates on the passage from analog to digital and the relationship of photography to death, I examine this process from two perspectives. First, I focus on digital artists who understand their work in professional terms as intensely material, and in social terms as one of ‘saving photographs from death’; second, I examine the renewed social potency that such digitally remastered photographs acquire in Turkish homes, where digital intervention not only ensures the continued potency of ancestral photographs in ensuring the presence of the deceased patriarch, but also enhances this presence in novel ways. Digitally remastered photographs are understood here as more than ‘just’ photo-realistic. They are ‘more perfect’ or even ‘more real’: their fictionality adds to their auratic character as icons of authority and makes them eminently suited for the renewed kind of social work that is demanded of them.

Affiliations: 1: Başkent University, Department of Radio, TV and Cinema, Turkey paytemiz@baskent.edu.tr

10.1163/18739865-00802010
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/content/journals/10.1163/18739865-00802010
2015-01-01
2017-11-24

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