Images make us think of other images. Photographs remind us of other photographs, and perhaps only the earliest photographs had a chance to evade this fate. But soon after the invention of photography, the world was full of photographs, and newly made photographs could not avoid semantic contamination. Each photograph came to seem like a quotation from the great archive of photographs. Even the earliest photographs are themselves now burdened by this reality, because when we look at them, we do so in the knowledge of everything that came after. All images, regardless of the date of their creation, exist simultaneously and are pressed into service to help us make sense of other images. This suggests a possible approach to photography criticism: a river of interconnected images wordlessly but fluently commenting on one another.
Teju Cole, “On Photography”, The New York Times Magazine (19 March 2017), 14, 16.