William J. T. Mitchell
[Writer, theorist, and architect, b. 1944, Melbourne, Australia, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.]

 Exile is a series of photographs without texts. 
 The essential characteristic of digital information is that it can be manipulated easily and very rapidly by computer... Computational tools for transforming, combining, altering, and analyzing images are as essential to the digital artist as brushes and pigments to a painter. 
 ...people have always known, at least since Moses denounced the Golden Calf, that images were dangerous, that they can captivate the onlooker and steal the soul. 
 Photography is and is not a language; language also is and is not a “photography.” 
 We are surrounded by pictures; we have an abundance of theories about them, but it doesn’t seem to do us any good. Knowing what pictures are doing, understanding them, doesn’t seem necessarily to give us power over them. 
 An interlude of false innocence has passed. Today, as we enter the post-photographic era, we must face once again the ineradicable fragility of our ontological distinctions between the imaginary and the real, and the tragic elusiveness of the Cartesian dream. We have indeed learnt to fix the shadows, but not to secure their meanings or to stabilize their truth values; they still flicker on the walls of Plato's cave. 
 The myth of digital photography has things exactly upside down. Instead of making photography less credible, less legitimate, digitization has produced a general “optimization” of photographic culture, one in which better and better simulations of the best effects of realism and informational richness in traditional photography have become possible. 
 The relation of photography and language is a principal site of struggle for value and power in contemporary representations of reality; it is the place where images and words find and lose their conscience, their aesthetic and ethical identity. 
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