multiple originals: digital copy… or visual evidence?


First, a quick trip through image-making in the last couple of decades.

Not long ago, when traveling, a photograph would capture a visual experience and be kept for sharing with others or as a reminder. Google arrived and the world could view anything instantly and remotely. As a result, pictures became marks of authenticity and evidence of being there. The smartphone was born and cameras became accessible to all, generating fierce lifestyle comparisons between users. Finally, Instagram ignited a wave of beautiful and perfected pictures. In response came the hashtag ‘#nofilter’ because overwhelmingly consistent perfection is unrealistic. We advanced from observers to editors. What’s next?

Nils Braun - Staging the Archive

Nils Braun - Staging the Archive

“We now live in a time where image-making is constantly available.” 

– Nils Braun


Nils Braun is a communication designer interested in the relationship between what is perceived as original and their digital copies. Many of his works explore our, “contemporary fragmented vision” and the tension between the tangibility of original(s) and the intangibility of the digital space. His works reflect on how we might value or perceive the ‘digital version’ of things around us,Images are frozen moments, fractions of time.

Visual evidence provides clues for our memory [...] Ubiquitous image-making […] changes the way we look at the world. In many ways, it leads us to perceive, consume and interpret everything around us in fragments.”

The millions of images we take every year cluster our digital archives and social media profiles. But we hardly look back at them, let alone print them. Our relationship with images, especially photographs, has changed. We seem keen on documenting anything, regardless of if it is extraordinary or memorable. Thus, creating a parallel, digital world of images that almost work as the evidence of our ‘real life’, in real time. From this perspective, it sounds a bit reductive to consider such images a ‘copy’. They certainly carry too much value for that.

Earlier this year, Nils created a digital copy of a physical, installation piece by Nicola Lorini in collaboration with Central Saint Martins’ Museum and Study Collection, “While it's referring to an object existing in the physical world, it is more than a mere copy of it – it acts as an original in its own right. What we see however, is not the recreation itself but the visualisation of it. The digital reproduction is in fact the underlining code.”

Nils Braun - Staging the Archive

Nils Braun - Staging the Archive


So, back to the original question: are these ‘multiple originals’ mere digital copies, or a form of visual evidence of the ‘real thing’? Although we are capturing moments through images, we don’t really use them as tokens. We would rather indulge in the constant update of our ‘life in images’. According to Jean Baudrillard, our world generates simulations and imitations of reality which are more real than reality itself. This condition is referred to as ‘Hyperreality’ or ‘the authentic fake’. We might be shifting our focus from the value of a single image (original or copy) towards the act of image-making, as this is the territory where relevance is generated.