In my work as a practitioner in the fields of development assistance, humanitarian aid and crisis management I have pondered about the limitations of mainstream media. Especially when circumstances are adverse, the limitations in particular of visual media become apparent: rather than merely representing its object ‘as is’ it would be worthwhile to engage viewers and earn their commitment to what is displayed.

By consequence, both a professional and moral frustration rise. Still images tend to remain pointless and hollow, while video images seem simply to emphasise a simulacrum. What I would like to explore is how the materiality of a photograph could be extended so as to question and reinterpret what is in front of the viewer. In order to do so I suggest to explore what alternative sounds, played while viewing an image, can bring to its interpretation and how the image resonates with the viewer. Hence, I coined for this purpose the term ‘audiographic’, and audiographic images.

It is common knowledge that ‘-graphy‘ is used in nouns to denote a style or method of drawing (such as calligraphy) and in a descriptive science (for example geography). The originates from the Greek word graphein, ‘write’.

More interesting from the point of view of this project and its concept is the denotation related to a technique of producing images (think ‘radiography’). Thus, audiography suggest a way to produce images with the support of sound, be it voice, music or a sound effect. Indeed, the word, even if a neologism in this sense, has a few related precursors:

Audiography can be found within Indian-style film-making, and refers to the audio engineering performed by the sound department of a film or TV production. This engineering includes sound recording, editing, mixing and sound design.

Another use is somewhat quaint: it refers to a teleconferencing system or technology enabling each user to send and receive images as well as sound. The term originates from the 1970s.

In this context and novel use, the audio attribute works paradoxically in two directions in relation to the image it accompanies: while it may enhance the experience of viewing the image, it simultaneously underscores elements missing from the image. Thus, it points at the powerlessness, the impotence, of the image in itself.

The tag line for the concept of audiographic images is: Listen to see. In order to perceive the visual image one has to pay attention to the sound.