Reproduction & Aura


I’d like to represent the concepts of ‘reproduction’ and ‘aura’ through a digital image manipulation. The compositing is accomplished vis Photoshop.

According to Benjamin (1970), artwork is recreated by one in imitation of others and thus the works of art become reproducible. Mechanical reproduction has brought profits and to some extent has shown creativity, even has reactivated the original. However, the unique essences of objects reproduced – the authenticity and the aura – might be weakened by reproduction, since the work of art born with communicable authenticity which could be easily altered during reproducing or mediated by tumultuous history. And before mechanical reproduction contributes to the liberation for artifacts from restriction of ritual and cult, the aura of artworks is always about unapproachability.

Digital literacies require that one not only look at a digital work on the surface but also the capacity of understanding aura. In other words, it is important to realise the atmosphere surrounded the substance of works of art or to sense an emotion vibration from implication in the works. To connect those concept with my own work, I realised that the aura could be so tied to artworks’ essence that it might cannot be replicated. Reproduction could only make a new, different or deeper aura. I chose to manipulate an image to actualise the process of reproduction and engage with the concept of aura. Ravelli and Van Leeuwen (2018) believe that digital manipulation cannot reproduce artifacts’ or nature’s uniqueness and possibilities. However, Benjamin (1970) states that technology has an illusionary function which could lead audience into the reality immediately, unlike watching plays in a theatre or visiting an painting exhibition.

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The original photography I found from the internet which shows an angry man. Regarding the copyright of the original picture, reworking the image in a non-profit educational setting is considered fair use. In the picture, the figure’s face twists in anger. He stares at the front wide-eyed and shouts with fists clenched. In the original, the figure is in the central with grey background, which, makes this picture reproducible because of its enough room for imagination and manipulation without being influenced by the context of the man’s facial expression. When the main focus is anger, I tried to reproduce the original realistic photograph by representing the aura of anger in an abstract way. Anger could make people be irrational or go insane and this emotion sometimes would cause destructive consequences. In these circumstances, anger is like an explosion that things could quickly out of control and the fallout is slow and painful. With that perspective, I tend to exaggerate the emotion of anger and create an aura of absurd and ridiculousness.

In the Photoshop, firstly I selected some pieces of the man’ face and create several layers within those pieces blurred radially to reach an explosion effect. The man’s face start exploding, every pieces from him begin coming apart, it seems as though his mind being unclear. I thought it is a clear manifestation of the man’s anger. Finally I decided to convert half the photograph into black and white. Because one of the modality’s ‘makers’ theories from Ravelli and Van Leeuwen (2018) claims that colour shows the unreal fantasy and black and white indicate harsh reality. Deep down you’ve lost control while you may still assume that you are angry reasonably. In my opinion, there is a new aura of absurd in the manipulated photograph through reproducing. 






[Angry man] [image]. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Benjamin, W. 1970, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, Illuminations, pp.211-244.

Ravelli, L. J., & Van Leeuwen, T. 2018, ‘Modality in the digital age’, Visual Communication, vol.17, no.3, pp.277-297.


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