Making sense of the photograph in the web era

The Catalan curator and artist Joan Fontcuberta remembers a Spanish company asking him in the early days of cellphones if he thought incorporating a camera into a phone was a good idea. “I said that’s bullshit. Nobody will use it. Photography is a serious thing, if you want to take a photograph you take your camera,” he says. “How wrong I was.”

The world changed and Fontcuberta was wise enough to change with it. The proliferation of the cameraphone means we all constantly make and consume photographs, a state that has led him to describe humans as Homo photographicus. Named the guest curator for the 14th biannual Le Mois de la Photo à Montreal, Fontcuberta chose the “post-photographic condition” as this edition’s theme.

Through the 29 selected artists from 11 countries, the month-long festival offers perspectives on the new kinds of images needed to mediate our 21st century reality now the former rules of our 150-year-old relationship with the photograph no longer apply. These issues will be further unpacked during the three-day colloquium, À Partir aujourd’hui … Reconsidering Photography, which includes a keynote speech by Quentin Bajac, the chief curator of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Rather than focussing on the technology or aesthetics of this phenomenon, Fontcuberta prefers an anthropological approach. “The post-photographic is not a style, not a tendency or artistic movement. It’s a kind of attitude towards photography. How are people using photographs, cellphones, how do they react to this cascade of pictures on the internet?” Or, put another way, Robert Pellegrinuzzi’s cloud-like sculpture of 250 000 photos asks: “Do we, in fact, produce images, or do images produce us?”

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