This exhibition is presented at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center and supported by the MFA Photography program in the School of Art, Media, and Technology.
For centuries, artists used lenses to create images; but the invention of photography in 1839 indissolubly linked the lens–based image and the camera. Now, a quarter-century into the digital era, our very understanding of photography and film have undergone a massive transformation. The fifteen artists in this exhibition each received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the photography program at Parsons School of Design; that is to say, they are all “photographers.” Yet few, if any, of them transcribe the world using chemistry, cellulose, and emulsion. Rather, they use various digital imaging and video processes to create their works. What these artists have in common is the camera, even if only the one on their iPhone. Their employment of the lens as a fundamental tool to make their art positions them within the photographic tradition, and their varied practices as photography. Their art is camera work. That such diverse and compelling work shares an origin in lens-based technologies may well speak to the importance of photography as a unique and enduring discipline.
These artists’ practices encompass not only framed prints on the wall or moving images on a glowing screen, but also video installations, mock natural-history dioramas, and Instagram feeds. Their art also finds its place in publications—self-published, issued by commercial publishers, or even produced by a collective, Conveyor, founded by other graduates of the program. This emphasis on the book and the magazine as the natural home for their work may seem surprising given the emphasis of the digital age on the seamlessly virtual and ephemeral, but it nonetheless marks this generation of artists as concerned with making their art accessible, yet unwilling to completely forgo the tangible object.
At the turn of the last century, Alfred Stieglitz’s pioneering publication Camera Work began by championing Pictorialism, the already old-fashioned idea that photography could prove itself a fine art by imitating painting, but ended a distinguished run by presenting the most modern photographic vision of its time. Some of the artists in this exhibition include sly references to both Pictorialism and Modernism in their works, and many rely in part on the printed page to disseminate their ideas, but while these photographers may keep one eye on the legacy of the past, their practices bring camera work into the future.
Including the work of: Jun Ahn, Berk Çakmakçı, Alison Chen, Xiao Chen and Yichen Zhou, Bobby Davidson, John Deamond, Nathan Harger, Erik Madigan Heck, Brigitte Lustenberger, Joy McKinney, Charlie Rubin, Keith Telfeyan, José Soto, and Marie Vic.
Curated by Sarah Hasted and Joseph R. Wolin.