Photography and Contemporary Experience

I recently visited the Portland Art Museums exhibition Photography and Contemporary Experience. I was really looking forward to a unified idea of how we experience photography. To my amazement, the exhibition was broken up in several different ways to look at contemporary photographs. How could I forget the beautiful thing about the photographic medium has so it many different uses!

Even the exhibition’s opening text talks about the fluidity of the medium; “Images move fluidity from the gallery wall to computer monitor, we are transmitted via smartphones, and are manipulated by hand as well as software. Photographers actively embrace new approaches when creating and disseminating their work.”

Immediately I understood something I had felt that I had yet to put into words; admitting how in flux photography is and perhaps, that is has been for some time. Some of the forms the Portland Art Museum choose to represent were “The photograph in the Information Age,” “The photograph as Performance,” “The photograph and War,” “The photograph as Object” and “The socially charged photograph.”

Displayed here are works from artists like Richard Mosse. Mosse takes documentary photography to another level with his images of the Congo shot on infrared film. Using beauty to talk about the issues of war, I am transcended into an uncanny space.



Richard Mosse “Nineteenth Century Man,” 2011


Other great work on display was a Piece from Carie Mae Weems. Weems images have impressed me over last year and its been exciting to see her work across the country. In the exhibition, Weems showed and image from “Slow Fade to Black” from 2010. Weems rekindled interest in path-setting African-American entertainers who have vanished from our collective imagination. Her play on memory and perform in combination of important issues is something to not be taken likely. Weems says about the work “They are disappearing, dissolving before our eyes.”



Carie Mae Weems, Image from “Slow Fade to Black,” 2010

Especially exciting – An ICP alumni, Teresa Christensen. Ive gotten the chance to study under Teresa in my ungrad, and in-fact is a big reason why I came to the ICP-bard program. Teresa showed several pieces under “the photograph as object.” Her pieces showed the fragility of the photographic truth by manipulating the physical print in hopes the viewer can understand the camera made image is not in fact a mirror of the real world.



Teresa Christiansen “Shadowed Disconnection,” 2016

I think this is what interests me most, the investigation of the photographic truth. I would go as far as to say the other topics subtly explore this as well. Almost done with my first semester at ICP, I’m frequently pushing my comfort zone through physical inventions with the image. I am relentlessly exploring and trying to answer my own questions.

Overall I think the Portland Museum had a great view on the photographic experience is right now. And what I love is the Museum did not try to pin down what is to become of the medium. It seems to be that contemporary photography mirrors our everyday reality. Specially questioning the truth of the everyday.

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