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2021 SPE Annual Conference: CANCELLED Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Serhii Chrucky and JaNae Contag

"Inventing, Re-Inventing, and Fearing the Wheel: Is photography that decodable?"

Friday, October 07 - 11:00AM to 12:00PM
Lindell Room A - Chase Park Plaza

There is internal conflict in being a photographer. The questions of what to photograph and why to photograph particular content in a particular way can be crippling.

We propose a means of categorizing affect, an idea originally spurred by our mutual frustration with the inability to make or find photographic work that does not conform to a matrix of recurrent concepts that frequent our field.

We’ve read, learned, and taught from the taxonomies found in books by Cotton, Szarkowski, and Barrett that categorize concepts systematically. With these in mind, we have created our own “tasting wheel” of the categories we perceive to be those which all images conform to.

Perhaps out of our own fears and insecurities, we ask, “Do these patterns flatten the possibilities of image-making to a repetitious predictability?”, “Is contemporary photography that decodable?”

Our proposed “tasting wheel” opens up a platform for conversation about the limitations of our medium, and how we can expand it. Additionally, it offers a linguistic framework by which to decode and categorize work according to perceived meaning -- a helpful organizing principle for photo educators structuring a class about Photo Criticism, History, or Context.

Chrucky and Contag share an interest in making work that deals with aspirational middle-class America, idiosyncratic moments in which tourism and elitism co-exist (malls, airports, lifestyle centers, megachurches, cemeteries), and overlooked architectural elements that reveal a checkered history of dwelling, shopping, and consuming.

In addition to teaching, Chrucky and Contag own and operate a commercial studio in Chicago, Concrete A/V Production, specializing in architectural & real estate photography, art documentation, editorial portraiture, and event photography. They are currently making two long-format documentary films about newly-elect Illinois State Senator Omar Aquino and the former Chicago mayor, Harold Washington.


JaNae Contag
JaNae Contag
Serhii  Chrucky
Serhii Chrucky

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