Material Immaterial: Photographs in the 21st Century
Why print a photograph in 2019?
We are witnessing the historic transformation of photography from tangible objects—prints, plates, and negatives—to code: intangible bits, bytes, and pixels. As the tether between visual culture and the material world is recalibrated every day, a new form of literacy is required to draw meaning from physical media and its obsolescence. At the very moment when characterization and interpretation of the printed photograph is rapidly gaining ground, the momentum toward dematerialization raises the issue of the long-term relevance and sustainability of photography as a material fact. Does the physical photograph still matter today—as a source for teaching, learning, and scholarship—and will it matter into the future?
The symposium and elective seminars are geared for educators, students, curators, photographers and, particularly, for conservators whose core value proposition is most directly tied to the physical photograph. Insights from conservators, scholars, makers, and the art market will address the premise that physical photography is a closed set.
The program is structured to give conservators, curators, and art historians insight into new tools for researching photographs with an emphasis on both the material and immaterial aspects of the medium. Conservators will gain practical knowledge on new and existing techniques for characterizing prints and collections and how this information can be structured and visualized. Curators and art historians will benefit from exposure to the methods and techniques that underlie the contemporary approaches to material history. Together, the presentations and discussions are meant to demystify techniques adapted from seemingly exotic fields of artificial intelligence and data science and to cover some basic techniques for understanding and interpreting the physical and chemical makeup of a photographic print. A response to the intrinsically interdisciplinary nature of these modes of inquiry, the incubator session is intended to spark collaborations that creatively respond to photographs both as objects and disembodied images.