For better or for worse, the ubiquity of the camera makes everyone a photographer. It’s tempting to propose that this signals a cheapening of the art form, but as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s actually resulting in an explosion of exciting work, from a street photography renaissance to the resurgence of film photography. The US debut of Photofairs in San Francisco is the latest proof that the medium remains ripe for experimentation, featuring artists from 14 countries and 22 cities. Here are a few of the artists transforming the medium into something you’d definitely flick for the 'gram.
With the earliest photos dating back to 2002, Michael Wolf’s documentation of China’s dense metropolises—Hong Kong, in particular—is a project 15 years old and counting. In an installation combining found objects, photos, and video, Wolf creates a visceral urban narrative.
“It’s sort of the answer to the buildings— the consequence of overdevelopment and dense, urban situations,” M97 gallery director Steven Harris tells The Creators Project. “I don’t really think it’s judgmental, it’s more sort of these beautiful unnoticed details of design and innovation and improvisation and utility and things that become very human. Even though you don’t really see people in most of the pictures I think everything always sort of has the hand of somebody in it, behind it.”
In a dynamic take on found-photo imagery, Robert Currie creates 3D string paintings that morph perspective depending on the viewer’s relation to the piece, reminiscent of the relative movement of a lenticular print.
“The impression is photographic and in fact they’re hand-painted—acrylic directly onto monofilament,” a Bryce Wolkowitz representative tells The Creators Project. “So it’s like a pointillist painting, albeit on string.”
Currie, whose background is in architecture, focused earlier work on imagery associated with the English countryside, while these latest works focus on Americana imagery, à la Edward Ruscha says the gallery representative.
By embracing the unpredictable imperfections of shooting with expired film and mounting the results on LED lightbox displays, Scott McFarland’s Skyleaks series transforms the run of-the-mill "cloud pic" into something beautifully jarring.
“Skyleaks is a series that depicts skies captured through traditional analog means on color negative film with a 4x5 camera,” a Division Gallery statement explains. “The artist makes use of expired and defective film that has been kept for many years until a purpose was found for its use.”
Jim Campbell’s Tuileries Garden is a haunting meditation on transience. A semitransparent long-exposure photo of pedestrians walking the Tuileries Garden in Paris is affixed on plexiglass while a video, captured from the same location, loops behind it.
“The people are mere shadows, darkening the scene for moments before passing from view. The most minimal of cues here make it possible to recognize these ghosts as figures in motion. They are at once there and not there, inhabiting the border zone between presence and absence,” a Bryce Wolkowitz representative tells The Creators Project.
For his Momentum series, Alejandro Guijarro photographs the chalkboards of “the greatest quantum mechanics institutions in the world... bridging the gap between science and art,” a statement from Tristan Hoare describes. Removed from the context of the classroom, the closely cropped boards transform astonishingly well from educational tools into beautiful abstractions of pastel swirls and linework.
Tobias Selnaes Markussen, Sara Brincher Galbiati, and Peter Helles Eriksen formed Phenomena Collective, now represented by East Wing, “to get away from the ego of the photographer,” Markussen tells The Creators Project. After discovering a massive trove of UFO magazines belonging to Eriksen’s uncle in 2010, the friends decided to embark on the project of documenting pockets of UFO culture in the American Southwest, Eriksen explains. The project birthed a captivating collection of photos, gathered in an anthropologic style. The dreamy images are soaked in narrative, each one with its own story, the story of “an alternative religion, where neither God nor mankind is at the center of the universe,” the collective says.
“I think we all have that fascination or curiosity when it comes to unexplainable things,” says Markussen. “It was as if [the subjects] were missing a story—like a serious, thorough look at the UFO phenomenon. We wanted to do that—give the believers the benefit of the doubt.” The Denmark-based photographers’ photo documentation of the believers is now compiled in a book.
The next Photofairs exhibition hits Shanghai in September 2017. Learn more here.