prism #14

prism #14: Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal 
+ Warsaw Photo Days 
+ more

Every second year Montreal, Canada features a month-long contemporary photography event called La Mois de la Photo à Montréal (The Month of Photography). The event promotes different tendencies in contemporary photography and creates international exchanges between photographers, the public, curators, the media and collectors. For this year’s edition, UK-based guest curator Paul Wombell, formerly the director of The Photographers’ Gallery in London, decided to organize 25 exhibitions around the idea of the Drone: The Automated Image. The event took place from September 5th to October 5th throughout Montreal's numerous galleries, museums and art spaces and featured local and internationally renowned artists.

prism #14 artist selection teaser banner

The term "drone" instantly evokes the image of combat drones, unmanned aerial vehicles operated by a faceless man from a distance, but it can be used as a metaphor for a much wider cultural shift - an inevitable integration of the machines into cameras and the automation of image-making process.

Every 120 seconds today we take as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s. Not only we shoot faster, we shoot integrated with modern technology. Images can now be sent directly to copious platforms that are connected to numerous devices that process them continuously in a volume hard to imagine. 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. The release of a shutter does not only capture an image anymore.  It captures the information and instantly processes it digitally, so that the content is understood by humans and machines. The high-quality cameras today are certainly developing their own life with other fields of technology.

Modern "drone-cameras" have the ability to recognise and tag our faces; they can detect our emotions (smile detection feature) and will correct exposure settings for us. Their intelligence is extended further to algorithms that can understand the content on the image, famous landmarks, public figures and even art works are recognised and detailed information about them is instantly displayed.
prism #14 covre. Image: Elina Brotherus, Le Chemin, 2011, from the series 12 ans après. Courtesy of the artist
This inevitable transition raises a question - how will technology serve us in the future? What is the core purpose of such shift? Will it benefit the greater good or will it be used for political, business or military purposes? How do machines extend our human vision and, finally, can creative process ever be handed over to machines entirely?

Those questions were the core of the debate for the main event and, despite the drones and robot-like intelligence, the human element, thankfully, happened to be very much alive and on the focus.

Be it Tomoko Sawada, a Japanese artist who changes her physical appearance and archives the results using photo booths; Finnish artist Elina Brotherus, who uses video and photography to work on the subject of self-portraiture, emotion and environment; Cheryl Sourkes who uses images from webcams and various social media sites to reflect on the relationship between voyeurism and surveillance and boundaries between public and private space or Canadian-Czech artist Jana Sterbak, whose video series shot by an automated camera attached to Jack Russell terrier call the human view of the world under question - all those and many other artists featured have managed to find a connection between our human perception and the automation of the image-making process. Although only few works made direct reference to drones, all the works in the festival have connected with the metaphorical overtone of the theme.

Tomoko Sawada, ID400, 1998, Detail
100 gelatin silver prints, 124.5 x 99.5 cm (framed), 10.3 x 8.8 cm (each print). Edition of 15
Courtesy of the artist and MEM, Tokyo ©  Tomoko Sawada

We would like to thank La Mois de la Photo à Montréal team, with special thanks to Director Chuck Samuels, Assistant Director Yasmine Tremblay and Curator Paul Wombell for providing us with absolutely great hospitality, an intelligent and visually engaging event and an amazing selection of photographers featured.

The following issue of prism is mainly dedicated to those photographers. We strongly recommend you to go and explore their websites for additional information on their current projects and artistic trajectory.

Also, we have prepared a brief recap on the main programme of the first edition of Warsaw Photo Days. The festival took place from 4th to 31st October in Warsaw presenting three collective exhibitions: “Female Metamorphoses of the Interwar Period” - a historical exhibition of Polish interwar photographs, “PHOTO-OBJECT” – an exhibition presenting the spatial objects created with the use of photographs, between the ’60s and present days and “Princesses” - a multimedia exhibition about the world of ‘girlish’ desires and fantasies depicted by contemporary Polish and foreign artists.

Have a great read!

Karol Liver, Chief Editor of prism

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