Expanding the 21st Century Definition of Photography

Posted by Justin Case — 25 Oct 2012

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has opened its New Photography 2012 Exhibition, featuring the work of five photographers whose work expands the definition of photography in the 21st Century.

The exhibition opened on October 3, 2012 and runs through February 4, 2013 in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery.  This year, the exhibition features the work of New York-based Michele Abeles, Shanghai-based collaborative Birdhead, New York-based Anne Collier, Los Angeles-based Zoe Crosher, and Zurich-based, Iranian-born Shirana Shahbazi.  These photographers were selected for their work, challenging photography as a representational medium, exploring the process of picture making, exploiting the proliferation of images in a media-saturated world, and blurring the lines between photography and other artistic disciplines. The exhibition is organized by Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography.

Since its initiation in 1985, the annual exhibition has set out to highlight emerging photographers challenging the very definition of photography.  The annual fall series has featured the work of 89 artists from 17 countries.  Each year, as software, mobile, social and other technologies expand the field and fragment the space, the challenge of finding and featuring truly disruptive image-makers among the ever-expanding populace of 'photographers' grows exponentially.  The New York times estimated that in 2011, over 380 billion images were taken. Those images, taken using a variety of equipment and stored, shared or displayed across a variety of increasingly digital and social platforms have continued to evolve not only the possibilities of the art of photography, but the very nature of viewing and interpreting it as well.

Associate Curator, Eva Respini, has sought to highlight MoMA's commitment to the work of less familiar artists, representing the variety and vitality of today's contemporary photography - amid the saturation of our current environment.  Her vision extends beyond the work and the artists chosen, to the very installation of the show - with traditional framed photography complemented with other configurations and even lithographic wallpaper.

The exhibition's featured artists include:

Michele Abeles
Michele's studio work combines common objects with nude males to create images that renegotiate the creative process of studio photography.

Birdhead (Ji Weiyu, Chinese, b. 1980; and Song Tao, Chinese, b. 1979)
Ji Weiyu and Song Tao work together, capturing energetic photographs of their hometown, Shanghai.

Anne Collier
Anne juxtaposes conventional still-life with appropriation to create meticulously arranged compositions.

Zoe Crosher
Zoe assembles a variety of tourist and other posed images to inhabit the space between fantasy and documentary.

Shirana Shahbazi
Shirana shoots classical portraiture, still life and landscapes, often translating and repeating images in different media to expand the boundaries of photography.

There have been a couple of great pieces written on the exhibition at The New Yorker's blog 'Photo Booth' and Time's Lightbox. Be sure to check them both out for more on the show and insight directly from the curator.

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