Sunday, February 27, 2011

FOAM - What's Next?

There is an interesting discussion going on over at FOAM Magazine's site - entitled What's Next. In celebration of its 10th year, FOAM is looking back on the changes in the medium over the past twenty years.

On the one hand, it seems like a rehashing of tired arguments about the future of the medium or what digital means, but it also has great potential. Why is it we have to revisit the 'Is photography dead?', or 'What is the future of photography?' every 10 years? (Note: Parsons is hosting The Photographic Universe this week, which addresses some of these concerns, SFMOMA held a series of forums last year, as did MoMA.) Despite my misgivings, such discussions are often exciting and are healthy for the medium.

So far there are a couple of artist submissions and a number of different questions, which invite user's responses. I just posted a response to the question "Is Lens-Based Media A More Appropriate Term Than Photography?" Since I was limited in the space, I thought I would share my full response below. At the time I wrote, most of the comments answered in the negative (photographers are often very conservative). I must admit, I am somewhat biased in this area. I work in a graduate program that has been digital for over twenty years and has long embraced the term lens-based arts. Here is my full response:

I have to disagree with some of the responses, but also acknowledge the question is somewhat misleading. As a broad term, I think it is very appropriate and would even revise it to the ‘lens and screen arts.’ How else can one account for work as diverse as traditional large format color photography on one end of the spectrum to the growing number of artists using appropriated images (e.g., Google Street View or found imagery online). The term also acknowledges the technological shift that artists are now embracing – namely the convergence of the still and moving image in DSLRs.

One of the exciting aspects about photography is that artists have always grappled with and responded artistically to the technological developments of the medium. This does not preclude artists from still identifying primarily as photographers, using a large format camera, or rejecting video, nor does it deny the history of the medium. Just as it is absurd to separate video artists from the larger history of the moving image or artists who use acrylic from those who use oil paint, limiting it solely to photography does a disservice to the diversity of artistic practices within the medium. The work all originates from a lens be it Rodenstock glass, an anonymous satellite or an image online. There are already too many walls segregating and distorting the diversity of photography and its promiscuous relationship with other mediums, we need to break them down.


P.S. The discussion on the FOAM site is actually shaping up with some interesting contributions. Make sure to check out Charlotte Cotton and Aaron Schuman's discussion and Lisa Oppenheim's comments.