“I think, perhaps ever since the invention of the photograph, we’ve seen the world through photographs and not the other way around. In other words, we see through cameras rather than around cameras.” –Robert Smithson
In 1969 the American artist Robert Smithson noted the way photography altered the very terms of human experience. Perception was now filtered irrevocably through cameras. In this way, the acceptance of surface as experience gained an incredible capacity. This observation is all the more prescient from the vantage of the present, when acknowledging that “image is everything” has certainly exceeded cliché. Viewing “photography” from this angle suggests both a revealing potential and an occlusive blindspot. As a figurative lens, it evokes transparency even while it functions as a material impasse. At what point do these positions diverge? How have debates regarding the occlusive/revealing power of photographs shifted since the 1960s? What role does phenomenology play in photography? What are the epistemological implications? What is the place of such considerations in understanding images in the present?
Organized by Dr. Heather Diack, Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin and Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Miami.
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