Is photography over…?

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Fotomuseum Winterthur has a wonderful blog, STILL SEARCHING which explores the changing nature of photography though posts by historians, artists and theorists.   Artist Trevor Paglen has once again asked that question which seems difficult to avoid as the medium continues to shift in too many ways to count.

What was interesting to me about Paglen’s article was that he avoids discussions of how photographs are being made (i.e. analog vs. digital) and instead asks whether “photography and seeing” are becoming synonymous?”

Ultimately, it’s this change in our relationship to photographs that is most interesting to explore.  This has been key to me because as a practitioner I discovered that while documenting the demise of the photographic industry over the last decade I also experienced radical shifts not only in the ways I made photographs and more importantly how I viewed them after the fact.  My biggest dilemma became not about what technology to use but rather about how to make meaningful photographs in a world that was suddenly saturated with photographic imagery.   As Paglen suggests “traditional approaches to doing-photography and thinking-about-photography feel increasingly anachronistic”

I agree but also wonder how the anachronistic elements of the medium will be redefined in the 21st century.  I can’t help but think we are all re-living the experience of the 19th century French painter, Paul Delaroche, who upon seeing the first photograph in 1839 ran into the street and declared, “From today painting is dead”. Painting didn’t die but its relationship to reality was fundamentally altered forever which, in turn, allowed painters the opportunity to explore new dimensions of their medium. Will this history repeat itself with photography as it transitions into “old media”. Perhaps it is time for a new – New Vision.

Artifacts – Benjamen Walker


Benjamin Walker (of WMFU Radio in New York) has recently done a podcast titled, ARTIFACTS, which looks at digital vs. material culture in the art world and beyond.  The program begins with an interview I did with Walker on a recent visit to NYC and continues with art conservator Christine Frohneris – this is followed by a discussion with Whitney Museum curator, Christiane Paul.

UPDATE:  I highly recommend the follow up to this podcast: ARTIFACTS 2 – interviews with Nathan Jurgenson, Fred Ritchin & Finn Bruntun

The Agenda – Through the Lens


I was recently interviewed by Steve Paikin on TVO’s – THE AGENDA. My interview was followed by an interesting panel discussion about our changed relationship to photography.

A Picture’s Worth (Panel Discussion)      

Camera Phones. Slideshows. Selfies. The Agenda takes a look at the role images increasingly play in our lives, what the rise of the image means to our ability to communicate with each other and what kind of literacy people need to successfully engage in an image-thick, technology-laden world.

Peter Vidani, Creative Director,Tumblr
Rita Leistner, Photojournalist
Paul Roth, Curator – The Ryerson Image Centre
Barry Quinn, Creative Director, Juniper Park

Darkness, Be Not Proud

The new issue of Border Crossings Magazine has just been released and features an article about my exhibitions by writer Katie Addleman.Border Crossings Magazine

The fascination of Burley’s project lies, in part, in its full-throttle embrace of the possibilities that the new visual media present, at the same time that the project memorializes and includes the photography that is passing into history.

Exhibitions open in Europe and North America

Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness  The National Gallery of Canada, October 18th/13 to January 5th/14

Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness
The National Gallery of Canada, October 18th/13 to January 5th/14

In the past week I’ve opened two versions of my exhibition, Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness.   Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto and curated by Gaelle Morel, this show opened first at Musée Nicéphore Niépce in Chalon-sur-Saône, France.  This remarkable museum which celebrates the inventor of photography as well as the medium’s history will be showing the exhibition from Oct. 12th/13 to Jan. 12th/14.  My thanks go out to François Cheval / Conservateur en chef and Christelle Rochette / Conservatrice adjointe for their work related to producing a European version of the exhibition.

The National Gallery of Canada has opened the North American version of the exhibition which I produced with the Ryerson Image Centre over the past few months – it will be shown from Oct. 18th/13 to Jan. 5th/14 and has been overseen by NGC Associate Curator, Andrea Kunard. On Saturday, Oct. 26th/13 NGC Director, Marc Mayer will chair a panel discussion with myself, photographer Michel Campeau (who has just opened, Icons of Obsolescence) and curators, Morel and Kunard.

Kodak Emerges from Bankruptcy

Kodak Emerges

This past week I was interviewed by an Associated Press writer about the news that Kodak has received approvals to exit Chapter 11.  This  is an interesting story because the Kodak that will emerge from bankruptcy in September will be unrecognizable to most.

They will have divested themselves of their still photography divisions and will no longer make cameras –  two core businesses that have defined Kodak since it was first established by George Eastman in 1888.  Instead Kodak now defines itself as “a printing and imaging company” – one that will have no relationship with consumers.