Two new books about Rochester

Over the last six months two new photography books have been released that touch on the theme of Rochester’s long standing reputation as Photography City.  Magnum photographer Alex Webb teamed up with his partner and fellow photographer Rebecca Norris-Webb to produce a poetic work titled, Memory City (Radius Books 2014).  This beautifully produced volume presents a visual essay created over a two year period that began with one of the Magnum’s famous road trips to Rochester. In 2012 a group of Magnum photographer’s descended on the Rochester  lead by Martin Parr – each having committed to creating a portfolio of 100 images about the city over a two week period. It appears that two weeks was just not enough to document the place that was home to Kodak and responsible producing film: that most essential material for the team of Webb & Norris. They returned on many occasions and produced this book as an homage to both the Eastman Kodak Company as well as photography’s material history.

Just released in September is another book titled, Kodak City (Kehrer Verlag), by Swiss photographer Catherine Leutenegger who first started photographing in Rochester in 2007 and made several trips back to city of the Great Yellow Father over the next four years. Like the Webb-Norris book Leutenegger looks at a metropolis that has suffered the great loss of Kodak as the company that not only employed tens of thousands of workers, but also shaped built the city’s reputation as one of the great centres of innovation in the field of imaging science as well as a centre for art and education.  Leutenegger uses photography’s descriptive abilities to evoke a sense of melancholy  in what appearsto be deadpan images of a city in transition.

Throughout the twentieth century all photographic roads led to Rochester regardless of your relationship to the medium.  Today whether you are a photographer, technologist or enthusiast the City of Rochester is a remarkable place that continues to attract artists, historians and researchers engaged with the medium.  As we all re-negotiate our relationship to photographic images in the 21st century one can’t help but feel there are still many books to be done about this city and its history.  I look forward to more.

Hollywood comes to film’s rescue.

WSJTwo years ago Kodak announced it would be producing motion picture film until 2015 under an agreement with four Hollywood studios. The movie industry is the last major market to make the shift from film to digital and many industry insiders have been saying that once Hollywood no longer needs film – it won’t be possible for Kodak or any other company to continue production; it’s just too complicated and expensive to manufacture as a niche product. Without the economy of scale provided by major studios – the manufacturers would be forced to wind down and discontinue the last remaining products available. Fuji threw in the towel in 2013 leaving the Kodak plant in Rochester as the only facility continuing to manufacture movie film. I’ve been watching this story because my still photographic films – specifically my color negative sheet films – can only be produced on the coat tails of those orders for millions of feet of motion picture film. I’ve been counting the days until I would have one less option for making photographs. However,a recent article in the Wall Street Journal states that a coalition of major movie studios have committed to continued, though limited production runs of film in the coming years.
I say, BRAVO!! and hope that this agreement continues long into the future. It is interesting to note that the push behind this deal is from individual artist/directors like Scorcese, Tarintino and Nolan who all use digital systems but do not want to lose the option of film for future productions. Once again the point is made that film and digital are different mediums.

Is photography over…?

Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 10.48.23 AM

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

Theory-of-Everything

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.
LISTEN HERE

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

 Agenda_Dec13

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.

PANEL GUESTS:
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.