The inaugural cycle of the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) launches new programming on April 29 at nowseethis.org, investigating the lifecycle of images: their creation, transmission, consumption, storage, potential loss, and reemergence. Technology accelerates the pace of this cycle, and often alters or redirects the trajectory of an image in unexpected, powerful ways.
The Hillman Photography Initiative, a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography and its impact on the world, is among the most forward-thinking models of inquiry in a museum today. A group of external agents—Marvin Heiferman, Alex Klein, Illah Nourbakhsh, and Arthur Ou—joined CMOA curator Tina Kukielski and program manager Divya Rao Heffley in 2013 to pose a set of questions about the future of photography as an art form in a world in which any one individual sees thousands of images per day.
The result is four projects that, taken together, investigate the boundaries and possibilities of photography through the way that an image travels. Conceived through an open, discursive process, unique in a museum setting, these projects include live public events at the museum, a pop-up reading room in the galleries, two collaborative web-based projects, and a series of commissions, including documentary videos, art projects, and writing. The website, nowseethis.org, fosters public conversations around the larger story that these four projects tell, and knits them together in a single experience.
The Invisible Photograph unveils rare or never-before-seen views of hidden hubs of photography. The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook initiates A People’s History of Pittsburgh, a collaborative, participatory photographic history project, and also invites the public to experience the art of the printed photobook as its seen through the eyes of two artists-in-residence. This Picture tracks the many reactions that can be elicited from a single photograph. Orphaned Images engages artists and writers to explore the anonymous, ubiquitous, “orphaned” image that is created as images are appropriated, altered, and lose authorship.
The Invisible Photograph
The Invisible Photograph, a five-part documentary series, investigates the expansive realm of photographic production, distribution, and consumption by way of the hidden side of photography, whether guarded, stashed away, barely recognizable, or simply forgotten. The Corbis Image Archive at Iron Mountain in Butler, PA, contains millions of photographs 220 feet underground, stored under refrigeration and kept under extremely tight security. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project in Mountain View, CA, reconstructs the earliest orbital photographs of the moon’s surface, seen for the first time in decades due to the obsolete format of the image data tapes. These and other new documentary productions, screenings, and discussions demonstrate the unexpected challenges in the seemingly simple act of producing, retrieving, and looking at an image.
The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook
The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook includes a temporary reading room and event space at the museum, with programming investigating the many ways that photobooks present and interpret images. Photographers Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar of Spaces Corners, a Pittsburgh bookshop specializing in photography books, will staff the reading room, and will be available to engage directly with the public on select days of the week. Catanese and Panar also lead the yearlong A People’s History of Pittsburgh project, compiling family-owned, found, and anonymous photographs and stories from the city’s residents to create an online archive that unearths and reconstructs narratives through the lives of Pittsburghers. Through online submissions, scanning parties, and community outreach, A People’s History of Pittsburgh takes shape on an interactive website. Catanese and Panar will conclude the project by editing and co-publishing a print photobook with CMOA, which will function as a collective photo album for the people of the city and its surrounding area.
With millions of images produced and shared every day, what is the value of a single image? What can it do, and how does it travel? This Picture explores the breadth of what photographic images can say and do by tracking the responses and feedback a single image can trigger and generate. Each month, the museum invites the public to submit responses to a carefully selected photograph. Responses could take many forms and will generate a constellation of conversations. Experts in art, technology, and the social sciences will be invited to write online to enrich the dialogue. These images also serve as the basis for a collaborative project with CMOA’s education department to build visual literacy through a targeted engagement with area school teachers.
“Orphaned images” are increasingly common. They have been manipulated, circulated, corrupted, and shared; removed from their original authors or creators. The Orphaned Images project includes written and artist commissions around the pressing issues raised by these conditions, and investigates how photographs produce and take on meaning, both online and offline, in the world outside the artist’s studio. Expanding upon discussions about appropriation, distribution, transmission, and surveillance, the project considers new forms of photographic materiality, value, and agency.
To participate in the projects, watch films, follow the discussions, or learn more about the Hillman Photography Initiative at CMOA, visit nowseethis.org.
The Hillman Photography Initiative’s first cycle of projects charts an ambitious course for one of the most forward-thinking photography programs at any museum. By placing discussions usually reserved for professionals and theorists in public spaces, the first cycle will present outcomes that directly address image-creators, and will shape future Hillman Photography Initiative programming at CMOA. Two new agents will be selected at the close of the year, while two remain for the next cycle, and brainstorming will begin anew.
Support for the Hillman Photography Initiative was provided by the William T. Hillman Foundation, and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.
General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understand of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.
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