In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the “crooked” expressive versus the “straight” documentary photograph, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate.
Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the “crooked” image through hybrid forms and visual practises and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.
It is such new approaches to photography that FORMAT19: FOREVER//NOW will address during the festival.
Forever is an idea built into the very nature of the photograph that records the moment and immediately presents us with a visual memory of the past. Forever touches upon our obsession to record and share the continuous moments of our lives. Yet forever is an illusion and the immortality photography proffers can quickly sour when digital anonymity becomes virtually impossible to obtain. The eruption of selfies and Instagram is contradicted by campaigns around the right to be forgotten or opt out.
Now is the new photography orthodoxy, in which the message is all, the product of an era that is seen as “post truth”, regardless of whether it is a fictionalised story or a factual narrative or an aesthetic mixture of the two. The challenge for the photographer is how to establish their message in the now and stop it being transitory.
In this era of Trump’s fake news, where truths, lies and myths are easily interchanged, we need to find a new structure to realign our perception of reality and provide a frame of reference for identifying where the truth really resides.
FORMAT19 will look at how photography is evolving and moving ever forward, while keeping a curatorial eye on its past and how it is being constantly reinterpreted.
Even as we endeavour to extend subjects through photography, time and material can never be endless, it is a difficult concept to pin down and the immortality that photography seems to offer is always just out of reach. Alongside the mass production of pictures and our seemingly endless desire to be seen, there are calls for digital anonymity and campaigns around the right to be forgotten or to opt out.
FOREVER//NOW is a contested idea that we invite you to think widely about, there are many ways to perceive it.