Transmitter presents: An Introduction
STEPHEN HILGER, JOSEPH LAWTON, PAUL MCDONOUGH, SERGIO PURTELL
OCTOBER 28 – DECEMBER 4, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 6–9 PM
At the time of its invention, photography was a revolutionary technology, and critical discussion of the medium to this day seems doomed to be tied to technology’s development. Currently, discussions of photography are likely to center on the proliferation of camera phones, the popularity of Instagram, and the surplus of images online and in the physical world. Yet this tends to distract from photography’s rich visual history, separate from the materials it employs.
While there have always been critical discussions of technique within the media of painting and sculpture, for the average viewer, this talk of materials is superseded by questions of meaning. Photography, by contrast, has had a harder time moving beyond technique, because of a general lack of understanding of what an art photograph is and how it is created. Painting, sculpture and other mediums give life to their work out of imagination and intellect. By contrast, photography, is tethered to the real world by the ordinary objects we see daily, often leaving even enthusiastic viewers unable to explain what they find arresting about a photograph. Technology provides a convenient and easily grasped talking point for a medium whose real significance may be fleeting, ethereal and exceedingly hard to verbalize.
Despite recent advances in digital technology, most artists making photographs start out as they have for the last eighty years, in a small black and white school darkroom, using a hand-held film camera to take pictures of the world immediately around them. Struggling to make order of the unending stream of reality that rushes by, desperately trying to find compelling moments that express a unique relationship to the world, they push the button, hoping to capture an image that is as clear and meaningful as the scene they glimpsed through the lens.
While photography has grown into a large and diverse field. its practitioners are often bound together by that common beginning, black & white pictures of the world. This photographic tradition, often described as “straight photography,” predates conceptual art, post-modernism, staged photography and post-postmodernism. While the term may be reductive, it historically describes photographers who create a visual language from the world around them to communicate what they find intriguing and important.
The four artists in An Introduction have worked for decades in this tradition. Producing black and white photographs, their invaluable contributions keep the tradition of straight photography alive. They provide a benchmark for the fundamental elements of all photography: the creation of images that are visually engaging, with something clear and compelling to say. This work binds and sustains the medium. It is a tradition that transcends mere technique and awakens viewers to the visual possibilities of the world around them.