As technology rapidly and irreversibly seeps into everyday activities, the introduction of the iPhone camera in 2007 has already had a dramatic impact on the way photographs are made, used and looked at. Used widely as a means to document and share real time experience, whether for artistic or social purposes, Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists is both a playful jab and realistic look at the evolution of the medium. “It was a major change in photography from a historical point of view; as big a change as the introduction of the Kodak camera was in the late 1880s,” explained Mia Fineman, associate curator in the photography department and exhibition organiser, to Artsy. “It put the camera in many people’s hands – all the time. And more than anything else, they were using it to communicate with each other.”
Twelve artists from different disciplines were commissioned to participate in a project to explore what happens when artists communicate in only “visual dialogue” with a partner of their choice from November 2017 until April 2017. “I thought it would offer an opportunity to see inside artists’ minds,” Fineman said. “And to be exposed to a certain kind of visual literacy that professional image-makers have.” In what the museum describes as “a game of pictorial Ping-Pong”, artists adhered to strict conditions including no written messages, captions, and critically, no sharing on social media. Displayed as videos and PDFs on iPads, books and printed images, the 60 individual works are a journey through the lives and perspectives of a unique, candid, and at times intimate, form of conversation.
Participating artists include Cao Fei, Ahmet Ögüt and Rob Pruitt, among others, with highlights including exchanges between Manjari Sharma and Irina Rozovsky who realised they were both pregnant, due in April, and finished their conversation by sharing images of their newborns; absurd videos between William Wegman and Tony Oursler featuring dogs dressed as humans performing domestic tasks or modified Snapchat filter images; and a feminist and political resistance-themed series between Nicole Eisenman and A L Steiner including images of signs from the Women’s March and a cake decorated with Wonder Woman’s crown.
Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists runs 27 June-17 December at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. For more information visit metmuseum.org