What’s a photographic print these days – and how should it be commodified or valued – when the internet, and the ubiquity of internet-connected screens all around us, allows us to pull up an image of anything practically anywhere? A new exhibit at the International Center for Photography poses this question, but it’s ultimately up to the ingenuity of individual artists to find the answers. Job Piston‘s photogrammetry, on exhibit on the opposite coast at the California Museum of Photography, has offered one possible idea for the transformation of ephemeral digital images into permanent, collectible objects, and it hovers intriguingly between the analog and the digital, creating ‘living artifacts’ that look like they’re literally preserved in amber.
The bright red-yellow color of his “Reds” prints are a direct result of their simple printing process: pressing a piece of photosensitive paper against a laptop screen and coaxing out the exposed areas in the darkroom. The idea for the process came to him in a moment of mischief, he told UCR ARTSblock, as he exposed an entire box of the paper while checking his email. He realized the process worked perfectly for an era in which photographs’ methods of circulation have started to dictate what is produced. Instead of scarce, cherished moments of how we ‘naturally’ looked at a certain moment or age, our newly infinite film rolls have allowed for a new medium for posturing and performance in the era of the ‘selfie.’
The medium of photogrammetry works perfectly for the subjects of Piston’s photographs, who he revisits over time as their identities, manifest in external signifiers like clothing, morph and evolve. The online world that influences these personal presentations, Piston has realized, is simultaneously hyperconnected and insulated from our lives as we actually live them. His photograms preserve that hyperconnected ‘Second Life’ for posterity. He told UCR ARTSblock:
All the images in “Reds” are staged for the public, but there’s very little left of the person’s identity there. We’re quite literally looking at a fossil of the computer screen. The image has been photographed, processed, scanned, uploaded, downloaded, pixelated and exposed before it has had time to come up for air. The result is a slippery residue of what’s left.
View more of his work below.