November 13, 2019

FotoFocus 2019 Symposium @ Hyperallergic

CINCINNATI, Ohio—When we look to the divisions underlying the tension in the United States these days, I submit that the most contentious excerpt from our founding documents is not the Second Amendment, but this snippet from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” This year, FotoFocus’ symposium and first ever juried exhibition, AutoUpdate: Photography in the Electronic Age was dominated by questions less of art than of ethics, more of mechanisms than of process, and concerned with outcomes rather than intentions. And, as anything that traffics in coastal thought leadership (Cincinnati is a blue island in the belly of Trump country), it was subject to the same discussion of truth as self-evident that bogs down every major point of debate in the nation.

FotoFocus Artistic Director Kevin Moore opened the symposium with a 1990 video clip of a segment on the Today Show, which featured a demonstration of an up-and-coming web product called Adobe Photoshop, as well as one of its detractors, Fred Ritchin author of the then-newly-minted In Our Own Image (Aperture, 1990), the first book on the coming digital revolution in photography. In the segment, as most of the excitement centers on what we now can do, Ritchin seems to be the only one asking if we should. How prescient his concerns seem, nearly 30 years later, as the alteration of images and estrangement from critical understanding of sources has rent the fabric of our shared reality into tatters.

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