By definition, photojournalism is “the practice of collecting, editing, and communicating news through created photographs, for media publications.” A practice traditionally put in motion by the mechanics of the news industry: photo-editors, publishing executives, and producers of images. This news industry consists of a limited number of publications with a restricted amount of paper and pixel real-estate. This places the photo editor into a position with strict and conventional curatorial criteria.
While in the past this process was well-balanced, with production of images meeting demand from photo-managers, the digital age has reversed the flow such that supply comes ahead of demand. The over-supply which occurred as a result of this shift has caused the news images to spill into alternative domains of representation.
Until now, successful and talented photojournalists would eventually have a retrospective exhibition or publish a book of their work; and when they did, it would be accepted that it contain a different selection of images than those run by news publications. This would be some time after the images were no longer ‘news’ – as implied by the term ‘retrospective’. As production and dissemination of images has accelerated, ‘news’ images began to appear in museums, galleries, books, and festivals while the photographers were still covering the events. This trend reached momentum this year during the Arab Spring when images which were still circulating in the news media were simultaneously presented in art galleries.
This project is a curatorial experiment: to find an original way of showing photojournalism – as ‘news’ images, not ‘art’ images – but through a creative curatorial process, allowing the public to reflect on how we interpret the news, and how we parse the visual world.
Images are still intrinsically ‘interesting’ – curatorial context can add perspective. Images which reflect the goings-on in the world are important – editorial context can enhance their importance. This project aims to parse the overlap between these: interesting and important, curatorial and editorial.
• A gallery space is open to the public, in the center of a city.
• A work table is set up with a computer and a large-format photo printer.
• A number of news images syndicating agencies are invited to share their image feeds, the computer is connected to the internet and access these feeds, as well as Flickr, Facebook, and any other sources of current news images.
• Photojournalists active in the field are invited to submit work; the computer is configured as a server to facilitate uploading images directly to the space.
• During opening hours, a curatorial team of 1 – 3 editors select, print, and hang images on the walls of the space. Curatorial teams will shift, rotate, or be replaced at any convenient or interesting interval. The editor-curators are mixed, distinguished professionals with an insight in the field of photography, journalism, contemporary art, photo criticism, relevant education and so forth.
• The selection of images and their display of the wall are entirely the prerogative of these curator- editors. They are invited to the space and left to work with images. The editors may incite debate, play games, establish ad-hoc rules, or not; and the curatorial heuristics will shift over time. They may choose to show only one image, or to entirely cover the walls with multiple layers of images; large or small, or not. The only constraint is that the images shown on the wall are current news photographs.
• A blog will be set up, which will show an archive of every image printed and displayed. The site should also show a ‘time lapse’ documenting the evolution of walls of the space as images are added and removed.
• The project will run over any arbitrary amount of time, but a minimum of a few days should be allotted so the walls can fill up and a curatorial ‘form’ can be established.
Sans-Retrospective is a collaboration with Adrien Cater.