Untitled by Justin James Reed
Monroe, New Jersey, 2006.
Used with permission.
The terminology is the same as in real time; curators, galleries and exhibitions, but they happen online and not in the ‘real world’, so to speak. So what is the difference between these two modes of display; what have we lost and what have we gained?
Andy Adams recently curated Looking at the Land, a slideshow exhibition for his prominent photography website Flakphoto.
I was recently lucky enough to visit Stockholm, where they have Fotografiska, a contemporary photography Museum showing a retrospective of Sally Mann. Part of the excellence of this show was the experience of the work as well as the work itself. Although I have seen Sally Mann’s work plenty of times before, including the same show recently at The Photographers’ Gallery, this time was quite different, which highlighted to me the importance of the curator. The walls were painted black and each image was individually lit with little other light in the room. The impact of this was that I personally connected with each image as I was isolated with it in the darkness. In London the work was in a bright white room so I was half aware of where I was going next and half aware of what was going on in the picture in front of me. Here, I found myself ping ponging back and forth between the images that stood out to me most, revisiting ones with a certain pull and bypassing others. My footpath was spontaneous and erratic compared to the linear one laid out for me in London. The same work, differently presented gave me completely different viewing experiences.
Which leads me to wonder how much input the online curator has to the viewer’s response. How do they push and pull the viewer through the collection and what are they intending to convey? What kind of experience do they hope the viewer will have?
I’m sure each one is different but back to Adams. The approach is effective in Looking at the Land because it’s uniformity immediately says ‘professional’ and the slow moving pace is of stark contrast to the flickering norm of the online world. It certainly slows down the average online viewer, but I am allocated the same amount of time with each picture so I can’t linger with my favourites or move on quickly when I choose. I wonder how each image would be treated if it was given it’s own space in an actual exhibition.
What was your online viewing experience?