Art

Two German photographers explore the role of technology in the photographic process

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Two German photographers explore what happens when technology intervenes in the photographic process, at this exhibition, which has travelled from Mumbai to Bengaluru, to Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai

The camera is only the first step. Viktoria Binschtok and Michael Schäfer take what it captures, and then turn to technology to lend it a touch — sometimes of dissonance, sometimes of surrealism, always of social commentary.

These perspectives, from lens to technology to art galleries, are what the two Berlin-based photographers are exhibiting at With/Against The Flow — Contemporary Photographic Interventions, organised by Stuttgart-based Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen and the Goethe Institut, in cooperation with the Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation.

Touch of technology

Indeed, Binschtok sometimes makes technological intervention her very first step — like the time she took screenshots of Google Street View images of typical 2008 New York street life, and later visited those locations herself to capture the place with her own eyes and lens. The small D4 black-and-white prints of the screenshots contrast sharply with the big, coloured shots that Binschtok took herself two years later. “I already had the coordinates of the scenes; I wanted to see them in the three-dimensional world,” she says. Her explanation of what sparked this project is intriguing: “I was scrolling through the streets and saw people looking back into the camera — captured by a machine and not by a human photographer. This is also about surveillance by a major corporation. Since Google updates its street view, you won’t get to see these images online any more. These moments have also become history, that I have managed to save for future generations.”

Schäfer, on the other hand, takes images of war, politics or of other news, and superimposes them on other images to create thought-provoking results. Suspended from the ceiling of Lalit Kala Akademi’s gallery is a large frame of plexiglass, presenting the image of a man in his twenties, dressed in beach wear, gazing askance at a violent scene of war that seems to be taking place less than a few feet from where he stands. So carefully is the superimposition done that, if not for the difference in definition and sharpness of lines in the different images, they would look like they had been shot at the same place together, right down to the shadows they cast on the ground in the image.

There are numerous such: the conflict images are grabs from videos taken by actual fighters and uploaded online; the other photos are of people close to Schäfer. “It is my attempt to put two very different realities together — our reality, and the reality of a place we usually would never go to,” he explains. An entire wall, for instance, has photos of models walking the ramp, with faces replaced by those of teenagers and young children who emulate such models from magazine and television. To see young, innocent faces set in the imposing, eccentric, sometimes unhealthy world of high fashion is a stark reminder of what children in our society aspire to be, when exposed to aspirational media content.

Binschtok has a few works from three different series on exhibit here. Three People On The Phone was shot in Tokyo in 2004 and produced in 2007 — a look at the very appearance of people in public places changing with technology. “I realised the important role that the mobile phone played in daily life... at that time, in Europe, this was not so. Coming from Europe to Japan, it was something new to me.”

So new, that Binschtok shot images of people absorbed in their phones on streets, and other public places of Tokyo. No matter how many people in her frame, exactly three would be busy with their device and all would be oblivious to the fact that they were on camera. “Now, we don’t see it as something strange any more. Times change... and also the device changes. You can see that this is before the iPhone,” she says. “They have their old phones, and in this big city they have all managed to find their privacy, keeping a sort of distance from each other,” she muses, looking at the moment frozen in another time.

With/Against The Flow — Contemporary Photographic Interventions is being held at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road, till December 1. It is open to all.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:38:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/textures-of-reality/article30016496.ece

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