The majority of photographic images today are recorded and viewed digitally, rather than on film and paper. Amateurs, photojournalists and commercial photographers alike rarely produce material objects as the final step in their photographic process, making photographs in the form of physical objects increasingly scarce.
But what happens to personal and collective memories when photographic images are not instantly accessible on the face of physical objects? How is society’s relationship to memory changing as digital photographs become the norm?
A number of contemporary artists are making work that suggests the potential consequences of photography’s latest metamorphosis. Two main strategies emerge: some artists dig deep into photographic materials as though searching for the locus of memory, and others incorporate found photographs into their work as virtual talismans of recollection. Both highlight the presence of the photographic object and function as self-conscious meditations on photography’s ongoing reorganization of our mental and physical landscape.
A Matter of Memory features the work of more than 30 artists including Thomas Barrow, Matthew Brandt, Ellen Carey, John Chiara, Adam Fuss, Robert Heinecken, Leslie Hewitt, Kenneth Josephson, Laura Letinsky, Chris McCaw, Diane Meyer, Yola Monakhov Stockton, Vik Muniz, Floris Neusüss, Marlo Pascual, Matthew Porter, Taryn Simon, Michelle Stuart, Kunié Sugiura, Bertien van Manen, James Welling and Augusta Wood.
Lisa Hostetler is curator in charge of the Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum. She has held previous positions as the McEvoy Family Curator of Photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and as Curator of Photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She earned her PhD from Princeton University with a dissertation on photographer Louis Faurer while working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including Brian Ulrich: The Centurion (2015), David Levinthal: History (2015), Color Rush: American Color Photography from Stieglitz to Sherman (2013; catalogue co-author), Taryn Simon: Photographs and Texts (2011), Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography (2010; catalogue author) and Saul Leiter: In Living Color (2006).
William T. Green is the curatorial assistant in the Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum, a position he has held since 2013. He earned a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2011 and an MA from Ryerson University in 2013. He was a contributor to The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Photography (2015), edited by Nathalie Herschdorfer.
Bruce Barnes is the Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the George Eastman Museum, a position he has held since 2012. He is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and is founder of Leeds Art Foundation (formerly, American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation). He is co-author and editor of The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmermann (2012) and editor of The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs (2008). He received a BA and a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.