The Griffin Museum presents new work from creative artist Aline Smithson
, Fugue States
On the walls of the Atelier Gallery in Winchester this November, Smithson won the Directors Prize in 2021 during the Members Juried Exhibition, selected by Executive Director and Curator Paula Tognarelli. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog of the works included in the exhibition.
Join us on Sunday November 6th from 4 to 6pm for a reception with the artist at the museum in Winchester.
From Aline Smithson’s Artist Statement
is an on-going exploration of the future legacies of photography, currently with two areas of focus: the disappearance of the physical print and the life span of digital files. For the past several decades, I have considered how photographs move through time and how they are appreciated and stored in preparation for the future. Photography is an ever-changing medium, morphing and shifting with new technologies, some profoundly impacting our ability to access our photographic histories.
As an analog photographer, I have watched my practice diminished and altered by the loss of materials and methodologies. Over the years I have collected and created hundreds of portraits, some acquired are almost a century old and it’s made me consider the formal portrait amid the shifting sands of photography, the loss of photograph as object, and most importantly, the loss of photographic legacies.
speaks to the potential loss of the tangible photograph in future generations. I observe my children, part of the most documented generation in history, creating thousands of images for their social media outlets, but am painfully aware that they have never made a photographic print and will most likely have no physical photographs to pass down to their grandchildren. This loss of the photograph-as-object, as something tangible to be circulated through the decades, reflects the fading away of specific memories and identities, and the loss of cultural and familial histories in forms that we associate with family preservation.
The photographs created for this series sit in an in-between space of the future and the past, demonstrating the clash between images and materiality, where materiality, unfortunately, seems to be losing ground. For this project, after creating analog portraits of people in my life, I have damaged the emulsion of my negatives, wounding the film stock with a variety of chemicals. I then reinterpret the image in the digital darkroom in the original, negative state where the potential for both the restoration and erasure of memory are present. I am in fact, damaging my own photographic legacy to call attention to this shift from the physical to the visual.
Revisited was created after the loss of a hard drive that held 20 years of analog scans. In my attempt to recover the files, only half came back in a format that was accessible. The rest of the files were corrupted, each totally unique in how the machine damages and reinterprets the pixels. This alarming result made me begin to consider ever-shifting digital platforms and file formats, and I realized that much of the data we produce today could eventually fall into a black hole of inaccessibility.
As an analog photographer, rather than let the machine have the last word, I have cyanotyped over my damaged digital scans. I use silhouettes of portraits from my archives to conceal and reveal the corruption. By using historical processes to create a physical object, I guarantee that this image will not be lost in the current clash between the digital file and the materiality of a photographic print.
Revisited calls attention to the fact that today’s digital files may not retain their original state, or even exist, in the next century. The Getty Research Institute states, “While you are still able to view family photographs printed over 100 years ago, a CD with digital files on it from only 10 years ago might be unreadable because of rapid changes to software and the devices we use to access digital content.”
As we are reliant on technology to keep our images intact for future generations, it begs the question, who will maintain our hard drives after we are gone? Will we be able to conserve photographs that speak to family histories? These are important considerations for our visual futures, as we may be leaving behind photographs that will be re-imagined by machines or no longer cherish physical markers of proof that we existed.
Image: © Aline Smithson