This is easily one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen at the Photographers’ Gallery for some time, with plenty of interesting and thought provoking imagery demanding engagement,
Taking over several floors at the gallery, “How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play,” is a new multimedia show exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play.
The area around the Gallery is now part of the Soho Photography Quarter, which launched in June 2022.
Soho Photography Quarter (SPQ) is an exciting new cultural space situated just off Oxford St, presenting free open-air exhibitions and projections highlighting the very best of contemporary photography and ensuring they are accessible to the widest possible audiences, without restriction.
Here’s how the Gallery describes the new installation:
How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play is a new multimedia exhibition exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play.
It invites audiences to focus on the playful aspects of visual culture, and creates unexpected connections between the history of photography and the practices of image-making within computer games and wider digital screen culture.
Featuring over 30 international artists and a rich assemblage of multimedia artworks and vernacular images representing a variety of positions across contemporary and twentieth century photography, How to Win at Photography questions the very meaning and function of photography today.
Artists include Chinese contemporary artist, documentarian and activist Ai Weiwei; Polish multimedia artist Aneta Grzeszykowska; post-conceptual technology-based American artist Cory Arcangel; French surrealist photographer, sculptor and writer Claude Cahun; feminist artist, Cindy Sherman; German filmmaker, video artist, theorist and writer Harun Farocki; legendary American artist Ed Ruscha; Taiwanese visual artist John Yuyi and American photographer, painter and conceptual artist Sherrie Levine.
Photography is inherently playful, but the play is not free. There are rules that the photographer must master, skills to conquer, expectations to fulfil. The very circulation of images is now a trackable, surveilled, quantifiable process like everything else on the internet.
Photographs receive a ‘score’ in the form of likes and reposts. They are instantly monetised, becoming part of a larger economic competition for attention in which gamified elements and score systems are increasingly influential.
At the same time, photography is a fundamental part of today’s video game culture. Not only does it drive forward the photorealistic development of digital imaging; it offers ‘open worlds’, vast environments that can be explored and documented by virtual photographers.
How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play is an open invitation to rethink photography through the act of playing with – and breaking – the rules of the game and to consider who is playing who.
It challenges visitors to consider such questions as:
Are we playing with the camera or is the camera playing us? What is our role within the system of photography? Are we mere pawns in a larger social and cultural network?
What can a playful photographer realistically achieve? And, ultimately who can ‘win’ this game?
Equally interesting was this smaller exhibition entitled, “The Partisan Coffee House: Radical Soho and the New Left,” which documented the life and legacy of one of Soho’s radical venues.
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