The Shadow Machine Project
Project Summary

The study of photography has never been more critical. In what has become a photographic information culture, we experience images that are mostly created with, distributed through, and encountered on, computational devices. As cameras become thinking machines that are starting to see for themselves; does photographic practice still requires a photographer, a camera or even a photograph? What could our experience of the photographic be as we are becoming increasingly incidental to its operation?

The future of technologies are often inscribed in their past and new understandings are to be gained by reconsidering historical concepts in contemporary contexts. In 1837, the photographic pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot described what he called Photogenic Drawing as the ‘process by which natural objects may be made to delineate themselves without the aid of the artist’s pencil.’  This project explores Talbots’ concepts of ‘fixing the shadow’ within the context of the algorithmic age. A series of ongoing practical experiments with these concepts will form an incremental development cycle. The progressive creation of practical works, informed by theoretical interpretation will evolve into the project’s final form.

The aim of the Shadow Machine Project is to critically engage with challenges facing contemporary photographic practice. It will offer insights into the profound contradictions between the cultural codes of visual language and the computational codes of software. With particular reference to the photographic tradition, this project explores not only what old technologies teach us about our newest technologies, but what our newest technologies teach us about past practices.

March 2017

"The Art of Photogenic Drawing" by Fox Talbot. Photo books for auction at Christies, St. James's London on 31 May 2007.

The Art of Photogenic Drawing” by Fox Talbot.

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