Today, in the age of CCTV, drone media, and satellite imaging, photography is increasingly decoupled from human agency and human vision. It can also literally see the end of the world. The notion of ‘nonhuman photography’ proposed by Joanna Zylinska, will expand the human-centric idea of photography to embrace imaging practices from which the human is absent: from the contemporary high-tech examples provided by traffic control cameras, space photography, and Google Earth, through to deep-time impression-making processes such as fossilisation. The Anthropocene, understood as a global ecological-economic crisis in which the human is said to have become a geological agent, will frame the analysis to highlight the interweaving of the photographic medium with chemistry, minerals, fossil fuels, and the sun—but also with us humans. By examining a number of visual projects, including some from her own practice, Zylinska will argue that the Anthropocene becomes visible to us through altered light, and through the particulate matter reflected in it. She will also suggest that photography can allow us humans to ‘unsee’ ourselves from our own narcissistic parochialism, and to imagine a more ecological vision of selfhood.
To accompany the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, a series of events have been programmed to further explore the themes and issues that are raised in the three artists’ body of works. Joanna Zykinska’s invitation to talk about ‘non-human photography’ has been motivated by Sam Laughlin’s photographs tracing animal behaviours and natural processes in the landscape.
Joanna Zylinska is a writer, lecturer, artist and curator, as well as Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of many books on art, technology and media, the latest one of which is Nonhuman Photography (MIT Press, 2017). In 2013 she was Artistic Director of Transitio_MX05 ‘Biomediations’, the biggest Latin American new media festival, which took place in Mexico City. Her own art practice involves experimenting with different kinds of photomedia. She has recently co-edited two open access books, Photomediations: An Open Book and Photomediations: A Reader as part of Europeana Space, a grant funded by the European Union’s ICT Policy Support Programme. She is currently exploring ‘the end of man’, philosophically and visually. http://www.joannazylinska.net