Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Contemporary digital natives

Oct 13, 2015 - Salvatore Vitale

In the last few months I've been invited to take part to several festival and events around Europe as a portfolio reviewer. I can't hide that reading portfolios is something that I really like and enjoy as it is a good way to meet new talents and observing what is going on in photography's world. It's always so inspiring to see new body of works, their development and the process behind, in a sort of protected space where you are not faced - in many cases - with a finished work, but mainly on some ideas and visual suggestions that are still up to be fully developed. Of course, sometimes you can feel amazed, other time very disappointed. That's a part of the game. As a reviewer I always feel a big commitment cause I know that my feedbacks and words can completely change a body of work. I mean, this is not something new, but it's important to underline it. Anyway, all of this brought me to see so many works on the past few months, works that come from several regions and parts of the world, of course, but that are incredibly closer than it could seem. I can speak about different and several contexts, but there is one particular experience that I want to underline in this post. Last August me and a great panel of reviewers such as Aaron Schuman, Fergus Heron, Karen McQuaid, Marcella Manni, Marga Rotteveel, Marina Gržinić, Nicola Von Segner, Štěpánka Šimlová, Taiyo Onorato (TONK) and Elena Vaninetti (my colleague from YET magazine) have been invited to Slovenia, in this small town called Novo Mesto where "fotopub" festival happens. But why I'm calling exactly this experience? Well, I can say that one of the first reasons is that I didn't know what to expect from it. I mean, what can you imagine of a festival that borns from the ruins of a well-known established festival of documentary photography to focus on contemporary photography? You can agree with me in saying that preconditions were already interesting. After an unforgettable car trip from Venice to Novo Mesto, finally it was time to discover the work of those young contemporary photographers. I've been quite inspired by the big variety of solutions and visual languages presented during those two intensive days of screenings, but I've also been surprised by the conceptual approach. It was very easy to notice that almost all the presented works, although they were examining various subjects, were playing on "web-based topics". Well, at this point one can think - and in a way it is for sure one of the reasons - that it is a normal heritage of a generation which grew up with the web. They are (almost) all digital natives. But I think there is something more. So I tried to discuss the reason of this trend both with my colleagues and with some of the invited artists. As I was saying before, the subjects and visual approaches were various: they were going from the use of Google maps and street view to 3d rendering, collages about very personal topics, videos and installations, re-interpretation of art or usage of search engines. It was like opening up a huge library in which finding all the possible usage of the web itself. Some contemporary photographers are trying to depict reality, again. But a virtual one. Which in a way - and please don't get mad at me - it can be compared to what photojournalists do when they try to depict objective and uncontested reality. But what does it means to depict a virtual reality? First of all it means to be an user. An active user. Something that those photographers I met are doing, in a way or another. And in many cases they were the main subjects or characters of their projects. In general, more than the work itself - where problems come, since it is very hard to find a great visual language for it - I was interested in the idea behind the projects, in what brings them to explore one or the other aspect of this virtual reality. Sometimes I've been totally shocked by how far some of them could go crossing some boundaries. But the main feeling - at least for me - was to notice that there was something missing. All of this suggested to me another question: why taking the web as a starting point but, in several cases, not as an ending one? Why not to cross those boundaries also in the use of the media itself? Or why coming back again and again to the idea of the printed matter? I've been finding myself several times to suggest to create a web-based output. Maybe it was just a matter of doing a step more, going deeper into research, studying a new language, but I felt the strong need of a step beyond in order to underline the nature of the project. We can start endless topics on printed matter versus online media, this is not what I intend to do here, but sometimes I got the feeling that many photographers are trying to leave a concrete sign and the web is still something aleatory.  It is important to underline that I'm not speaking only about fotopub's artists - of course -, but I'm using this example as starting point of my reasoning. Be careful, I'm running a magazine which is on paper, I'm printing my photos and I'm a photo book and magazine lover, but I also believe in the great potential of the web and virtual platforms. The way you choose to present your work is part of your work itself and it can bring it to another level or, on the contrary, being the weakest link. There would be a lot more to be said, but a post is a post and probably it will be already hard to come until the end of it. I'm using this space to give some starting points, some suggestions that can lead someone to start a discussion or a research or whatever. What I want to say in order to end this post is that I'm very curious to see what is going to happen in the next five or ten years. I had kind of a taste during those Slovenian days and it was very positive at the end. So, let's see! PS: You find the list of exhibited artists at fotopub's website