March 29, 2010 - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) - Is Photography Over?
March 29, 2010

Is Photography Over?

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Man reflected in mirrors]. n.d.
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Gordon L. Bennett

Is Photography Over?

Thursday, April 22, 7 p.m.
Friday, April 23, 2-5 p.m.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Phyllis Wattis Theater
151 Third Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

Photography has almost always been in crisis. In the beginning, the terms of this crisis were cast as dichotomies: is photography science or art? Nature or technology? Representation or truth? This questioning has intensified and become more complicated over the intervening years. At times, the issues have required a profound rethinking of what photography is, does, and means. This is one of those times. Given the nature of contemporary art practice, the condition of visual culture, the advent of new technologies, and many other factors, what is at stake today in seeing something as a photograph? What is the value of continuing to speak of photography as a specific practice or discipline? Is photography over?

As part of its yearlong festivities celebrating the museum’s 75th anniversary, SFMOMA has invited a range of major thinkers and practitioners to write brief responses to this question and then to convene in San Francisco for a two-day summit on the state of the medium. The texts, available at, will be used to kick off the symposium’s opening panel discussion at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. The 13 participants will continue the conversation in closed-door sessions Friday morning and will report back in a public session on Friday, April 23 from 2 to 5 p.m. In advance of the symposium three additional responses will be featured on Open Space, the SFMOMA blog, opening the debate to a lively public discussion. A print-on-demand publication will be forthcoming.

Participants include Vince Aletti, critic and co-curator of the International Center of Photography’s 2009 Year of Fashion; George Baker, associate professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles; Walead Beshty, photographer; Jennifer Blessing, curator of photography at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Charlotte Cotton, creative director for the proposed London space of the United Kingdom’s National Media Museum; Philip-Lorca diCorcia, photographer; Geoff Dyer, author of The Ongoing Moment; Peter Galassi, chief curator of photography at The Museum of Modern Art; Corey Keller, associate curator of photography at SFMOMA; Douglas Nickel, Andrea V. Rosenthal Professor of Modern Art at Brown University; Trevor Paglen, artist and geographer; Blake Stimson, professor of art history at the University of California, Davis; and Joel Snyder, professor in and chair of the department of art history at the University of Chicago .

This major symposium on the current state of the field is the first in a series of SFMOMA public programs on photography. This symposium is made possible by generous support of the Fraenkel Gallery Fund for New Studies in Photography.

SFMOMA was one of the first institutions to recognize the photography as an art form and has been collecting and exhibiting photographs since the museum’s founding in 1935. The museum is dedicated to the examination of the medium in all its forms and in that spirit, we will present the U.S. debut of a major survey that examines photography’s role in invasive looking. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870, from October 30, 2010 through April 17, 2011, is co-organized by SFMOMA and Tate Modern, and gathers more than 200 pictures that together form a timely inquiry into the ways in which artists and everyday people alike have probed the camera’s powerful voyeuristic capacity. Works by major artists, including Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Nan Goldin, Lee Miller, Thomas Ruff, Paul Strand, and Weegee will be presented alongside photographs made by amateurs, professional journalists, and governmental agencies, exploring the larger cultural significance of voyeurism and surveillance technology.

Due to overwhelming interest in the symposium only a limited number of tickets will be available at SFMOMA on the day of the event on a first-come, first-served basis.

Further information is available at:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
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