What kind of activity are we engaging in when we look at images in a gallery? Something of that activity is certainly about participating in “culture,” about having good taste, and how good that makes us feel about ourselves. If the work exists nowhere but on the screen of an iPhone (in this case, on the screens of 2,307 iPhones — Pinkhassov’s risibly small number of Instagram followers; compare this to Dmitry Medvedev’s fifty-five thousand) then we have to adjust our expectations about the satisfactions a photograph can give. Squeezed in between sandwiches and anodyne sunsets, a Pinkhassov image (or any other image propelled by thought) must satisfy on its own merits. Thoughtfully made photographs, photographs that try to continue the conversation begun by Niépce and Atget, must somehow compete for attention among billions of other images presented in the same way. The images are not pre-credentialed by being hung on a wall at the International Center for Photography or the Leica Gallery.
We are left with optical discriminations and optical pleasures, and it is in this private space that the work regains its aura. In this sense, digital photography and social media, even though the tiny little screen can be irritating, are helping to introduce new criteria: there is no editioning, no signature, no date of printing. It will be a headache for curators in the future, but it’s a pleasure for the pure lover of the image: while lying in bed in the morning, you can see the latest work from a photographer you find interesting. The image comes to you.
First posted: Wednesday, September 26th, 2012.