Contributors

Danny Birchall works in London for Wellcome Collection, where he commissions and edits digital projects.

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Biomedical Astronomy

October 2018

At the northern end of London’s Tottenham Court Road, a state of the art proton beam therapy centre is being built by University College London Hospitals. The hoardings around the site feature familiar images of patients and medical staff; but this most intimate and molecular life-saving technology itself is represented by a graphic of a glowing orb shot through with the kind of blue plasma that wouldn’t look out of place in Star Wars.
Danny Birchall questions, has the sublime returned from technology to nature, through technology’s ability to show us what cannot otherwise be seen inside ourselves?

James Bridle is a British artist and writer based in Athens, Greece.

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Through Non-Human Eyes

November 2016

The steadiness and endurance of the camera’s gaze produces the strong sense that the camera is something other than an extension of the eye: it is a sensor, a monitor, a machine for being with and in the world.

Adam Brown is Senior Lecturer in Photography at London South Bank University.

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How to photograph onion skins.

September 2016

What is success? In the past, a successful photographic career led ultimately to a monograph or a retrospective. Let’s unbox one.

Paolo Cirio is a conceptual artist and an activist that engages with legal, economic and semiotic systems of the information society.

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Internet Photography

November 2016

Photography of the Internet extends to unprecedented social fields and challenges of social norms for questioning cultural, economic and ethical values of photos circulating within the networks.

David Raymond Conroy (b. 1978 Reading) is an artist that lives and works in Brussels and London.

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Where someone said they saw some smoke, there very well may be no fire.

February 2017

For the (conspiracy) theorist, the beauty of images is that they have the power to become simultaneously a source of proof and doubt.
Look again, don’t you see that?
There it is.
Gone.

Sarah Cook is a curator and professor in Information Studies at the University of Glasgow who has written about artists’ uses of AI.

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Maintaining Composure: An Interview with Tamiko Thiel

January 2021

As Tamiko Thiel’s work Lend Me Your Face! is shown on The Photographers' Gallery website –waiting for the gallery's reopening for it to be shown on the Media Wall, she talks with curator Prof. Sarah Cook about deepfakes, identity and user agency across a brief history of participatory networked art projects, political incitement, and how we all instinctively react to facial expressions.

Geoff Cox is Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University (DK).

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Ways of Machine Seeing

November 2016

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”

Marloes de Valk is a software artist, writer, PhD researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image and thesis supervisor at Experimental Publishing at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.

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Interview with Nestor Siré [Part I]

December 2020

Nestor Siré and Marloes de Valk discuss Nestor’s artistic practice and how he has engaged with the development of alternative networks that arose in Cuba, from book rental shops to El Paquete Semanal and SNET, the country-wide Wi-Fi mesh network run by gamers. This is part one of a two-part interview.

Interview with Nestor Siré [Part II]

December 2020

This is part two of a conversation between Nestor Siré and Marloes de Valk. In part one Nestor introduced himself, his artistic practice and his personal history with Cuba’s alternative networks, from book rental shops to El Paquete Semanal and SNET, the country-wide Wi-Fi mesh network run by gamers. In part two they talk about visual culture on SNET, as well as the social and physical aspect of digital networks.

Andrew Dewdney is a research professor at London South Bank University whose current research is focused upon the intersections of art, media and technology.

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The University of YouTube: the medium, the user, photography and the search for really useful knowledge.

September 2016

This short text is the result of an attempt to understand photographic theory by YouTube, which took the shape of an online errand of forking paths, full of interesting digressions, leading of course everywhere and nowhere.

Nonhuman Photography: An Interview with Joanna Zylinska [PART I]

February 2019

Andrew Dewdney interviews Joanna Zylinska for Unthinking Photography, on the occasion of her recent publication ‘Nonhuman Photography’ (MIT Press, 2017). We are publishing here two excerpts from the conversation while the full interview is available to download as a pdf. In this first part, the discussion unpacks the notion of the nonhuman in image culture.

Nonhuman Photography: An Interview with Joanna Zylinska [PART II]

February 2019

In this second excerpt of her interview with Andrew Dewdney, Joanna Zylinska talks about representation and post-photography while she reflects on archival as well as institutional practices in the age of the Anthropocene. As she mentions: "I am trying to develop sets of relations between images and practices across time, across species, across technologies, and identify certain old tropes that are returning today. I would like to think that my mode of looking, which involves placing images along those deep-historical lines, is also a way of showing why photography matters".

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a transdisciplinary artist and educator who is interested in art as research and critical practice. Her controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in public places.

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Generative Representation

December 2018

For the past six years Heather Dewey-Hagborg has been researching, writing and producing artwork engaging the methodology of ‘forensic DNA phenotyping’. In this essay, she explores a different aspect of this technology and questions:
is forensic DNA phenotyping a photographic process?

Dr Loplop is a London-based cat photographer and internet celebrity.

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Somebody else's cat: A study in the protohistory of the internet cat meme

January 2018

"Like many viral phenomena, the Somebody else's cat group began by accident in the context of a specific online community, the image hosting site Flickr".
This text by Dr Loplop explores the emergence of the internet cat meme and the influence of online communities in the development of this protohistory.

Constant Dullaart‘s (Netherlands, 1979) practice reflects on the broad cultural and social effects of communication and image processing technologies, from performatively distributing artificial social capital on social media to completing a staff-pick Kickstarter campaign for a hardware start-up called Dulltech™.

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A cold draught in a hot medium

February 2019

"Images now published on social media are valorised in terms of distribution and quantifiable interactions, particularly when triangulated with data about a user’s online purchases or social media behaviour. This process shapes visual representations of human identities into ‘data images’ outside the control of the person the data originates from. These identity images, or profiles, are bought and sold without our knowing, and provide more insight into our behaviour and motivations than we perhaps have ourselves"...

EFTD (Embassy for the Displaced) is a faux-institution established between London, Athens, and the Aegean archipelago.

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Nyktopolitics

May 2017

When does the human need to leave the image? And what takes his/her place?
How can one attempt to image a life severed by representation, and who has the ethical right to attempt such an aberrant, aniconic distortion?

Francis Gooding works with music, art and film.

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Artifact Readers: pixelated revelations, glitch augury and low-res millenarianism in the age of conspiracy theory

February 2017

These images, drawn from films made by members of the YouTube conspiracy theorist community, are presented as evidence for the radically heterodox alternate worldviews of their original creators.

Olga Goriunova is is a Senior Lecturer in the Media Arts Department, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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The War and Peace of LOLcats

January 2018

LOLcats here are the digital people’s fairy tales on the subject of animals, and, more precisely, cats, following a formulaic structure in their making. LOLcats, as natively digitally born aesthetic, acts exhibit features that are shaped in their succinct coherence by their processes of coming into being, by the ways in which LOLcats emerge and live on the networks.

Natalie Kane is a writer, curator and researcher working at the intersection of digital culture, futures and design.

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Soft Power / Hard Meme

February 2017

In early 2016, @RussianEmbassy, the verified Twitter account from the Russian Embassy in the UK, sent an image to the Russian Ministry of Defence via Twitter, warning that ‘Extremists near Aleppo received several truckloads of chemical ammo.' On further inspection, rather than a matter of urgency, it became immediately apparent that these were neither extremist trucks, nor was it in fact an actual photograph of real trucks at all.

Dr. Fei-Fei Li is the inventor of ImageNet and the ImageNet Challenge, a critical large-scale dataset and benchmarking effort that has contributed to the latest developments in deep learning and AI. In addition to her technical contributions, she is a national leading voice for advocating diversity in STEM and AI.

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Where Did ImageNet Come From?

November 2019

In September 2019 the ImageNet creator Fei-Fei Li gave a talk at The Photographers' Gallery talking through the events and key people that led to the creation of visual datasets.

Gretta Louw is a South African-born Australian artist, writer, and curator whose practice explores the potential of art as a means of investigating psycho-social and cultural phenomena, particularly in relation to digital technologies and the internet.

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Manifest Destiny in the Digital Age

May 2017

Information asymmetry is power asymmetry. If “data is the new oil” in the 21st Century, then internet users are the raw earth from which this oil is extracted; a commodity to be exploited for the benefit of the oil barons. In this, there is at least some equity amongst users around the world: the parity of the powerless. Except that isn’t accurate either.

Visual artist, computer programmer and data activist. Lives and works between Brussels and London.

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“The cat sits on the bed”, Pedagogies of vision in human and machine learning.

September 2016

Our shares and likes, our annotations and social metadata are training a generation of AI agents. Everyday, we are already all teaching bots and algorithms how to look at images. If we consider the extent of our relationship with algorithms, we realise the magnitude of the effort of teaching and learning that is taking place.

The politics of image search - A conversation with Sebastian Schmieg [Part I]

May 2017

Nicolas Malevé interviews the artist Sebastian Schmieg on image annotation, immaterial labour and his TPG commission 'Decision Space'.

The politics of image search - A conversation with Sebastian Schmieg [Part II]

August 2017

The second part of the interview between Sebastian Schmieg and Nicolas Malevé. Schmieg reflects on his project 'Search by Image' and further discusses machine learning and intelligence as well the politics of image annotation.

An Introduction to Image Datasets

November 2019

In 2019 The Photographers' Gallery digital programme launched 'Data / Set / Match', a year-long programme that explores new ways to present, visualise and interrogate contemporary image datasets. This introductory essay presents some key concepts and questions that make the computer vision dataset an object of concern for artists, photographers, thinkers and photographic institutions.

Joel McKim is Senior Lecturer in Digital Media and Culture and the Director of the Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology at Birkbeck, University of London.

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Into the Universe of Rendered Architectural Images

June 2019

"While the capacity to intervene in the production of urban space or formulate an effective vision of what’s to come has appeared increasingly cut off to the general population, long-term development projects and real-estate schemes continue to dictate city transformation well into the future. And we are increasingly inundated with the architectural visualisations that accompany these plans..."

Joanne McNeil is a writer interested in the ways that technology is shaping art, politics, and society.

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Listening to a Face

November 2016

“The truth is written all over our faces” was a tagline for Lie to Me, a procedural drama on network television several years ago.

The Windshield and the Screen

February 2019

"A Google Street View car in Los Angeles once captured a picture of Leonard Cohen. It happened a couple of years before he died. He was sitting with an acquaintance on lawn chairs outside his modest home in the Mid-Wilshire neighbourhood. The driver was an accidental paparazzi. Cohen didn’t even notice him. (...)
Google Street View isn’t photography as aesthetic representation, but the production of leftovers that happen to be images. These images are the husk — the dead skin of a surveillance charade. This archive can be fascinating and even useful to spectators—the users of it. But this data created and cleaned at scale is a source of Google’s power"...

Sam Mercer is a producer of the digital programme at The Photographer's Gallery.

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Interview with Joey Holder

October 2017

"People are now more acutely aware of the way in which ideas can transform and mutate through the (inter)net, and have their own “life”, so to speak. I personally think of the internet itself as a complex entity, like a living organism, expanding and contracting. Its territories are as far-reaching as they are controlled".

Adam Milner is an artist whose sprawling and idiosyncratic practice includes sculptures, drawings, videos, texts, and interventions which draw from deeply personal experiences to point toward broader ethics around how we engage with the things around us.

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On MIT’s Moments in Time (and Being Dead-Alive)

June 2020

I write this from my small New York apartment in my fourth month of isolation. The pandemic has required each of us to slow down and do less, and I keep thinking of a childhood friend who once told me, “We’re human beings, not human doings”. Even as a teenager, I knew this was an important paradigm shift: it meant that we could rethink how we define ourselves beyond endless production and consumption. Allowing oneself to be a human being seemed to resist the gig economy, workerism, the idea of “a calling”— all the ways that society has been structured to combine a person’s work into their core identity. The way busyness became a humblebrag. Human doings.

Joana Moll is an artist and researcher based in Barcelona.

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AZ: MOVE AND GET SHOT

November 2016

A net-based work created entirely by algorithms that have been automatically collecting images of six surveillance cameras placed on the US/Mexico Border from 2011 until 2014.

Maria/Rosario Montero is an artist and founder of the Border Agency Art Collective.

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An interview with Morehshin Allahyari

September 2017

Maria Rosario Montero interviews Morehshin Allahyari on the occasion of the latter's commission 'She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya'Jooj Ma'Jooj' at The Photographers' Gallery Media Wall (2017). Allahyari discusses digital colonialism as a core concept in her work as well as the agency of feminist and activist practices using 3D scanning, 3D printing and storytelling.

Simone C Niquille is a designer and researcher based in Amsterdam NL.

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Embodying Others

June 2019

"Use of capture technology involves a level of selective resolution; an emphasis of certain elements over others. As the image production process isn’t a linear hermetic process, decisions are taken in it’s production that will be visible in the rendered outcome..."

Dr Daniel Palmer is Associate Professor in the Art History and Theory Program and Associate Dean of Graduate Research in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at Monash University.

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Cat Photographers (or the desire to see through animal eyes)

January 2018

..In recent years, thanks to inexpensive, lightweight digital cameras that can be fastened to a collar and programmed to take photographs at regular intervals, a number of ‘photographer cats’ have even attained minor-celebrity status. Two of the most famous, Cooper, an American Shorthair living in Seattle, and Nancy Bean, a three-legged puss from Devon, have held successful exhibitions of their work in art galleries and attracted significant mainstream media attention.

Professor Jussi Parikka is a Finnish media theorist who works at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.

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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Steganographic Image

February 2017

Who knows what went into an image, what it includes and what it hides? This is not merely a question of fine art historical importance of materials, or even media historical intrigue of chemistry but one of steganography - hiding another meaningful pattern, perhaps a message, in data; inside text or an image.

Everest Pipkin is a drawing and software artist currently based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Lacework

June 2020

Lacework is a new work by Everest Pipkin that uses artificial neural networks to reinscribe the videos of MIT’s Moments in Time Dataset. Using algorithms that stretch time and add details to images, Pipkin creates a series of hallucinatory slow-motion vignettes from the videos of everyday actions that form the collection. By manipulating the source videos of the MIT dataset, Lacework presents a river of these moments, as captured in amber; flowing from one to another into a cascade of gradual, unfolding details. Part of the 'Data / Set / Match' programme.

On Lacework: watching an entire machine-learning dataset

July 2020

I proposed what would become Lacework in the Summer of 2019. In my proposal, I describe a cycle of videos curated from MIT's 'Moments In Time' dataset, each then slowed down, interpolated, and upscaled immensely into imagined detail, one flowing into another like a river...

Tobias Revell is an artist and designer. Spanning different disciplines and media his work addresses the urgent need for critical engagement with material reality through design, art and technology.

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Rendering the Desert of The Real

June 2019

The artist and designer Tobias Revell has been invited by The Photographers' Gallery digital programme to curate a strand for Unthinking Photography on the theme of photography, rendering and CGI and their effect in architecture and the built environment. In this text the curator of the series introduces the topic through a short history of image manipulation and the emergence of CGI technologies.

Doreen A. Ríos is an independent curator, lecturer and researcher specialised in digital culture.

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I’m looking at you, looking at me

November 2019

In Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s artwork ‘How do you see me?’, commissioned for the Data/Set/Match programme at The Photographers’ Gallery, the artist explores how machines see us. A question that has been carefully slipping through several areas of production and research during the past couple of decades. At the same time an essential need has also emerged to understand the processes and internal mechanisms that are usually hidden from or mysterious to the user: commenting on those who code, train, build these mechanisms and how this translates into what happens outside of the screen.

Florian A. Schmidt is a professor for Design and Media Theory at the University of Applied Sciences HTW Dresden.

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Unevenly Distributed

March 2020

The Future Is Here!, the title of Mimi Onuoha’s video project reflecting the human side of crowdsourced image labelling, is spot on. The stories I have been told by crowd workers from across the globe doing this work full-time indeed often have an eerily Gibsonian ring to them. Especially the stories from Venezuela.

Philipp Schmitt is an artist, designer, and researcher based in Brooklyn, NY, USA. His practice engages with the philosophical, poetic, and political dimensions of computation. His current work addresses notions of opacity in artificial intelligence research and its history.

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Declassifier

April 2020

Philipp Schmitt's 'Declassifier' uses a computer vision algorithm trained on COCO, an image dataset developed by Microsoft in 2014. In the work, photographs from Schmitt’s series 'Tunnel Vision' are tested and overlaid with the images used to generate the algorithm in the first place.
By doing so, Schmitt exposes the myth of magically intelligent machines; the visual data by which machine learning algorithms learn to make predictions is hardly ever shown, let alone credited. Part of the 'Data / Set / Match' programme.

Tunnel Vision

April 2020

When a computer vision algorithm recognises something in a picture, it soberly frames what it ‘sees’ in confetti-coloured rectangles, digital hues that contrast with the everyday shapes and colours that we see in a space with plain eye. Each neatly labelled with a single category, these annotations highlight answers but don't give explanations. To the uninitiated, it seems almost magical, or at least akin with some sort of intelligence.

Tamar Shafrir is a design writer and researcher based in Amsterdam.

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The Entasis of Elon Musk

June 2019

"The idea that an architectural rendering can be ‘real’ or ‘fake’ involves a transference of the logic of one medium—building—to the logic of another—drawing. Architectural rendering has always exploited the potentials of the page or canvas where money, knowledge, taste or gravity proved prohibitive..."

Caroline Sinders is a critical designer and artist. For the past few years, she has been examining the intersections of artificial intelligence, abuse, and politics in digital conversational spaces. She has worked with the United Nations, Amnesty International, IBM Watson, the Wikimedia Foundation and others.

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Within The Terms And Conditions

May 2021

What is allowed to be online, stay online and spread online? And, who decides what is harmful, and when that content should be removed? This expanded documentary project by Caroline Sinders explores harmful content, conspiracy theories, and hate videos on YouTube.

Katrina Sluis is Curator (Digital Programmes) at The Photographers’ Gallery.

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Interview with Wendy McMurdo

January 2018

TPG Digital Curator Katrina Sluis interviews the pioneering artist Wendy McMurdo about the trajectory of her work since the 1990s and how debates around photography and digital culture have shifted.

Tamiko Thiel is a visual artist exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity. The artist /p has been collaborating with Tamiko since 2018 on many media art projects.

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Go Fake Yourself!

January 2021

Go Fake Yourself! uses deepfake artificial intelligence technology to animate single photos of faces with facial expressions and body language "borrowed" from driving videos of public figures. With deepfake AI technology, the face - the most intimate and yet public part of the self - and the emotions it expresses can more and more easily be manipulated and placed in contexts out of the control of the "lenders" of the faces themselves. Upload a photo of your face to generate 4 private deepfakes. Part of 'Imagin(in)g Networks' programme.

Gaia Tedone is a curator and researcher with an expansive interest in the technologies of image formation and online curatorial practices.

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From Spectacle to Extraction. And All Over Again.

November 2019

I met with Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen on the press preview of their exhibition Training Humans in Milan at Osservatorio Prada. It was the morning of September 11th –not a neutral day to unthink photography and the power operations of vast populations of images. On the contrary, it was the most apt one to seriously consider Crawford and Paglen’s proposition that "images are no longer spectacle but they are in fact looking back at us, being actors in a process of massive value extraction".

Nye Thompson is a London-based visual artist and software designer.

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Domestic (in)security

May 2017

These (in)security cameras are all around us. In our streets, shops, buses, restaurants, homes. They are looking, listening and recording. Their omnipresent gaze pierces, protects us, keeps us safe. Through them we are delivered from unknown evils, from the nameless things that might creep up on us if we don’t watch out. Through their panopticon gaze we are quantified, verified, analysed, documented, mapped, filtered and judged.

Alan Warburton is an artist, animator and researcher whose work critically reflects on CGI software culture.

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Bursting The Filter Bubble of Photoshop Tutorials

September 2016

As an artist using 3D animation software, much of my work comes in trying to introduce noise, dirt and detail into sterile, mathematically derived images. CGI wants to be photographic. Conversely, Adobe Photoshop is anchored to the photographic realm but strives to efface it.

‘Hooded Prisoner’ in 3D – a discussion between Julian Stallabrass and Alan Warburton

June 2019

A 3D model depicting a hooded prisoner from Abu Ghraib, was the starting point for a discussion between the artist Alan Warburton and the art historian and curator Julian Stallabrass.

xtine burrough is a hybrid artist. She uses remix as a strategy for engaging networked audiences in critical participation at the intersection of media art and digital poetry. Sabrina Starnaman is an Associate Professor of Instruction of Literature and Director of Research for LabSynthE, a laboratory for synthetic, electronic poetry at the University of Texas at Dallas.

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Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives

May 2020

'Epic Hand Washing in the Time of Lost Narratives' by xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman is a speculative remix that confronts Epic Kitchens, a dataset of first-person cooking videos, with quotations from literature written during or about prior pandemics such as the bubonic plague and the global influenza pandemic of 1918-19. The project reveals the arbitrary nature of information preservation and highlights the constructed nature of digitised materials. Blurring the lines between art and archive, or information and dataset, this work furthers discourse about the digital dataset as an authority of knowledge curation. Part of the 'Data / Set / Match' programme.

Recovering Lost Narratives in Epic Kitchens

May 2020

This article is an overview of the projects 'Epic Handwashing in a Time of Lost Narratives' and 'A Kitchen of One's Own' weaving a thread between the technical and the conceptual: the projects are linked historically by the writing and arguments put forth by Virginia Woolf, technologically by computational juxtapositions of text and image, as well as poetically in the viewer’s experience through a speculative remix.

Martin Zeilinger is a London-based new media researcher, practitioner, and curator. His work focuses in part on the societal and cultural impact of emerging financial technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

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First as Snapshot, then as Decentralised Digital Asset

October 2018

In the age of ubiquitous connectivity and seemingly limitless cloud-based storage capabilities, all photographers, whether as amateurs, artists, or professionals, face new and difficult questions regarding their work’s afterlife, which have continued to gain in importance over the last years: what becomes of digital photographs once they begin to circulate online, how can the rights of their creators be protected, and how should the constant churn of online photographs be controlled? In early 2018, Eastman Kodak Company announced that it was about to provide a solution to these difficult issues.