Carnegie Museum to launch photo initiative


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The Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland will launch a photography initiative and website next month that explores the life cycle of an image, including creation, transmission, consumption, storage, loss and re-emergence. The Hillman Photography Initiative's website, www.nowseethis.org, will go live April 29.

The initiative, which also will look at how technology affects images and the rapidly changing field of photography, will be managed by Divya Rao Heffley. It will have four components: "The Invisible Photograph," "The Sandbox: At Play With the Photobook," "This Picture" and "Orphaned Images."

"The Invisible Photograph," a five-part documentary series, focuses on making, distributing and consuming photographs that are guarded, stashed away, barely recognizable or forgotten. Viewers will get a look at the digitization of images in the Corbis Image Archive at Iron Mountain, a vast underground mine in Butler.

Another facet of "The Invisible Photograph" project will be pictures from the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, located in a former McDonald's restaurant in Mountain View, Calif. For the first time in decades, people will see the earliest orbital photographs of the moon's surface.

Jonathan Gaugler, a museum spokesman, said the orbiter's early data tapes aren't readable with current technology. "They are working hard to find ways to read that information. They have been successful to some degree."

"The Sandbox: At Play With the Photobook" will create a temporary reading room at the museum staffed by Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar, two professional photographers who live in Lawrenceville. They will lead a yearlong project, "A People's History of Pittsburgh," compiling family-owned, found and anonymous photographs and stories from Pittsburgh residents in an online archive. The duo will compile images submitted online, host scanning parties and edit and co-publish a collective photo album that will be printed and available for sale.

"This Picture" explores what images can say and do by tracking responses and feedback on a single picture. Each month, the museum will invite the public to respond to a carefully selected photograph. Experts in art, technology and the social sciences will be invited to write online responses. The images and responses will be used with the museum's education department to build visual literacy with local teachers.

"Orphaned Images" have been removed from their creators and shared, manipulated or corrupted. This project, which begins in September, looks at how photographs produce and take on meaning online and offline. Discussion will focus on appropriation, distribution, transmission and surveillance.

The photography initiative will have five curators: Tina Kukielski, part of a three-member team that chose art for the Carnegie International; Marvin Heiferman, a New York City-based editor of a 2012 book, "Photography Changes Everything"; Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute and a developer of Gigapan, a robot that takes digital panoramic images; Arthur Ou, a professor on the fine arts faculty at the New School in New York City; and Alex Klein, a Philadelphia-based artist, curator and professor who will lead the "Orphaned Images" project.

The photography initiative began in 2011 with a major multi-year grant from the William T. Hillman Foundation. The Henry L. Hillman Foundation also supported the initiative.


Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.

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