November 3 – December 4, 2022
Artist Reception - November 6, 2022 4 to 6pm
Online Artist Talk - November 15, 2022 7 to 8pm
Fugue States is an on-going exploration of the future legacies of photography, currently with two areas of focus: the disappearance of the physical print and the life span of digital files. For the past several decades, I have considered how photographs move through time and how they are appreciated and stored in preparation for the future. Photography is an ever-changing medium, morphing and shifting with new technologies, some profoundly impacting our ability to access our photographic histories.
As an analog photographer, I have watched my practice diminished and altered by the loss of materials and methodologies. Over the years I have collected and created hundreds of portraits, some acquired are almost a century old and it’s made me consider the formal portrait amid the shifting sands of photography, the loss of photograph as object, and most importantly, the loss of photographic legacies.
Fugue State speaks to the potential loss of the tangible photograph in future generations. I observe my children, part of the most documented generation in history, creating thousands of images for their social media outlets, but am painfully aware that they have never made a photographic print and will most likely have no physical photographs to pass down to their grandchildren. This loss of the photograph-as-object, as something tangible to be circulated through the decades, reflects the fading away of specific memories and identities, and the loss of cultural and familial histories in forms that we associate with family preservation.
The photographs created for this series sit in an in-between space of the future and the past, demonstrating the clash between images and materiality, where materiality, unfortunately, seems to be losing ground. For this project, after creating analog portraits of people in my life, I have damaged the emulsion of my negatives, wounding the film stock with a variety of chemicals. I then reinterpret the image in the digital darkroom in the original, negative state where the potential for both the restoration and erasure of memory are present. I am in fact, damaging my own photographic legacy to call attention to this shift from the physical to the visual.
Fugue State Revisited was created after the loss of a hard drive that held 20 years of analog scans. In my attempt to recover the files, only half came back in a format that was accessible. The rest of the files were corrupted, each totally unique in how the machine damages and reinterprets the pixels. This alarming result made me begin to consider ever-shifting digital platforms and file formats, and I realized that much of the data we produce today could eventually fall into a black hole of inaccessibility.
As an analog photographer, rather than let the machine have the last word, I have cyanotyped over my damaged digital scans. I use silhouettes of portraits from my archives to conceal and reveal the corruption. By using historical processes to create a physical object, I guarantee that this image will not be lost in the current clash between the digital file and the materiality of a photographic print.
Fugue State Revisited calls attention to the fact that today’s digital files may not retain their original state, or even exist, in the next century. The Getty Research Institute states, “While you are still able to view family photographs printed over 100 years ago, a CD with digital files on it from only 10 years ago might be unreadable because of rapid changes to software and the devices we use to access digital content.”
As we are reliant on technology to keep our images intact for future generations, it begs the question, who will maintain our hard drives after we are gone? Will we be able to conserve photographs that speak to family histories? These are important considerations for our visual futures, as we may be leaving behind photographs that will be reimagined by machines or no longer cherish physical markers of proof that we existed.
Aline Smithson (https://www.alinesmithson.com/) is a visual artist, educator, and editor based in Los Angeles, California. Best known for her conceptual portraiture and a practice that uses humor and pathos to explore the performative potential of photography. Growing up in the shadow of Hollywood, her work is influenced by the elevated unreal. She received a BA in art from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was accepted into the College of Creative Studies, studying under artists such as William Wegman, Allen Ruppersburg, and Charles Garabian. After a decade-long career as a New York Fashion Editor, Aline returned to Los Angeles and to her own artistic practice.
She has exhibited widely including over 40 solo shows at institutions such as the Griffin Museum of Photography,the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Jose Art Museum, the Shanghai, Lishui, and Pingyqo Festivals in China, The Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, the Center of Fine Art Photography in Colorado, the Tagomago Gallery in Barcelona and Paris, and the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe. In addition, her work is held in a number of public collections and her photographs have been featured in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, PDN, Communication Arts, Eyemazing, Real Simple, Los Angeles, Visura, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines.
In 2007, Aline founded LENSCRATCH, a photography journal that celebrates a different contemporary photographer each day. She has been the Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, a contributing writer for Diffusion, Don’t Take Pictures, Lucida, and F Stop Magazines, has written book reviews for photo-eye, and has provided the forewords for artist’s books by Tom Chambers, Meg Griffiths, Flash Forward 12, Robert Rutoed, Nancy Baron, among others. Aline has curated and jurored exhibitions for a number of galleries, organizations, and on-line magazines, including Review Santa Fe, Critical Mass, Flash Forward, and the Griffin Museum. In addition, she is a reviewer and educator at many photo festivals across the United States. She teaches at LACP, The Griffin Museum of Photography, Maine Media Workshops and Sante Fe Workshops among others.
In 2012, Aline received the Rising Star Award through the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community. In 2014 and 2019, Aline’s work was selected for Critical Mass Top 50 and she received the Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER. In 2015, the Magenta Foundation published her first significant monograph, Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography. In 2016, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum commissioned Aline to a series of portraits for the upcoming Faces of Our Planet Exhibition and in 2018 and 2019, Aline was a finalist in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and is exhibiting at the National Portrait Gallery, London. She was commissioned to create the book, LOST: Los Angeles for Kris Graves Projects which released in 2019. Her books are in the collections of the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, among others. others. She is a 2022 Hasselblad Heroine. With the exception of her cell phone, she only shoots film.