Thousand Words On Pictures

“In the age of social media where photographs are ubiquitous,
writer and curator Charlotte Cotton sits down with At Large to
discuss why the medium is more relevant —
and magical —


– Charlotte Cotton


Written by Joseph Akel
Curation by
Charlotte Cotton

Florian Maier-Aichen Untitled (Lasso Painting #3), 2016. Inkjet print, 90 1/2 x 68 1/8 inches (230 x 173 cm) Edition of 3 ©Florian Maier-Aichen – Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

Depending on who you speak with, photography is either undergoing a renaissance or convulsing through its death rattles. For many, the democratization and ease of image production, which technology and social media have brought about, heralds the second golden age of photography, with the iPhone taking the place of the Kodak Brownie camera. Others, however, find in the prevalence and automation that has come to define the act of photography an omen à la Vilém Flusser that gestures towards a more insidious control of not only our creative abilities, but free will itself. And yet, there is a third group, led by the likes of theorist Geoffrey Batchen, who argue that photography is better under- stood as a concept than any one technology. Indeed, this group points out that, marked by almost two centuries of technologi- cal advancement, the medium has been transformed many times over, while paradoxically managing to remain “photography.”

Emmeline de Mooij Inviting the Stranger, from the series Oxytocin, 2013. Archival inkjet print – Courtesy the artist

Lorenzo Vitturi Untitled – Debris & Multicolor #1, from the series Droste Effect, Debris and Other Problems, 2013-2015, installation view ©Lorenzo Vitturi – Courtesy Viasisterna

Martin Elder pr 70 (night school), 2016 – Courtesy the artist and Tif Sigfrids

For noted photography curator and writer Charlotte Cotton, the function of photography — both technically and more broadly in a cultural context — is a central question that has come to define a career dedicated to examining the medium. Having held positions as the Curator of Photography first at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and then Curator and Head of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at LACMA, Cotton has several titles to her name on the subject — most recently the 2014 Aperture publication, Photography is Magic — and has been a visiting scholar and critic at numerous institutions, Yale and The New School among them. Here, Cotton talks with At Large about the contemporary photographers who excite her and the ways in which a new generation of artists are looking to expand our notions of the medium.

Daniel Shea LIC7, 2016, Archival Pigment Print, Painted Oak, Acrylic, Framing Materials 23 x 32 inches – Courtesy the artist

*Read the full interview in Issue 08 on newsstands.