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Penelope Umbrico

Penelope Umbrico

Friend since Dec 03, 2015

Photography is as much the subject of my work as it is the medium in which I work. I employ traditional photographic techniques and methods of appropriation, extraction, multiple production, and intervention, to explore how we, as a culture, make and use images. My focus on collective practices in photography has led me to examine subjects that are collectively photographed. I take the sheer quantity of images online as a collective archive that represents us - a constantly changing auto-portrait. I view all visual expression within this collectively emergent environment as potential for social signs that hint at something other than what they depict. The work is an accumulation that navigates between consumer and producer, materiality and immateriality, and individual and collective expression. The idea of absence and erasure is a constant theme in my work, especially with regard to the popular uses of technologies in photography and on the Internet that seem to promise visibility, community and intimacy. I question the idea of the democratization of media, where pre-scripted images, made with tools programmed to function in predetermined ways, claim to foster subjectivity and individuality. In much of my work I address how differently an image functions on the internet than in physical time/space, the shifts in meaning around the subject depicted in the image in both contexts, and what happens to the image's perceived value when transcribed from web-based to print-based media. I have begun to see some of the objects pictured in the images I find as the aftermath and by-products of Modernism. These images register the disparity between an optimistic Modernism (the seduction of clean emptied space; promises of efficiency and productivity; the mass-production and availability of everything) and the dystopic result (technological breakdown, ecological disaster, social alienation).

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