CONTACT 2013 : FIELD OF VISION – Jill Glessing, Expanding our Field with Contact Festival

Sebastião Salgado, Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) on an iceberg located between Zavodovski and Visokoi islands. South Sandwich Islands, 2009. © Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas Images

Sebastião Salgado, Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) on an iceberg located between Zavodovski and Visokoi islands. South Sandwich Islands, 2009. © Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas Images

In its fifteenth year, Contact, the world’s largest photography festival, offered an expanded schedule of photography-based adventures that included films, workshops, 174 exhibitions, and a three-day symposium featuring international curators and critics. Following a line-up that included Geoffrey Batchen and Joel Snyder, British writer David Campany expressed appreciation for the symposium title, “The Public Life of Photographs.” The best themes, he remarked are like Trojan horses, as they allow just about any topic to be smuggled in. Contact’s theme this year – “Field of Vision” – was equally welcoming.

Our field of vision determines what and how we see, and photography, it is thought, expands this field. Built into photographic technologies, however, are aesthetic and ideological conventions that shape our images and our interactions with them. In Andrew Wright’s survey exhibition at the University of Toronto Art Centre, his preoccupations with ontologies of optical technologies and representational systems were evident. Using a mix of historical and contemporary photographic technologies, Wright engages then disengages with what these technologies do best – realist perspective. His images, made with camera obscura, camera lucida, pinhole camera, iPhone, and video rocketry, defy pictorial expectations and allow alternative visualities to surface.

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Jill Glessing is a writer, artist, and teacher of art and cultural history at York University and Ryerson University.

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