Ryan Blackwell, MA Design for Art Direction at London College of Communication introduces Beyond Photography, his multi-media arts platform to London.
Beyond Photography explores the role of image making and the impact of digital technology on visual culture through exhibitions, prints, collaborations, and online media. The platform has connected with artists across the world and aims to bring together a dedicated space for digital art.
As a commercial creative with a background in photographic discourse, I have been interested in photography’s boundaries and categorisation for a long time. One of the main things that I ﬁnd interesting is where photography ‘ends’.
I ﬁnd these questions fascinating because surely you can’t call yourself a photographer when you spend more time in post-production than you did shooting. You’re mixing media and removing the element of time from the work.
Whilst studying at University in Leeds, this was a big area of interest for me and my co-founding partner, Nastassia Winge and we spent a lot of time analysing these boundaries. What became clear in our studies is that there comes a point when messing with a photograph, where photographers lose interest. You can perfect your image with 5 hours of retouching, but once you add paint or cut the image in half, for example, that photograph loses its ability to be perceived as real.
The name Beyond Photography is a literal meaning and a way for me to say ‘let’s call photography anything that involves clicking the camera’s shutter, and anything after that is no longer photography.’ I believe that this is image making. Whilst image making is as old as photography itself, the rise of digital technology and the internet means that new possibilities are opening up. The ability to manipulate images is now a craft that can be done by anyone with a phone. Tiktok, Instagram ﬁlters, and Facetune are prime examples of this.
So when I’m asked myself what image making actually was, it’s quite hard to give an answer. Right now, I go by this deﬁnition: image making is an umbrella term for a variety of visual arts which take a nontraditional approach to photographic practice. The overarching medium incorporates retouching, collage, post-photography, CGI, glitch, mixed media, photo sculpture, experimental filmmaking and so much more.
As time goes on, I believe this deﬁnition will change. Much like the early days of photography, the key ﬁgures were still determining what, why, and how the medium would be used. I think image making is going through rapid development and what we have in 5 or 10 years will look completely different.
Now our platform is more established, we have been spending more time bringing to light our real passion: education and accessibility. It is so important to make art enjoyable, consumable and to oppose elitism in the arts. This is one of the main reasons why I love image making, because ultimately it is one of the few ways to put art in the hands of the user/creator. We can see this in the way many new artist’s work is gifted to the consumer e.g. creating social media ﬁlters.
We now want to take this to physical spaces and bring massive exhibitions to the public for free where the viewer can engage with the artwork and actually learn something about the way visual culture is changing through technology.
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