As a photographer, I have to deal with a great heaving load of historical baggage about photography’s validity as an art form, its place among other media, and its relevance in an increasingly digital era.
However, instead of being quashed by the weight of ancient history or lost in new technology, some artists are embracing everything, incorporating traditional art forms into their photographic practice. These artists are creating hybrid photographic forms — art that combines photography with other media in interesting ways. For example, they are making photographs that are combined with or made out of drawing, photographs that are cut up or gouged into, or sculptures made out of photographs.
I suspect that these hybrid forms are the result of multiple historical factors: a response to digital photography, a result of the increasing popularity of multidisciplinary work, and a desire to reinvigorate the hand, to bring a physical engagement with media back to photography. It’s not that these artists are doing something that has never been done before; photographic collage, for example has been around almost as long as photography has. But I think it’s important that these artists are doing what they are doing in this particular moment in history. It feels like there is a renewed interest in manipulating photographs, defacing them, and using them as a media medium. It seems to me that these hybrid forms are navigating a path toward reinventing photography, forging a new future for an art form that, paradoxically, because of its relentless, endless evolution, constantly risks extinction. Hybrid photographic forms are one way to address the baggage of the past and the shifting technological ground of the present.
The following gallery, by no means exhaustive or complete, represents some of the artists who have inspired my own experiments with hybrid photographic forms. Christine Nguyen makes giant photomurals by drawing the negatives herself onto Mylar sheets, creating massive underwater worlds that are both photograph and drawing. Christopher Russell also combines drawing with photography, using a reductive process of scratching away at the surface of the photograph to create the drawing. Vlatka Horvat and Soo Kim both cut into and layer their photographs, creating works that are part photograph, part sculpture. Kristine Thompson also cuts up photographs, intimately interacting with the resulting figures. Cathy Akers works with photographic collage, and Matt Lipps creates three-dimensional photographic collages that are then re-photographed.
As a final note, I’m sincerely interested in artists who use photography in hybrid ways, combining multiple media, so if you have someone you think I should look at or include in a future gallery, please post your suggestions in the comments field below.
Reinventing Photography: Hybrid Photographic Forms is part of a series of online galleries on contemporary art, curated by Carrie Yury. Carrie Yury: Reinventing Photography: Hybrid Photographic Forms.