New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 40 October 16 to 22, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

A Collector of Images
Penelope Umbrico
Slide Show
Ed Barnas

Photo by Penelope Umbrico . Source: Penelope Umbrico, "Screen-capture - iPhone Camera Roll, 2013"

Penelope Umbrico is a collector of images. She has mined the Internet to appropriate images and extract specific common elements (e.g., books used as pedestals, instances of casually thrown clothing, dogs on pillows, sunsets, etc.) for typological series. Her current exhibit at LMAK Projects builds on this work and consists of two seemingly disparate pieces.

Walking into the darkened gallery space I first noticed a projection on the back wall. Part of her “Mountains, Moving” series, its images change quickly while the outline of a mountain remains a quivering constant. The base image is actually a snow-dappled peak photographed by Ansel Adams. It has been rephotographed with an iPhone and then run through the over five hundred filters available within twenty-seven camera apps on Umbrico’s smartphone. In the Press Release Umbrico writes of creating a dialog between opposites: master & copy, single & multiple, fixed & moving, near & far, … . The result is a “camera roll” slideshow on steroids, an effect that is both psychedelic and slightly disorienting as the mountain’s mass shimmers and floats in the projected frame, subverting the solidity associated with such peaks. Adams has likened his negatives to a musical score and the print as its performance. If one examines his prints of the same negative made at different times the variation in interpretation is illuminating (cf. the sky in “Moonrise over Hernandez”). Umbrico has transposed Adam’s score into a recursive digital soundtrack – and the performance is available as an m4v file on a flash drive.

Photo by Penelope Umbrico . Source: Penelope Umbrico, Detail "Camera Vitrine 2013"

The companion piece is a more traditionally photographic project: a long vitrine containing photos of “136 Mini Film Cameras in the Smithsonian Institution History of Photography Collection With Old Style Photoshop Filter.” Made while Umbrico was a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, each photograph is of a tray from the National Archives containing cataloged and tagged photographic apparatus, shot from above with flat lighting and printed to a uniform height. The slightly haphazard placement of the items in the trays recalls her series of Universal Remotes from eBay. Many of the cameras photographed were once state of the art and ultra-modern, but now are obsolete, relics stored in “America’s attic.” In these images Umbrico creates a sense of solidity and temporal specificity that contrasts sharply with the ephemeral feel of the companion slideshow. I felt nostalgic for these analog cameras, even though most were out-of-date long before I started to photograph in the late 60’s. They show signs of wear but were designed to last decades in marked contrast to perennial upgrade cycle of modern digital gear.

So the two pieces complement each other – the analog past is entombed in the glass coffin of the vitrine while the digital present dances in a passing light show on the back wall.

Penelope Umbrico
Slide Show

LMAK Projects
139 Eldridge St.
Lower Manhattan - East         Map

212 255 9707

Sunday, September 8 to
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Hours: Wed-Sat, 12 to 8; Sun, 12 to 6

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat