Reconfigured Reality: Contemporary Photography from the Permanent Collection, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, presents an overview of developments since 1970 that have helped define contemporary photography. From the time it was commercially introduced in 1839, photography has undergone continuous technical and conceptual changes—from the first daguerreotypes to today’s digital prints.
Through the majority of the twentieth century the film-based, black-and-white print served as the standard format for modern photography. Over the past several decades, however, artists have transformed the medium by exploring new technologies and by adopting older approaches in innovative ways, thereby opening up photography to fresh perspectives. As evidenced by works included in Reconfigured Reality, these contemporary approaches include the adoption of color as a primary means; the large format photograph; an exploration of vintage processes to express contemporary concerns; the staged photograph; the manipulated photograph; and conceptual strategies, among others.
What contemporary photography has amply discredited—and which, in fact, applies retroactively to the entire history of photography—is the narrow view that the camera is a recording device only, not a creative tool, and that its purpose is strictly representational. Laid to rest, too, is the notion that the camera can ever capture objective reality.
Despite the extraordinary technical shifts and proliferation of the photographic image, which has become the pervasive visual language of our time, great photographs continue to be what they have always been. In the hands of gifted and creative photographers, they are personal accounts that manifest poetic or critical reflections about the world.