About the project

Curating Photography in the Networked Image Economy

The diffusion and intensification of photography in network culture raises fundamental problems for cultural institutions engaged with the collection and display of photography, challenging them to consider how they engage with their audiences and how they ‘represent’ photography as a dynamic, performative medium at the centre of the digital visual economy. With the convergence of the camera with the world wide web, the cultural problem of decoding and making sense of a singular photograph is being usurped by the industrial challenge of making sense of millions of images. 

However, network users, technologists and cultural managers presently engaging with the problem of curating images from very different, yet complementary positions. The computer sciences seek to optimise and automate the flow of visual information, through the production of a new generation of algorithms which exploit deep learning, computer vision and machine learning to analyse, aesthetically evaluate and automate the curation of image content. Cultural managers and policymakers, on the other hand, tend to instrumentalise ‘the digital’ predominantly as a tool and continue to adopt the analogue broadcast model of one-to many transmission based on traditional models of institutional cultural authority and disciplinary expertise.The network user or social media curator occupies another set of positions, variously engaged with the organisation of visual content in terms of creative expression and identity construction (‘curating the self’); the preservation of online image cultures and their communities (for example knowyourmeme.com); or the acquisition of cultural capital through the aggregation and circulation of image content (‘self- branding’) . 

This project therefore seeks to traverse the previously disconnected fields of institutional photo curating, social media curating and computational curating in order to understand the operationalisation of image curation more widely in network culture. Through a series of workshops and interviews with key stakeholders, it will identify and examine  a range of socio-technical practices which might be loosely defined as “post-photographic curating”. Through partnerships with The Photographers’ Gallery, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Foto Colectania, the research also reflects on the appointment of Digital Curators in European photographic institutions from 2011 and evaluates institutional strategies for curating and valuing the networked image.