Our relationships to both photography and the idea of the personal narrative have significantly changed in recent years, due in large part to the markedly increasing accessibility of information and the shifting concepts of space, time, and location brought about by new technologies. We share our personal stories in real time via smartphones and online social networks, indulging both our inner showoff and voyeur. An exhibition reflects the fluidity of our information saturated world by mixing personal and communal histories and blurring the boundaries between the individual and the collective. Yet they address personal narrative in a slower, more deliberate, and more poetic way than electronic forms of communication typically allow, in works that are carefully authored, engagingly ambiguous, and deeply felt.
The last few decades have also seen sweeping shifts in attitudes toward the very idea of documentary practice. Postmodern theory taught us to analyze and distrust the motives of the photographer and lobbed profound challenges at photography’s ability to capture any sort of phenomenological reality. We are living in what some theorists and artists refer to as a “post-documentary” era. Most of artists work comfortably with the assumption that photography is both evidentiary and illusory. Artists also fully grasp the power dynamics of the camera (which can be used as shield and probe alike), as well as the malleable, unfixed nature of both the photographic subject and its interpretation.
Tinged with voyeurism and saturated with an awareness of our desire to connect with others, artists invite in an active and individual engagement with these intensely personal, yet universal, stories of coming of age, the place we come from, and the people important to us. In this way they reveal an even deeper experience of personal narrative that exists not in the social or in the collective, but in our interior realm, where we seek to understand our individual selves, often through the stories of others. Karen Irvine, Curator and Associate Director.
Backstory. Museum of contemporary Photography of Chicago. LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ron Jude and Guillaume Simoneau mix personal stories and current social contexts. They also probe the ineffable ephemeral nature of past and present, while questioning the ability of photography to promote and destabilize our sense of individual identity.