“About Face: Portraiture for the 21st Century” is a new photography exhibit at Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen campus. It invites the audience to think about how phones affect our engagement with others.
Ben Timpson, the studio coordinator for photography and new media at Anderson Ranch, created the exhibition’s portraits using a large-format camera he built using, in part, tape and garbage bags.
The black and white negatives from his camera are on display. Viewers can adjust the settings on their smartphones to invert the colors on their cameras. Then, when they look at the portraits through heir phone, "That’s when you can actually live view the positive image from the negative. So what that means is when you walk in, you can use your iphone to decode the negatives, so looking becomes active. You become more engaged with the photography than you would just looking at a photograph on a wall,” Timpson said.
Not all photographers welcome the fact that ordinary people have a device at the ready that takes photos, beautifies them through filters and shares them with an audience, once something only done by professionals in the darkroom. Timpson said he is excited by how phones have made photography accessible, but he also acknowledges that they have hurt human interactions. Instead of engaging with other people on a bus or while standing in line, many of us stare down at our phones. In “About Face,” Timpson wanted to change the phone from something that lets us avoid other people, to a tool that helps us connect.
“Once given an opportunity to look intimately and in very close proximity at each portrait, all of a sudden we don’t feel like complete strangers from one another,” he said.