Creating, reproducing and sharing images is so easy, the world is witnessing the most widespread participation in photography ever seen. The result, however, is an oversaturated visual culture with passive images and submissive viewers. People view photographs so often, they rarely think about what they are seeing.
American-born artist Jackson Hallberg, aims to push the boundaries of how we see imagery in the digital world. Through a series of collages and photography he contrasts hyper realities with banal photographic artifacts to engage the viewer out of submission and search for artistic integrity. Intrigued by his passion and excited about his amazing collection of art, we took a few minutes to chat with Hallberg about his art, the state of the images online, and using ascribe.
Oversaturation and your approach to the collage in photography represents your feelings towards the way imagery is distributed and perceived. Can you tell me about how you’ve come to this place in your work?
I came to this work after struggling through a lot of frustration with photography. Seeing the medium expand both technologically and socially, I felt that the means for creating an original image had been exhausted. Instead of turning my back on photography and its current state of overconsumption, I became invested in the ways in which I could recycle and reinvent the stereotypical tropes of the medium.
How do your ideas on photography link to your stylistic choices?
My main idea of photography would be that contemporary images have lost effectiveness in their ability to generate a visual experience. The amount of photographs viewed on a daily basis has numbed our perception of photography’s confounding capabilities. My style focuses on both the physical and digital ways I can blend perspectives; creating a photograph that requires more than just a passing glance from any prospective viewer.
In your photography there are prominent references to the processes of creating and staging photographs. The imagery feels digitally manipulated and hyper real. What role or significance does pre-production and post production play in your photography?
My practice consists of a lot of layers of production, and I would not say there is any hierarchy. I start with printing out a large scale image, then I either use it in a studio, or a found environment to build an ephemeral sculpture around it. I photograph the finished set-up and translate it back into a digital file. From here the photograph either becomes a finished piece, or something I continue to recycle and add layers of the photographic process to. I usually feel the most finished when all traces of my workflow become lost, or in other words, when the viewer is stuck within a limbo of constantly trying to separate the digital workflow from the physical.
What is your personal relationship to digital photographic techniques and mediums?
I believe that the digital capabilities of the medium can allow photographers to be more expressive. Digital pixels can be used much like a painter uses gouache. Photographs shouldn’t strictly replicate reality and my work attempts to expand the medium’s stereotypical confines.
Color Cast Example #1 (2015), image courtesy of the artist.
Distribution of imagery is something that informs your practice, how much of that is related to image appropriation and remixing culture that exists online?
The fast paced distribution that occurs online encourages me to spend more time with my own work as opposed to quickly moving forward to the new projects. My process utilizes a recycling of imagery. A finished piece could later be redefined and broken down into a new image or sculpture.
You’ve mentioned “current visual culture” and while some people argue this is prime time for photographers as more and more people can see their work, you reference it as frustrating. What is it exactly about the current visual culture that is frustrating for you as a professional photographer?
I find the current visual culture to be incredibly impatient. The speed in which images pass through screens and media encourages photographers to spread, share, and create at a rate that I don’t necessarily see as beneficial. I personally believe the process should be more careful and see the pressure of visual culture as something that can potentially be toxic to contemporary photographers.
Your series “Exaggerations”, plays a few tricks on the viewer — hand painting what appears to be digitally altered, and digitally altering what appears to be normal — why push the viewer in this way?
I like this direction because it forces the viewer to be more aware of these manipulative capabilities and photography’s overall veracity. When asking the viewer to point out the photoshopped details, the truth consistently deceives them and forces them to second guess the photograph’s integrity. This is something I feel should be done with every image we look at.
Luilla with Bungee Cords (2014), image courtesy of the artist.
How do you feel a tool like ascribe is going to impact the world of art?
I believe ascribe opens a huge door for the art world. More importantly, ascribe allows artists who are working in the digital realm to stay within it. Digital works of art now have the ability to stay true to their original form as opposed to steering away from it for the sake of distribution.
Digital editions enables a new type of collecting. Where do you think digital art is headed in the future?
Digital technologies are increasing their influence across all art mediums. I think it is inevitable that digital art and platforms like ascribe will be at the forefront of the art world in the coming years.
Do you have anything else you want people to know about you?
I could spend hours in hardware stores looking at colored pieces of plastic.
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“As vinyl has been to MP3, we watch the shift from physical aspects of photography to near complete product disposability. Instead of flailing and falling through the cracks, this can lead the way to expansion, broadening and remix; paving the way to boundless artistic relevance within a form.”
-Charlotte Cotton, A Photographic Moment
Jackson Hallberg (1993) is an American born artist. Working primarily with photography, he is currently based in Berlin and represented by the Brooklyn based gallery Rumney Guggenheim. His works test the integrity and boundaries of image constructs and contrast hyper realities with banal photographic artifacts. He holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and also studied at the Spéos Photographic Institute (Paris, FR).
My current body of work came out of a place of frustration. Having studied the traditions of photography for over seven years, I found myself struggling with the medium’s over saturation in current visual culture. The ways in which pictures are mechanically created, reproduced and disseminated today, have encouraged and activated the most widespread participation photography has ever seen. Images have become passive, and viewers submissive. My work has been a reaction to this overflow of imagery; making photographs that activate scrutiny and encourage a search for photographic integrity.