Meet a NYFA Artist: Penelope Umbrico

Meet a NYFA Artist: Penelope Umbrico

NYFA speaks with 2002 and 2010 Photography and Deutsche Bank Fellow Penelope Umbrico.

NYFA: What are some of the ideas or questions which most inspire you at the moment?

PU: The questions that are most on my mind at the moment have to do with collective practices in image taking and making and how we adopt certain attitudes toward these practices.

NYFA: How did you originally begin working in photography? How has your process and work evolved?

PU: My work in photography initially started as an investigation about photography as subject matter, and it has become more about how we picture ourselves – how we make and share images. I am thinking about the space between a private image that is made for close friends or family, and what happens to that image, and by extension the individual who made it, when it’s shared with an anonymous public.

NYFA: Do you have expectations for a viewer’s experience of the work?

PU: I want a viewer to be engaged with the work – to be compelled to spend enough time with it that the work changes meaning. For instance the Suns from Flickr (2006-ongoing) piece sort of works on you the way a sunset would – it’s warm and “glowing”, and seductive – but when you realize all these similar images come from thousands photographs of sunsets, all of them claiming to be unique and original (and that you yourself have taken many such a photograph), the piece registers a kind of existential question about subjectivity within such a collective practice.

Or, for instance, in a more physiological way, Left-Side-Works, (2011) questions the act of seeing through a technology that is damaged. It’s a slow animation of many broken lcd screens I found on eBay. I edited them together so that it’s hard to tell where the break-down is located – i.e., if it’s in the images that the animation is made of, or on the monitor you are seeing images on, or in the moire patterns produced between the images and the monitor, or if it’s in your own vision producing afterimages as your eye moves around the imperceptively shifting graphic.

NYFA: Are you aware of future viewers of your work while you are working?

PU: Not so much, though I do think of my work as a kind of archive of rapidly changing technologies, in that it uses images of degraded (often obsolete) objects that were once promising examples of heightened productivity or entertainment.

NYFA: How has receiving a Fellowship last year (2010) affected you? How did it affect you in 2002?

PU: In both years it’s been a huge support…The work I presented in 2002 is much different that the work I am doing now – I’d say along with the financial support, NYFA’s continued recognition of the work has been remarkably affirmative and valuable.

To learn more about Penelope Umbrico, visit her website.

Amy Aronoff
Posted on:
Post author