IN THE END, some of the images may be burned. A few will be shredded. Many will simply be clicked and dragged to the trash can on a computer desktop.
But one thing is certain: After the 128 photographs in the “One Hour Photo” show have been displayed, you won’t get another chance to see them.
“One Hour Photo” is a monthlong photography exhibition wherein photos are projected, one after another, for 60 minutes each. After that hour is up, the photos will not be displayed again, reproduced or sold (pursuant to a “morally binding” agreement signed by the artists).
The result of this “ultimate limited edition” is that, going forward, each of these works will exist only in the memories of its observers — making the one-hour experience of viewing the photographs more precious and valuable.
“One Hour Photo” is the brainchild of conceptual artist Adam Good, who got the inspiration for the project after noticing an actual one-hour photo shop while walking with his wife. Good’s first instinct was to subvert the notion of a quick, product-based service and transform it into a deliberately slow experiment in which participants value the experience.
“We contacted people who are emerging; we contacted people who are mid-career; and then we made dream lists,” denHarder said. “Some of the people in the show are some of my favorite contemporary artists.”
The resulting collection spans from established photographers such as Tim Davis and Penelope Umbrico to emerging artists. (After accepting Emilia Harned’s “Pillow Brother” into the exhibition, the creators learned she was a second-grader who had snapped the photo with her mother’s iPhone.)
The tones and the themes vary widely, from confessional to humorous to conceptual. While the sequencing of the photos has been randomized, the creators sought photos that displayed themes including impermanence and ephemerality. The closing-night celebration has been curated to reflect a theme of disappearance.
Good emphasizes that while “One Hour Photo’s” high concept may interest people, the quality of the work is the show’s heart.
“[The show] is interesting conceptually, but the work that is in it is amazing,” he said. “The artists are giving up work that they could easily sell. The fact that they were willing to give that work to this experience is incredibly humbling.”
Featured photographer Michael Huey admits the nature of the project led to the temptation to submit B-list material.
“The idea of actively extinguishing or voiding a work of mine at first went against all my instincts,” he said. “Among other things, I was concerned, when I first considered which work I might submit, that I would be led to choose a second-rate piece — something, in effect, I didn’t mind parting with so much.”
DenHarder is unsettled by the possibility that no one will be in the room when some of the photos are displayed. The long duration of the project — five one-hour photos per day, six days a week for four weeks — makes it unfeasible for the creators to attend every display.
Both denHarder and Kelley have work in the show, a fact that Kelley considers important to her duty as curator.
“It’s good that Chajana and I are participating in the show,” she said. “We’re experiencing what we’re asking other artists to do. We’re doing it, too — we’re not just saying, ‘Give this to us.'”
The prospect of permanent loss even provoked a [probably] facetious comment on the event’s Facebook page, claiming that the attendee would photograph each of the projections.
Kelley was unfazed: “I’m not upset by the idea of somebody trying to ruin our show by taking pictures of everything. It’s just another response, and I’m interested in as many responses that we can inspire in people.”
To that end, the creators have made up response cards and encourage visitors to describe their experiences.
» Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW; through June 6, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., free. (Tenleytown-AU)
Written by Express contributor Dan Miller