How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play

Fri 24 Jun 2022 - Sun 25 Sep 2022

A new multimedia exhibition exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play. Featuring over 30 international artists, How to Win at Photography questions the very meaning and function of photography today.

image of a girl covered in twitter icons and logos, by artist Yuyi John at the Photographers' Gallery London

How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play

Fri 24 Jun 2022 - Sun 25 Sep 2022

A new multimedia exhibition exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play. Featuring over 30 international artists, How to Win at Photography questions the very meaning and function of photography today.

Image-Making as Play.

Follow the rule of thirds, catch the decisive moment,
Master the shutter speed, play against the camera,
Collect likes and followers, challenge everything,
Fight the apparatus, win the game.

How to Win at Photography manifesto 

How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play is a new multimedia exhibition exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play.  It invites audiences to focus on the playful aspects of visual culture, and creates unexpected connections between the history of photography and the practices of image-making within computer games and wider digital screen culture. 

Featuring over 30 international artists and a rich assemblage of multimedia artworks and vernacular images representing a variety of positions across contemporary and twentieth century photography, How to Win at Photography questions the very meaning and function of photography today.
 

photograph of hand holding two eyes by Aneta Grzeszykowska, Selfie #10 at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Artists include Chinese contemporary artist, documentarian and activist Ai Weiwei; Polish multimedia artist Aneta Grzeszykowska; post-conceptual technology-based American artist Cory Arcangel; French surrealist photographer, sculptor and writer Claude Cahun; feminist artist, Cindy Sherman; German filmmaker, video artist, theorist and writer Harun Farocki; legendary American artist Ed Ruscha; Taiwanese visual artist John Yuyi and American photographer, painter and conceptual artist Sherrie Levine. 

Photography is inherently playful, but the play is not free. There are rules that the photographer must master, skills to conquer, expectations to fulfil. The very circulation of images is now a trackable, surveilled, quantifiable process like everything else on the internet. Photographs receive a ‘score’ in the form of likes and reposts. They are instantly monetised, becoming part of a larger economic competition for attention in which gamified elements and score systems are increasingly influential. At the same time, photography is a fundamental part of today's video game culture. Not only does it drive forward the photorealistic development of digital imaging; it offers ‘open worlds’, vast environments that can be explored and documented by virtual photographers. 
 

Taking over all of the Gallery’s main exhibition spaces How to Win at Photography is arranged in five thematic sections or chapters: Game Travel, Game Play, Replay, Camera Play and Role Play. Designed to be experienced in any order the chapters explore connections and rule-sets between image-making, identity, politics, technology and entertainment.

Game Travel

On Floor 5, Game Travel examines the practice of screenshotting within video games. Rather than playing a video game, artists and photographers play with the game, therefore introducing a different kind of engagement.

Gameplay

Also on Floor 5, Gameplay looks at the emergence of rules and point systems in contemporary photography.

Replay

On Floor 4, Replay explores the themes of re-enactment and re-staging. By appropriating and re- contextualising images, artists and photographers question the dominant authorities by generating counter-narratives that can shape reality.

Camera Play

On Floor 2, Camera Play challenges the nature and function of the camera and questions the way it both shapes and creates reality. By deliberately misusing, modifying, challenging and reinventing the camera, new ways of seeing emerge

Role Play

Also on Floor 2, Role Play explores the play with identities. From photographic portraits to selfies, from video game avatars to cinema stars, role-playing has been one of the few constants in the ever-changing history of representation.

Featured Artists
Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, Justin Berry, Alan Butler, Gloria López Cleries & Sive Hamilton Helle, Joan Pamboukes, Tabor Robak, Constant Dullaart, Yuyi John, Emma Agnes Sheffer, Coralie Vogelaar, Jon Haddock, Roc Herms, Sherrie Levine, Lorna Ruth Galloway, Ed Ruscha, Ai Weiwei, Harun Farocki, Dorothée Elisa Baumann, Dries Depoorter & Max Pinckers, Christopher Graves, John Hilliard, Steven Pippin, Ria Patricia Röder, Akihiko Taniguchi, Claude Cahun, Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Andy Kassier, Cindy Sherman, Petra Szemán, Danielle Udogaranya.

How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play is an open invitation to rethink photography through the act of playing with - and breaking – the rules of the game and to consider who is playing who.  It challenges visitors to consider such questions as:  Are we playing with the camera or is the camera playing us? What is our role within the system of photography? Are we mere pawns in a larger social and cultural network? What can a playful photographer realistically achieve? And, ultimately who can ‘win’ this game?

Screenshot of the How to Win At Photography Online publication

Online Publication by Fotomuseum Winterthur

Find out more

An exhibition by Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland curated by Marco De Mutiis and Matteo Bittanti, adapted in collaboration with Anna Dannemann for The Photographers’ Gallery.
 
In collaboration with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University.
 
Supported by of Volkart Foundation, Antigone Theodorou and Stefan R Bollinger; and the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK.

Download the press release here.