Regeneration2: Tomorrow's Photographers Today

by William A. Ewing (editor) and Nathalie Herschdorfer (editor)
Published by Aperture, 2010

Reviewed by Ellen Wallenstein

Issue 21

reGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today, is a followup to Aperture’s very successful 2005 international exhibition reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow, 2005 - 2025 that addressed the question “What are young photographers up to at the onset of the 21st Century”?

rG2 is an upgraded look at the art photography being produced by a similar pool of candidates on the cusp of potential stardom. Its wide-ranging reach highlights the works of 80 photographers, (selected from 737) suggested by professionals from 119 institutions (including 48 photography schools) in 30 countries.

Those chosen for this exhibition are educated and savvy, part of an international photography community that could hardly have been dreamed of at the time of their birth. Their average age is 28; the bulk of the work was created in an academic art school environment. Most were probably influenced by their childhood exposure to television, print media, their teachers, and the work shown in galleries and museums in the last two decades. And, of course, the World Wide Web.

What goes on in Art School doesn’t stay in Art School. It finds a built-in ever-widening global audience.

There is an historical precedent for finding the next generation of photographers. In the 1970s Time-Life published a set of 15 books, introducing photography to the general public. This very important series included an annual yearbook, which had a “New Discoveries” chapter that published 4 or 5 portfolios out of 40 or 50 photographers who were suggested. It launched an incredibly large number of successful careers.

.....But, back to rG2’s photos: I liked the book cover image by Liu Xiaofang of China. The subject matter and form of her work deals with nostalgia, her round picture harkening back to both Kodak #1 pictures of the turn of the 20th century and the circular shape of old, traditional Chinese paintings.

This catalogue of mostly forlorn subject matter reflects the digitized world of images in which we are all now connected. There is some excitement at the mixing and reinterpretation of traditional photographic genres. But for this reviewer there is an abundance of artifice, a bit too much conscious (or unconscious) imitation, appropriation and technique. (Crewdsen, Goldin, Lux, Staller, your influence here.) A lot of Photographer posturing as Movie Director / Set Designer / Illustrator / Sculptor.

Another question asked in both reGenerations is: “Who will be remembered in 20 years?” My guess: George Awde, Jen Davis, David Favrod, Anne Golaz, Sophie Lvoff, Richard Mosse, Nelli Palomaki, Su Sheng, Barbora and Radim Zurik.

And best in show: Andrea Star Reese. Her documentary photographs “Urban Cave Dwellers” look like theater stills, but they are real - sad and beautiful. Ironically, she is the oldest photographer in the show by several decades, which just might make her PreGeneration.

To order the book, click here.

Ellen Wallenstein is a New York City based photographer and photography professor.
To view more of Ellen's writing and photography, please visit her website.