Promiscuous Visions:

The Hackers At The Heart of Photography

A Course by John D’Agostino

Detail: Mario Giacomelli, Marche Countryside, ca. 1954. “Ma Bell is a System I want to explore.”

-Captain Crunch, legendary Phone Phreaker.


Man Ray, Rayograph, 1925.

Photographers have been hacking into the medium of photography from its very inception.

Confined not just to the world of computers, “Hack Value” describes the creative ethos of an artist interested in fully exploring a System to stretch its capabilities, as opposed to an ordinary user, who prefers to use the system as originally designed, and learn only the minimum necessary.

From the first ‘Phone Phreakers’ who whistled into telephones to make free calls, to the Apple I, a bare bones circuit board designed to be re-configured, Hackers of all different genres enjoy exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of experimentation, innovation, cleverness, finesse and brilliance.

Susan Sontag once characterized the nature of photography as a promiscuous vision, a way of seeing that is not faithful to a single Modus Operandi or material, but rather, promiscuously seeks out divergent technologies, media, and new ways of making images

Matthew Brandt, From the series Rivers, Lakes & Reservoirs, 2010. C-Print soaked in source water.


John Chiara, 8th at Hooper, 2003. Dye Destruction Photograph.

Photographic Hackers delight in solving artistic problems in unanticipated ways. A short list of these innovations include camera-less photograms and the threat of abstraction, multiple exposures, liquid spills, scrapes and solar burns, cameras without film or lenses, printmaking with literally anything but silver halide or ink (from breakfast cereal to body fluids), bizarre print surfaces from leaves to cloth to canvas, or using energy sources to make exposures, such as heat, cold or radiation – even the motion of live animals such as bees or snakes.

This course will investigate many of the novel solutions that the most creative photographers employ to deconstruct and re-configure the idea of the photograph. Each week, students will participate in this experimental process by reverse-engineering a different component part of the photograph, re-imagining elements taken for granted, and deepening their understanding of the more dynamic ways photographs can evolve and innovate.

Kim Keever, River Keeper, 2003. C-Print made with fishtank diorama.


Eileen Quinlan, Yellow Goya, 2007. Folded chromogenic paper.






Course Schedule

Week 1: Dégredés

Featured Artists:

Joseph Nicephore Niecpe · Marco Breuer · Lillian Bassman · E.J. Bellocq Curtis Mann · Edmund Teske · Jacques Villeglé · John Chiara · Chris McCaw


Week 2: The Threat of Abstraction

Featured Artists:

Man Ray · Jaroslav Rossler · Barbara Kasten ·Roger Catherineau · Laszlo Moholy-Nagy · Walead Beshty · Aaron Siskind · Frederick Sommer · Eileen Quinlan


Week 3: Printers, Painters & Pictorialists

Featured Artists:

Mario Giacomelli · Jan Saudek · Alvin Langdon Coburn · Wade Guyton · Lucas Samaras · Robert Demachy · Matthew Brandt · Matt Saunders · Henry Peach Robinson


Week 4: Fire & Ice

Featured Artists:

Adam Fuss · Susan Derges · Yves Klein ·Hiroshi Sugimoto · Jorma Puranen · Kim Keever ·Wilson Bentley · Dupreez & Jones · Christopher Colville


Week 5: Digitalis Hybrida

Featured Artists:

Thomas Ruff · Jason Salavon · Andreas Gursky ·Idris Khan · Andreas Gefeller · Carter Mull ·Richard Misrach · Aziz + Cucher · Loretta Lux

This course is currently in development for venues TBA 2013. For more information, please contact John D’Agostino.