How does a film photographer handle the decline of his own profession? If you’re Canadian Robert Burley, you capture film’s demise using the same technology that is disappearing.
Burley’s exhibition The Disappearance of Darkness, at the National Gallery of Canada, captures the end of film photography with 30 large prints of empty buildings and factories that used to house film manufacturing.
While the digital world has made Polaroids and 35 mm cameras obsolete, Burley still believes there is a place for analog photography as an art form.
“Film-based photography will flourish, and is flourishing, as an expressive medium," Burley says. "There are a number of artists who are doing wonderful new things with photographic materials that haven’t been done before.”
This exhibition is a prime example of that.
Burley started working on the project back in 2005, before digital became the norm. By the time he finished, Burley says the digital era swept in, creating a wave of destruction of his photographic world. “As we all know, photography is increasingly digital these days. It’s faster, it’s easier, it’s cheaper, and you can do many more things with it. It’s an irresistible technology to even old photographers like myself who have used film all their lives.”
While digital technology has devastated the film industry, its effects aren’t limited to photography.
“Most people have had to change the way they live their lives in some way regardless of what they do because of the shifts that have happened in digital technology,” Burley says.
“There’s been this shift away from physical media, not just photography, but books and newspapers — these things that we used to have all around us — into a world that is completely encapsulated in a glowing screen which we hold from our faces.”
Burley’s work will be on display at the National Gallery of Canada, along with Michel Campeau’s exhibition Icons of Obsolescence, until Jan. 5, 2014.