Penelope Umbrico is an American artist working with photography, appropriation and technology.
Episode 75: This episode was made possible by the guiding hand of Stefano Stoll from Festival Images Vevey who put myself and Penelope Umbrico in contact. Penelope is exhibiting her work “Range : of Mount Grammont with Light-Leak Camera App Filters” at the 2020 festival, which opens this week.
I have been aware of Penelope’s work for some time and she has been on the very early list of people to track down to speak with for Nearest Truth. I find her work fascinating and as a collector of vernacular images, I can’t shake a very familiar feeling when I run across her work. Perhaps its all those countless hours spent on Ebay or perhaps its simply acknowledging life in front of the screen and thinking through what it means to engage with ubiquitous forms of photography in the Twenty-first Century. I find her work sharp, critical and open to fascination as a form or at the very least as a function for her gathering. She seems to be speaking less about photography itself and more about the culture and time that embraces it. She is asking questions of us as spectators and about the rituals of how we consume images in a nearly scientific or anthropological manner, which adds layers of complexity to her work. I also happen to find it strangely attractive to look in the mirror at my own habits through her efforts.
In the conversation, we speak about many of the phenomena that are featured in her work from suns to screens and we exchange dialogue surrounding backgrounds and how Penelope gathers images and how in doing so, the process or work is revealed. We speak a little bit about photographic education as well and banter about what the future looks like for communication and classrooms in a world changing under the pandemic. I took away a keen sense of Penelope’s openness, friendly demeanour and exceeding intellect whilst speaking with her about her work. I am grateful for her willingness to speak on an in-depth, yet accessible level about the complexities found within her projects and I very much hope that we get a moment in the future to speak about new constellations of her practice.