The term “metadata” is used to describe the information that travels with a digital image file but is unseen within the image itself. This data includes the details about the digital photograph’s creation, its ownership, and how it is situated within structures of order. In our networked digital environment, metadata is accessed by both human users and artificial intelligences. Software algorithms orchestrate what images we see and exchange while collecting the valuable data generated by our interactions. In our moment, dominated by image-based social media and surveillance, we are becoming increasingly aware that understanding the information that circulates unseen around photographic images is just as important as seeing what they represent. Metadata: Rethinking Photography from the 21st Century is an exhibition that explores new paradigms for understanding the ecology of the photographic image.
The exhibition features work from the past decade by an international selection of artists and visual activists that are working to make palpable the unseen information, or metadata, that undergirds the image regime. This includes not just the tags or descriptors attached to image files, but the power relationships, biases, and economic interests that are not always visible in the image itself. The exhibition emphasizes an expanded concept of photographic practice that includes research-based projects, installation, conceptual work, and activism as well as analogue and digital photographs.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website