12 july mixed patrick manning

Photogenesis: Patrick Manning at Foto Forum

Not too long ago, Patrick Manning started to think about the nature of a photograph now that it’s not wedded to a particular medium. “I mean,” said the artist and University of New Mexico associate professor of photography, “it could be a traditional photograph, it could be ink on paper, or it could be on your phone. At the same time, I’d been working on a long-term project, thinking about nonhuman vision and that you can use computers to generate photographs without any human intervention.”

Manning, whose work is featured in a solo exhibition at Foto Forum Santa Fe, was explaining the genesis of his series I’m a Terrible Machine. It was a recent Friday morning and he spoke by phone while riding a chair lift up a mountain at Angel Fire Resort to go mountain biking.

“Where the initial idea for that came from was I created this program that kind of just made static, just random colors, and then I used computer vision to try to see if it ever saw faces in the colors. When it saw faces, I’d look closely, and if I could kind of see faces, I’d set them aside to choose one for me to paint. There’s never really a photograph involved, but the ideas are still centered around ideas of photographic vision in the digital age.”

Manning explores computer “seeing” along with ideas about recognizing and thinking. “In photography, you’re always pointing at something, in a sense, like, ‘Hey, look at that!’ So, is there a way to make something that could almost be understood to be photographic work and not be a photograph? I like to set up weird problems for myself.”

The show, which runs through July 31 at Foto Forum Santa Fe, 1714 Paseo de Peralta (fotoforumsantafe.com, 505-470-2582) features works from nearly a dozen series by Manning. Among them are Automatic Writing (photographs of contrails), Delta (photographs of erosion sites in the Mississippi River Delta), and Soluble Fish Ladder (video of salmon swimming through a lock).

Manning talks about his work at the gallery at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13.

— Paul Weideman

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