Re:Touch. Expanded Surfaces in Smartphone Photography

On the occasion of the EMOP Berlin – European Month of Photography 2023, we invited professional and amateur photographers to submit images that explore the expanded surfaces of digital photographic images. Although digital images on screens and smartphones play a significant role in our everyday social lives, media and networks, they are still often underestimated as photographic practices with potential for critical agency and aesthetics. 

This open call aimed to engage critically with smartphone imagery to unfold the potential of a Re:Touch.

Digital imagery can be a bridge and a barrier of connectivity. By capturing a singular visual moment with a smartphone camera, the complexity of the analogue world may be lost, while reality itself is reconfigured as a pixelated landscape. Representations are rendered through binary codes or generated by non-human agents and often disseminate established visual codes of power that reproduce biases such as race, class and gender. At the same time users are more critically entangled with the production and display of these images than ever, as they are bound up in the continuous flow of, amongst others, social media feeds, mapping simulations and games. We want to question how the smartphone give users the interfaces and tools needed for capturing moments while also allowing them to criticize and deviate from dominant forms of representation, unfolding a disruptive force through the performativity of expanded surfaces:

  • How can smartphone photography create new visualizations to restore relationships with ourselves, each other and the world within and beyond screens?
  • What affective relationships and resiliencies may emerge from capturing phenomena beyond the established visual codes of social media systems?
  • What strategies emphasize decolonial and/or queer constructions of identity as socially engaged practices?
  • How do these relationships critically reflect on political aspects of their own circulating interconnectedness?
  • Which screenshots effectively document a critique of digital image processing?
  • How do we encounter non-human photographs in a virtual environment?
  • What role do digital errors and glitches play in relation to digital infrastructures of power relations?

We were looking for photographs that use the smartphone as a starting point for a Re:Touch, the haptic politics of image surfaces. The technique could include but was not limited to selfies, snapshots, screenshots or photogrammetry. The approaches submitted negotiated personal themes, critical interventions or experimental digital photographic practices to overcome new and old boundaries of connectivity.