Encounters Gallery is a virtual gallery that promotes, exhibits and supports new and contemporary photography online. The gallery director is Gary Sauer-Thompson. Most contemporary art/photography is being made outside of art galleries in public spaces, for temporary exhibitions such as biennials, or shown online in our historical present.
If the photographic present is, clearly, digital, then the photographic is not best understood as a particular form of art; it is currently the dominant form of the image in general. It is in the photographic and post-photographic culture of the image that the contemporaneity of the contemporary is most clearly expressed.
Encounters Gallery is located within, and is a part of, a mediated, network culture with its massive flood of photographic images and the increasing computation of photography. In this global culture in capitalist societies the traditional galleries are becoming ever more like lifestyle brands competing for the public’s attention. Most of these galleries continue to have a low digital presence.
The latter institutions are advised to ‘dig into their data’ in order to become more market-driven and responsive to customer needs. With Flickr’s algorithm evaluating likes, comments and other metadata to ensure the most thrilling images are prioritised in its web interface we are now in a world of automating ‘aesthetic judgement and value’. With EyeEm’s algorithmic curation aesthetics becomes discursively conflated with style or taste rather than value or quality.
Encounters Gallery is part of the increasing shift to the digital image and to an online experience of viewing photos. The lockdown, which was a governmental response to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, has seen an increasing digitalisation in response to the closing down of, then restrictions on the spaces of physical art galleries. Our movements and interactions in these spaces will be limited with social distancing and limited social gatherings for some time.
What can be done with photography under such restrictions? Moving online is the first step. It is a step from isolation to communication. The next step is to become aware that in our globalised world disparate cultures and art worlds have become interconnected and con-temporaneous with each other in the historical present. . Consequently, there are many different co-existing ways of being in time and belonging to it. The third step is to engage in a critically reflective way with the world in which we currently live.