’ÉCAL Photography’ explores the role of the photographer in the digital age

travelling photography exhibition catalogue
ÉCAL is commemorating its travelling photography exhibition with a new catalogue of works, published by Hatje Cantz, comprising works by the 58 photography alumni in the show
(Image credit: Josh David Payne)

An exhibition of images by 58 ÉCAL photography students opens this weekend at the Carla Sozzani gallery in Milan. It is accompanied by a handsome 300-page book, 'ÉCAL Photography', edited by the Swiss art and design school's director Alexis Georgacopoulos, curator Nathalie Herschdorfer, and Milo Keller, ÉCAL's head of bachelor photography. It includes interviews with visiting artists and photographers including Paolo Roversi, Maurice Scheltens, Adam Broomberg and Jason Evans. It is a kind of case for the defence.

Photography is in something of crisis. It has become an everyday, all-the-time medium. Everyone does it. And even if you're a stranger to f stops, you can crop, add a border and a vintagey wash and suddenly those snaps look pretty cool. Or you can let Hipstamatic do all that for you.

As ÉCAL director Alexis Georgacopoulos acknowledges in his intro to 'ÉCAL Photography', this democratisation and de-skilling, and the growth of social network 'galleries', even raises questions about photography's place in the 'academy'. 'If anybody can produce images, often manipulated and embellished by the magic of automatic retouching software, should we still be teaching this art at degree level?' he asks. 'Shouldn't we let everybody create their own iconographic culture, take an empirical approach to learning techniques for themselves, share their own images on the web…gauge the quality of the images by how many likes they get?'

The book and the exhibition is the counter argument, 'a new statement at a time when the stakes have been raised'. You don't become this good and interesting by posting on Instagram. Photography students, he argues, 'have the right to make mistakes, but also the right to be corrected.' The exhibition is a defence of academic rigour in the face of rampant amateurism.

Black and white photograph of a women

Images from the 'Sans titre' series, by Priscilla Saada, 2011

(Image credit: Priscilla Saada)

Photograph of a women going upstairs

From the 'Watch It' series, by Tiphanie Mall, 2013

(Image credit: Armand Yerly)

Photograph of a white horse

From the 'Curioso' series, by Olga Cafiero, 2009

(Image credit: Olga Cafiero)

Building interior view

From the 'Séduction' series, by Cyril Porchet, 2009

(Image credit: Cyril Porchet)

9 photograph combined in one picture

From the 'Objets' series, by Armand Yerly, 2012

(Image credit: Armand Yerly)

Photograph of a machine in a book

From the 'La vallé' series, by Jennifer Niederhauser Schlup, 2012

(Image credit: Jennifer Niederhauser Schlup)

Black and white photograph of three men

From the 'Maldoror' series, by Jean-Vincent Simonet, 2013

(Image credit: Jean-Vincent Simonet)

Wedding photograph

From the 'Ekaterina' series, by Romain Mader, 2012

(Image credit: Romain Mader)

Photograph of people in book

'Teenagers', 2011, (left) and 'Prélaz', 2011 (right), by Tristan Savoy

(Image credit: Tristan Savoy)

Portrait photograph

From the 'Sans titre' series, by Jimmy Rachez, 2013

(Image credit: Jimmy Rachez)

Photograph of a women smoking

From the 'Berry Blossoms Blue and an Errand' series, by Alexia Cayre, 2011

(Image credit: Alexia Cayre)

Photographs of people

From the 'Ya Kala Ben' series, by Namsa Leuba, 2011

(Image credit: Alexia Cayre)

Photograph of a mountain

From the 'Promised Land' series, by Douglas Mandry, 2013

(Image credit: Douglas Mandry)