Zach Nader’s Counterweight
There is no denying that digital media have facilitated what can only be described as an image-saturated world. As both producer and consumer, the “everyday” photographer now has access to virtually all the image-making technologies once only privy to a select few. One of the more fascinating developments in this phenomenon lies in the world of digital-imaging software; from the Instagram filter to the oft-preached Photoshop, programs are always working to tweak and re-touch our worlds.
Brooklyn-based artist Zach Nader addresses what might be at stake in the editing obsession by posing this question, “How do image making technologies affect our experiences and memory?” In his 2012 project Counterweight, Nader uses the content-aware function in Photoshop to excess: he runs the program until it eliminates all the human figures from select family photographs. The function – of course meant to correct small imperfections – must attempt to “fill in” the voids left by the human figures and reconstruct the background as best it can. As we can see from Nader’s results, the digital tool cannot possibly fill the space with absolute accuracy, and what’s left are somewhat haunting images on which we can see both the attempt at digital intervention, and the ghostly impressions of a human presence.
In an interview with In-B, Nader explains why this kind of software combined with the family snapshot-as-medium interests him especially:
“Family snapshots are an unusual type of image. I began with them because they are used to simply idealize their subjects…These snapshots exist to show people in a specific place, and were often created quickly and with little to no knowledge of the apparatus used – a button was pushed. They become incredibly significant though as markers of what happened when and where – they are the record. Of course filters can be applied and objects added or removed, but that is not the primary concern for most users. The light might be terrible, someone may have moved, or the photographer really should have just gotten closer, but these are the images that people run into burning buildings for or pay exuberant fees for data recovery.
This specific content-aware technique is one that I have used other works: Aspirations and optional features shown. I am very interested in the hardware and software that shapes the ways in which we make and view images. Content-aware is made for specific, and rather small, uses – having it fill in for representations of entire people and products breaks the tool from the intended use and opens up new possibilities.”
See more of Nader’s work at his website here.