How Does Smartphone Photography Change Our Perspective on the World?

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Photography competition from the Seminar for Culture and Media Management at Freie Universität Berlin / Deadline for submissions March 6, 2023

As part of the European Month of Photography (EMOP), taking place from March 2 to 31, 2023, the Seminar for Culture and Media Management at Freie Universität Berlin has joined forces with Kulturprojekte Berlin to organize a competition on the topic of smartphone photography. The aim of the competition is to critically and creatively address digital smartphone photography, digital photo editing, and the effects these have on societies, realities, and virtual realities. The competition, "Re:Touch. Expanded Surfaces in Smartphone Photography," is open to anyone aged eighteen and above. Submissions are to be handed in using the online form at https://re-touch-photoco­ by March 6, 2023. Those wishing to participate may submit one digital image or a series of up to five digital images on the theme of "Re:Touch." Techniques such as selfies, snapshots, screenshots, or photogrammetry are all welcome. The top three submissions will be awarded with a cash prize: 1,500 euros for first place, 700 euros for second place, and 300 euros for third place. The winning photos or series of photos will also be published online. EMOP Berlin forms part of the European Month of Photography, a collaborative project that takes place across Europe and includes photography festivals in Brussels, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Paris, and Vienna.

By capturing a singular visual moment with a smartphone camera, the complexity of the analogue world is often reduced to a single snapshot of a moment. At the same time, reality itself is reconfigured as a pixelated landscape, and can be modified using modern photo editing techniques. "This means that digital images and smartphones have the potential for critical agency and aesthetics. This is something that we are aiming to highlight with the competition," says Dr. Annette Jael Lehmann, professor at the Seminar for Culture and Media Management at Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute for Theater Studies. Visual representations often disseminate established visual codes of power that reproduce biases such as race, class, and gender, explains Lehmann. At the same time, smartphone users are more critically entangled with the production and display of these images than ever.

"We want to question how smartphones give users the interfaces and tools they need to capture moments while also allowing them to criticize and deviate from dominant forms of representation," says Lehmann.

The jury consists of five individuals from the cultural and art scene:
  • Anna Ehrenstein, an artist who examines how technology and digital-material culture reshape power relations. In 2022, she received the INITIAL scholarship for artistic mediation, and was awarded a research scholarship from the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe in 2021. In 2020, she was presented with the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2020 for "New Documentary Strategies" with her work Tools for Conviviality.
  • Lotte Reimann, an artist who is currently working on conceptual photographic narratives about corporeality in which she undermines the colonial historical concept of the fetish - how the "other" is perceived. Her work has been exhibited in and acquired by international venues such as the MoMA Library in New York, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, De Appel, and the Fotomuseum Winterthur.
  • Wolfgang Ullrich, a cultural scientist and freelance author who researches and publishes on the history and critique of the concept of art, on sociological image phenomena, and consumer theory. He has co-edited the book series
  • Roc Herms, an artist who explores issues such as how technology influences our lives. His work has been displayed in the exhibition "From Here On" in the Centre d’Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona, as well as the exhibition "Photography 2.0" in the Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid.
  • Sarah Straßmann, an artist and researcher who has been teaching as a research associate for photography and visual culture at the University of Hildesheim since 2019. One focus of her works is on intermedial, photography-based research projects that deal with the use of smartphone photography in the context of the Internet and social media.