By Lara Onayak
The collapse of the “Kodak moment” and analog photography as a medium captured Robert Burley’s attention.
His findings can now be seen in his exhibition The Disappearance of Darkness, currently on display at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC).
Burley, an associate professor at the School of Image Arts, said his show is about “the digital turn” experienced by everyone on some level.
“Both the book and the exhibition were outcomes of a six-year project documenting the demise of traditional photography,” he said.
When Burley discovered that the historical Kodak Canada complex was going to shut down in 2005, his visualization of the project was predominantly photographs from neglected Kodak factories.
In 2007, his own personal history with photography helped him expand the scope of his project to include other related sites and companies.
Burley’s exhibit has now been immortalized in a book, first published in 2012 as a joint venture between Princeton University Publishing and the RIC.
Burley has been working with the RIC on his exhibition since 2011 and it made its first appearance at the National Gallery of Canada last October.
“The RIC is a new museum that is dedicated to the study, teaching, research and exhibition of photography and related media,” Burley said. “This was a natural venue for the work.” Student research assistants from the School of Image Arts also collaborated with Burley throughout the development of his project.
“[They] have worked with me on all aspects of the book and exhibition and assisted me in producing the exhibition over a three-month period,” Burley said.
Parker Kay, a third-year new media student, was one of the students who helped put together the exhibit. Kay primarily focused on framing photographs and assisting with some of the technical aspects of video production.
“The exhibition was entirely Robert’s vision,” said Kay. “I worked with him to execute what he had in mind from the beginning.” The RIC is one of several locations the exhibition will be held. It will travel for the next two years beginning this fall as it heads to the International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY.
“I felt it important to do this project not only to record a disappearing history, but also to mark a time when digital technologies irrevocably changed photography forever,” said Burley.