Soho Photo National Photography Award Winner David Todd

In an age when photographers take still images from high quality video, David Todd’s project, Still Photography Series, took a National Photography Prize. Spectacular images of exploding cameras prompt many questions


This year’s Soho Photo National Photography Competition saw 305 photographers enter their work from all across the US. Juror Lyle Rexer, a columnist for Photograph magazine as well as a professor and established curator, selected three prize-winners and 26 images to be shown in the Lower Manhattan gallery space.


First place was awarded to David Todd for his “Still Photography Series” – an ironic title for a video piece.  The high-speed video shows a series of 20th century cameras floating against a black background, then spontaneously combusting and shooting flaming debris through the air before disappearing entirely. In his statement, Todd explains his motivation behind the piece (sacrificing his own collection of cameras for the cause) by way of answering a question: “At a time when artists, critics, and curators are asking, ‘Is photography dead?’, I hope the paradoxes within will push the viewer to join me in looking both forward and backward to better understand just what is photography today.”


Photographer: David Todd


Using the most advanced high-definition photographic equipment and electronically detonating explosives, Todd is using the tools of the present and future to show the obliteration of photography’s outdated purpose and process.


In the first of a two part interview, IMSO’s Sydney Smith asks David Todd whether his exploding cameras really means photography in the age of hi-definition video means photography really is dead.


IMSO: Were there any cameras that escaped the fate of the others?


In my mind no. However, time and expense were a factor for this project so I only blew up a dozen cameras – it’s important to mention that I hired a professionally licensed expert to handle the explosives. The cameras varied widely in brand, style, and age from an 1890 wooden Bausch & Lomb, to an early Polaroid Land, a disposable Kodak FunSaver, and a 21st century Nikon SLR.


Photographer: David Todd



I also borrowed a DSLR to record “behind the scenes” images to document the process, which turned out to be very useful. There were many people who didn’t believe that I would ever actually do it. They thought I was crazy, but who could blame them? After all, it’s a profound action for an artist to destroy his own art form. Others thought the imagery was created digitally with computer graphics. In truth I don’t really mind this. For one, there’s nothing quite like seeing the look on someone’s face when they find out that it’s real. Additionally, it re-enforces my message that photography isn’t what it used to be. It’s no longer so easily defined, nor recognizable.


I currently have around 50 cameras, though not all functional. They just seem to have a way of finding me.


TOMORROW DAVID TODD INTERVIEW PART 2: ‘”Is Photography Dead?” And do we really have to blow up our old cameras?


Photographer: David Todd

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