The Photographer (2011)

Re-purposing and likewise re-animating a defunct 5-foot tall, 800 pound robotic arm, Geoffrey Hicks presents a new “worker” now functioning in isolation as its single arm roves, extends, and reaches out, now re-tooled in the role of art producer.

I have always been fascinated by robots and automated technology. In our daily lives we interact with robots all the time, perhaps at an ATM machine, or while pumping gas. Even at a grocery store we can choose self checkout where a computer system makes sure that all the items are scanned and paid for. Our culture has trained us to accept this as the new normal. As a photographer who has taken hundreds of portraits over the past few years, I know how personal the experience of photographing another person can be. This project entitled The Photographer explores what happens when you remove the human element of a person behind the camera. For this installation, I have created a surrogate for the human photographer; my photographer is a six foot tall industrial robotic arm, much like those seen in car commercials after having replaced many auto workers years ago. We have been programmed to understand that these robots are designed and here to help us in our day-to-day existence and assist us in tasks that we no longer need or want to do ourselves. The robot in my installation is trained by me — via software I developed specifically for this project — to locate individuals who are near and photograph them, just as its human counterpart would. It is the physical interaction between the robotic arm photographer and it’s human subjects that prompts gallery visitors to relate to their own experiences with technology by becoming participants in the process.

*Face tracking technology licensed from Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition.