Barry Schwabsky at The Nation:
Photographs, and photographs of photographs; cameras, and cameras pointing at cameras; models, and models posing as models: A kind of brooding over these—and the conundrum of whether, by distancing and framing portions of reality, photography thereby deconstructs itself—typifies a technical formalism that has become widespread of late. Artists in this cohort are not so much concerned with making photographs as with examining them in their manifold and contradictory capacities as objects (sheets of chemically treated paper), manifestations of social praxis (ways of relating to other people and the environment), and immaterial entities circulating freely in the world (as digital information).
Rather than offering viewers immediate access to information about the world or simply how some given portion of it looks, artists working in this mode see the techniques, conventions, and history of photography as an interpretive grid that makes some things harder to see and other things easier. They consider that their work can only reflect on the world by looping back on itself—by rendering visible its photographic character as a pre-interpretation of the world that it claims merely to show. Only by pinpointing the fact of its own fictiveness does this kind of work gesture toward some significant aspect of the world beyond. That’s how it happens that an artist like Paul Mpagi Sepuya, whose photographs are as insistently reflexive and formally refined as any being made today, can nonetheless proclaim that in his work, “the sum total of content lies outside of the conversation about art. It’s better served by gossip and friendship.”