Artist Monty Richthofen is someone who you probably know from his penchant for flash tattooing, or for his very post-internet collective, The Only Exit. But this time around, he takes us on a tour of Miami Art Basel. To look at the art? No. To observe how the art interacts with the onlookers. Using modern technology as his medium, he captures “insignificant” moments and subtle clichés with his iPhone. Micro-events that we all notice but are so small we don’t even process the absurdity of their everyday happening. INDIE caught up with Monty to ask him about the drive and meaning behind his latest series of fast photography at Miami Art Basel.

Do you think the rise in smartphone owners contributes to photography as a medium – if so how?

I believe that photography has become part of people’s daily routine, like brushing your teeth. More people started using photography since the smartphone was introduced, a whole new type of photography emerged. I would argue that this developed simultaneously to the preexisting art of photography, and did not “replace” traditional photography. It’s a new type of camera, that people happen to carry everywhere they go. This opens up a whole new insight of what people experience. Hence new content. Whether a proliferation of images (in the internet) is a blessing or not is another question.

Your work spans over multiple mediums, how do you think they influence each other?

Limiting myself to one medium is not possible. My work has a lot to do with the internet, its use and its users. Handwritten works contrast the “meaningless” content I produce everyday through chatting using my smartphone. A lot of my works are text based. Whether on skin, paper or walls. I like the way you can comment your own or preexisting works, things or moments with your own statements. By not labelling yourself you can flow through different mediums and enter new territories that are yet undiscovered.

Where do you think our obsession with documenting comes from?

Our obsession with documenting definitely has to do with the desire to share experiences. With the intention to create content to show off. To inform. To educate. To remember.

What do you think the iPhone 6 photos will look like to us in 10 years? 

What is now a partially rejected form of expression will be rediscovered. Just like super eight film. Or tribal tattoos. It will have an appealing look because it does not respond to the newest method of documentation. Although, who knows, maybe the iPhone XX will have an option to use all the previous cameras, like filter options.

When do you think smartphone photos will become acknowledged as part of an artistic process, if it’s not happening already?

Some people will have never questioned it being a form of expression, and some will never accept it as a creative process, as part of photography. That’s the nature of something that challenges conventions I believe.

Why do you think some people have a problem with accepting new technology as a medium for artwork?

New technologies, new techniques often facilitate the conventional artistic process. Of course someone who has spent loads of money and time developing his own film, will have difficulties with accepting that now, one does not need to anymore. We can almost take unlimited photographs. Archives are now digital. It might be hard to see that photography now is easier accessible than before.

How have smartphones, and constant camera access, changed the way we look at the world?

Smartphones have not only changed the way we look at the world, but also how we interact with it. We see places, live, without having to be there. We document rather than experience something with all our senses. Concerts are recorded, not enjoyed. The full immersion in my opinion is lacking once a screen appears in front of your eyes. Whether digital camera or iPhone, having the ability to check what you captured often interrupts the moment you are trying to document, as you take a look at the result, reflecting whether you need to take another photograph or video. This might be a long shot, but I would argue that we don’t only look differently, but also less at the world since we have constant camera access.


All Images Monty Richthofen


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