Liz Deschenes – ‘Photography has always been a hybrid’

Liz Deschenes is an artist working with cameraless photographic techniques to create work that possesses sculptural qualities; engaging the viewer in a constantly changing view by nature of the multiple aspects from which her work can be viewed.  She is known for exploring photography in work “that probes the relationship between the mechanics of seeing, image-making processes, and modes of display.” (, 2016)

In situ, Deschenes’ work often seems to belie the laboriousness of the processes utilised, and the large amount of time and effort invested in its creation; instead, its apparent simplicity is often described as meditative, and offers space for contemplation in its presence.  The relationship between the work and the viewer is highly important to her: “They’re the ones who physically move around it. They are the ones who make decisions about their vantage points. […]. I try to give the viewer agency; I don’t know if that’s always possible, but that’s the aspiration [… ] we are all changing in relationship to each other.”  [SFMOMA, 2018,]

Deschenes challenges the medium of photography, expressing a firm belief in its “hybrid” nature.  “Photography has always been a hybrid […] I’m really defiant about the idea that photography is this or that. Black-and-white, color—I’m not interested in that. Narrative, non-narrative—those are ways of oversimplifying the discipline, so that you can just dismiss it. If you put something in a category, then you don’t have to think about it anymore.” (Deschenes in Greenberger, 2016)

She also pushes the expectation of the photograph to be static, as some of her work seems to change and move before the eyes, Moiré, for exampledescribed as being “Like Bridget Riley’s paintings”. (Greenberger, 2016)

Installation view, Liz Deschenes, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2016. ©LIZ DESCHENES/CHARLES MAYER PHOTOGRAPHY
Works from Deschenes’s “Moiré” series in “Liz Deschenes,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2016 available at

“These prints have the illusion of movement through viewing. It’s a way of talking about mis-registrations and photography.” (Greenberger, 2016)

I was not aware of Liz Deschenes’ work until my discovery of an exhibition entitled What is a photograph? mentioned in a earlier post [here]. Deschenes’ work is informed by her deep knowledge of photography, its history and its science; “a self-referential look at the medium, liberated of its functions, taking its own conditions as its theme.”  (,2013)

Here is an artist I shall return to, as there is much to learn and discover in her work.

Liz Deschenes, Untitled (LeWitt) #6-14, 2016, photogram, 9 parts. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MIGUEL ABREU GALLERY
Image: Liz Deschenes, Untitled (LeWitt) #6-14, 2016, photogram, nine parts. Available at


References (all accessed 10 February 2018):

Header image: Aust, J. (2012) Liz Deschenes, Exhibition view, Secession 2012 [Photograph] available at:

Deschenes,L. / Charles Mayer Photography (2016) Works from Deschenes’s “Moiré” series in “Liz Deschenes,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2016. [Photograph of installation] Available at:

Deschenes, L. (2016) Untitled (LeWitt) #6-14  [photogram, nine parts].
Available at

Greenberger, A. (2016) ‘Photography Has Always Been a Hybrid’: Liz Deschenes on Her ICA Boston Survey, 10/12/16, Artnews, Available at:

Miguel Abreu Gallery (2018) Liz Deschenes, available at:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2018) 36-hour Cameraless Photos Made by Moonlight – Liz Deschenes [Video] Oct 11, 2018, Available at:

Secession (2013) Liz Deschenes. Available at: