Divya Rao Heffley // The Hillman Photography Initiative (CMOA)

Divya Rao Heffley has spent the past three years bringing the Hillman Photography Initiative to life at the Carnegie Museum of Art. As program manager, she collaborates with both an internal and four external agents—experts in a variety of fields within photography—on developing a two year cycle of programing that engages audiences in discussions about the photograph.

The Initiative seeks to do just that, set in motion a dialog in order to answer question and develop (pun absolutely intended) many more about the impact that photography has had on our lives since its inception. We use it to document our world for myriad reasons everyday and with the advent of the smartphone it’s never been a more accessible tool. It’s easy and frankly redundant to comment on how the digital revolution has made a number of technologies more accessible but when you sit back and look at the history of image making, the timeline from photography’s inception to today is filled with astounding milestones in a very short period of time. It begs the question, what’s possible next? CMOA want to collaborate with us on the answer. 

The website, nowseethis.org and the #nowseethis shifts the audience away from the traditional and institutional use of the museum space and into an “incubator for innovative thinking on the photographic image”. I use their words here because it’s the most concise and yet open ended terminology to describe the innovative approach being used at CMOA.

(You guys, if you can't tell yet this is pretty damn exciting).

We create pictures to frame and preserve the moments in time most interesting or important to us, (a subjective use of these terms is hopefully inferred here). Whether that’s documenting a fender bender or taking a family portrait, the individual image holds it’s own purpose. How does that change over time or when those images are collected and placed near each other? Each of the Initiative’s projects plays with this in it’s own way, with discussion about an individual photograph, (This Picture, Orphaned Images) or presenting a collection of some kind, (The Invisible Photograph , The Sandbox). There are multiple places of entry and the topics to discuss are vast making possibilities for this Initiative multilayered and extremely exciting—something you can easily pick up on in my conversation with Divya. 

Pittsburgh, I better see you checking this out. I’m serious. The Hillman Photography Initiative lives online with programing also found inside the museum so there is something for the hermit like individual to adventurous art goer to plug into. At the very least, I want to see an absurd amount of submissions in The People’s History of Pittsburgh.

Enjoy my chat with Divya, and I’ll see you around the Internet. 

Divya Rao Heffley
& The Hillman Photography Initiative on the Internet

Links of items discussed in our tangents!