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Today's episode has been sponsored by Squarespace. For more information, visit http://www.squarespace.com/artassignment

This week we visit Assaf Evron in Chicago to consider how photography can help us see the familiar places we visit everyday differently. Here's what he means:

1. Go to a public place that you pass daily and take a photo, not too close and not too far
2. Download the photo to a computer and look at it for 3 minutes
3. Return to the location and take detail photos of things you noticed while looking at the original
4. Upload your photos and description with #theartassignment
5. Fame and glory (your work might be in a future episode)

Learn more about Assaf's work:
http://www.assafevron.com/

And don't forget to subscribe for new episodes of The Art Assignment every Thursday!

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SARAH GREEN: This episode of "The Art Assignment" is brought you by Squarespace.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We're about to meet up with Assaf Evron, who's originally from Israel, but has lived here in Chicago since 2011. Before he started working as an artist, he studied philosophy and was a photojournalist for and Israeli newspaper. That experience informed and inflected his work, which considers the way we see the world and the friction between reality and its representation.

He uses the photography in his work, but his practice is many layered. He has used an Xbox Kinect to project infrared light onto carefully composed still lifes, and then used an infrared camera to capture what you can't usually see with the naked eye. Another series sees him create three-dimensional representations of color spaces or the mathematical algorithms that relate colors to numbers, an important consideration in digital printing. With this work, he thinks about how form or shape can represent an abstract idea for mathematics.

Today, we're going to talk with Assaf about the many things we see on a daily basis that we don't stop to question. And we're going to consider how the act of looking is neither simple nor straightforward, and the ways that photography can help us to see differently.

Assaf: Hello. My name is Assaf Evron, and this is your art assignment.

I was working for the Tel Aviv magazine or four outlets, newspapers. There's always this funny metaphor that I was feeling like a pizza delivery boy, but that instead of pizza, I had a camera. And I had to be like in 10 places in the same day, real quick, and get the photo.

With photography, there is this notion of sometimes urgency. I have to capture the moment. And I think in that case, it should be the opposite. I should capture the non-moment, or the regular, the obvious, the things that we don't see because they are there all the time.

I use many cameras. And the reason that I use many cameras, each camera constructs a different way of seeing. Not only a different way of seeing, also a different pace for capturing the image. It's a different-- it's like stalling the vision, in a way, or stalling your perception, or putting it in brackets or suspending the perception in a way to be able to see. And sometimes it's-- you want that delay in thinking about what you see and taking the time.

So your assignment is to go to a public place that you go by on a daily basis, with a camera, and take a photo. Almost a random photo, but just not too close and not too far. Go back home, download it to your computer, and look at it for three minutes, almost like a meditation, and see what kind of details would reveal themselves. The day after, go back to the same place and photograph those details that you found in the original photograph up close and then share with us the original photo and the photographs of the up close details, together with a sentence about your findings.

Sarah: So first we must address the title of this assignment, which is Blow Up, and it's called that after the 1966 film by Michelangelo Antonioni.

John: Yeah, I've studiously avoided seeing that one.

Sarah: So I think a lot of people have done the same thing, but it's about a London-based fashion photographer in the swinging '60s who takes some photos in a park which he takes back to his studio, blows them up, looks at them, and sees what he thinks is a dead body. So he keeps enlarging the image and looking at it, and then eventually he goes back to the park to see what he could find.

John: Yeah, so that definitely connects to what I find so interesting about Assaf's work and about this assignment. I am really fascinated by both looking and attentiveness. I feel like we live in an age where attentiveness is maybe less valued than it has been in the past, but also where the way that we look has changed. Like, we're always looking at our own images or images of other people on our feeds.

Sarah: And I think people are often very dismissive of that kind of looking. Of always looking into your phone or taking a picture of an artwork in a gallery instead of actually looking at the work. But there's something happening in that image that doesn't happen when you're just looking.

John: Yeah, and vice versa. There are things that your eyes can do that images can't.

Sarah: That's right. But this is not a new problem.

In 1931, German philosopher Walter Benjamin devised a new term to describe the impact of photography on the way we perceive the world. "It is through photography," he says, "that we first discovered the existence of this optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis."

For Benjamin, both fields opened vast realms of information not visible to the human eye. The camera offered the ability to enlarge, showing details never before seen, and also slow down, demonstrating what happens during a fraction of a second. Like how Eadweard Muybridge's studies of animal locomotion from the 1870s allowed us to observe, for the first time, whether a galloping horse lifts all four hooves off the ground.

Assaf's assignment asks us to pause and consider the impact of this tremendous shift within a visual culture that has never stopped modernizing. Through this task, we slow down our process of looking, and at every step examine what is revealed and what is obscured by the lens of the camera and by the lenses of our own eyes.

Assaf: Looking at something for three minutes straight is a challenge. It's almost like a meditation. Like meditate through looking at an image and by having this kind of like-- endurance question, you suddenly start to discover things about the image, things that you did not see at first gaze, in this, like, first scan. And it's interesting. In that sense, our eyes look like a camera. You know, we [CAMERA NOISE] look at a thing for five seconds, and then we're off to the next one. And it's kind of like staying in front of an image for three minutes, that's challenging.

While you meditate, things start to float up, and the same thing with the image. It's kind of like we always think about boredom as a negative experience. And I think, in that sense, boredom is a very productive experience while you-- for something like lose interest or kind of like let go of any-- any angle or things like that. The things start to float up from the bottom. And that's when the interesting things are happening. And it's interesting to return after a day or so. It's like-- kind of like has a delay or suspending the whole process.

Take the photo, go back home, look at it. Sleep on it. Maybe even like, after three minutes, if you don't discover anything, you'll just like shut your computer. Say, eh, this assignment. And then after a couple of hours, something will pop up. So it's just about giving time. And then the day after or two days after, if it's not a timely thing, go back and go up close and figure out what you saw. You probably see it now in a different way, which is the whole idea, and that's a chance to re-encounter this object in the world.

It's almost like an existential process. And there's a lot of things that you go through when you do these kinds of experiments. And it could be how you felt, what you saw that you never saw before, it could be something that adds to the image. There's also an intimate relationship that starts to happen between the photographer and the actual photograph, based on the life environment. Because it's all happening right in front of us. So in that sense, a sentence or two can give the-- us, the people that were not there with you, an access to what you've been through.

Sarah: The Art Assignment is supported by Squarespace.

John: Whatever your story, you should tell it in an unforgettable way, and with user-friendly tools and templates, Squarespace helps you capture your story with a captivating website.

Sarah: They also offer domains, hosting, and customer support. Start your trial today. Visit Squarespace.com/artassignment.

Assaf: It's funny, I was with my son yesterday, and he was asking to take photographs with my phone. And I told him to take the photograph with your eyes.