Video still of wood frame of house overlooking airborne debris and small floating island off in the distance

Still from Styles and Customs of the 2020s, 2017, Virtual reality, variable duration, By Kim Laughton, based on text from DIS creative brief by Marvin Jordan, A Scatter X DIS Collaboration, Supported by the Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art



As photography moves from paper prints, to digital images, to a future that we can only imagine, what remains fundamentally “photographic”? At its essence—and since its beginnings—photography measures light and time. The four artist projects unfolding in 2016–17, as well as the Light Clock on the museum’s front plaza, expand upon and perhaps explode this notion, using it as a springboard to investigate contemporary social issues.

For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches—and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing.

Roland Barthes

The Hillman Photography Initiative is an incubator for investigating the rapidly shifting field of photography and its impact in the world today.

Artist Projects

Projection of light streaming down the side of a building

Light + Environmental Sustainability

November 2016–January 2017

Andrea Polli’s practice empowers citizens to effect positive local change by harnessing the photographically inspired tools used in environmental data visualization. Using something as basic as a camera phone, she invites us all to investigate the impact of our current energy choices on the environment.

Video still of wood frame of house overlooking airborne debris and small floating island off in the distance

Light + Perception

March–September 2017

Commissioned to explore how new photographic technologies change the way we perceive light, space, and objects in virtual worlds, New-York based artist collective DIS developed Styles and Customs of the 2020s. A visual essay on how a collaboratively reimagined future can shed light on our present moment, this concept was transformed into a virtual reality (VR) installation, also titled Styles and Customs of the 2020s, by New York–based artist collective Scatter through a unique multi-studio collaboration. Located in the museum’s Hall of Architecture, CMOA’s first VR experience presents a digital dystopia inflected by rapid climate change, social unrest, and shifting global economics.

Blurry black and white image of a traffic overpass

Light + Movement

June–December 2017

Inspired by the photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris, Bradford Young’s three-channel video installation, REkOGNIZE, considers the history, legacy, and identity of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Premiering on June 16, 2017, this immersive experience explores the enduring influence of photographs from the past.

Abandon house interior with woman in dress facing fireplace and her reflection in the mirror above mantel.

Light + Social Justice

September–December 2017

In fall 2017, Pittsburgh-based artist Alisha B. Wormsley led The People Are The Light, a series of workshops and public art installations in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood that explored the connection between light and social justice. These events invited participants to reflect on Homewood’s past and present and share their visions for its future.


Generous support for the Hillman Photography Initiative is provided by the William Talbott Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. Design services generously provided by Clear Story.