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About the Photographer
American, b. 1972
The "Untitled Project" is rooted in a base interest in the nature of power. With the removal of all traces of text from the photographs, the project explores the manifestation of power between large groups of people in the form of public and semi-public language. The absence of the printed word not only draws attention to the role text plays in the modern landscape but also simultaneously emphasizes alternative forms of communication such as symbols, colors, architecture and corporate branding. In doing this, it serves to point out the growing number of ways in which public voices communicate without using traditional forms of written language.
— Matt Silber, April 2003, from The Untitled Project Book
The Untitled Project pairs photographs of urban spaces with companion text pieces. In each set the text, every letter and number, has been digitally lifted from the photograph and placed onto a blank white sheet in approximately its original font, size, and location within the frame. The resulting text-free photographs envision a world still thoroughly recognizable, if perhaps somehow cleaner or quieter. Since everything that remains in the scene is familiar and easy to identify, logos and signs are usually readable by dint of their distinctive shapes and colors, it can take a while to realize what (if anything) is missing. The black-and-white text panels, of course, show exactly what is missing, and the sheer volume of text that has been removed from the photograph can be startling. At times it is a barrage of information, at others just a word or two, but the sum effect on the viewer is a realization of how much text we are surrounded by, how much text is so commonplace that we tend to scan it rather read it, and just how much can be said without text at all.
The large-scale, digital images (approximately 40×50 inches) of The Untitled Project were first exhibited at the Columbia College Chicago Photography Department MFA thesis show in May of 2003 at the Glass Curtain Gallery. Realized the same year, the book of the project includes 12 picture and text pairs, always with picture on the left page and text on the right. Siber shot most of these images with a 4×5 view camera, a few with the more maneuverable medium format. In book form, the issues of text, picture, reading, and communication central to The Untitled Project are intensified. One interesting ramification is that the book's pages lie together with picture and text pressed against each other when the book as closed, and flipping pages seems to pull the two components apart.
Matt Siber was born in Chicago in 1972, grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, and returned to Chicago in 2000. He earned a BA in History and Geography from the University of Vermont in Burlington (1994) and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2003). He spent 1994 through 2000 as a commercial photographer, and currently teaches digital imaging and fundamentals of photography at Columbia College Chicago. His work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and has been exhibited at Peter Miller Gallery in Chicago, SPIN Gallery in Toronto, and Harrison Street Gallery in Oak Park, Illinois.