How the E Ink screens of old e-readers inspired an artist to present his photographs



Who would have imagined that old, worn-out e-readers would end up being an art object. This is how the artist Antony Cairns was able to express his sense of art, with the E Ink screens of the electronic reading devices he obtained serving as a support, the website 1854.photograph revealed. Cairns said it purchased more than 500 used e-readers, most of which were purchased through eBay. He said the sheer quality of E Ink screens that can hold an image for a long time without drawing any power is what prompted him to use them to present his photographs.

The way Cairns used eReaders to showcase his photographs was to hack individual eReaders to carry his images. He then suspended the e-readers inside the screen, then removed the case completely to leave the E Ink screens bare. All of this may sound simple, but you need to have that technical mind to undertake such a task. Cairns said he managed to do this thanks to the YouTube videos he referred to for this task.

“Photography is infinitely linked to technology, it always advances with it. There are many ways to reproduce a photograph, ways that are often overlooked,” Cairns said while explaining the motivation behind her move. Apart from the role of technology in the reproduction of photography, the other aspect that also appeals to him a lot are the ways to recycle and reuse technology and use them for his artistic activities.

Cairns also said that using the eReaders was like using “the reader’s actual single object machine”. “It’s more of a digital photobook than something that’s on an app,” Cairns said, describing its screens as “etch-a-sketch digitized technology.” He also said it was much better and more adventurous than the conventional method of using an app to upload his photos for viewing via phone or tablet.

As for his object of interest, Cairns said he had always been drawn to taking photos of cities and the various heritage sites and buildings within them. He lamented that many such buildings fell to the vagaries of time and turned into ruins in the process, paving the way for mega complexes in the new era. He also described how he would often sneak into such places in the middle of the night and take photos using a digital camera, as he was almost always refused to take such photos for security reasons.

Photographs of Cairns using E-Ink screens are currently on display at the Tate Modern in Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art, where 45 such screens are used to show abstract images of global metropolises.


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