Material Light is curated by Allan Forrester Parker and Constanza Isaza Martinez and was first shown at the University of Westminster in November 2013 Thanks to the Westminster University Archive for the loan of works by Julia Margaret Cameron and Henry Peach Robinson The Exhibition is supported by Photography Department at the the University of Westminster Installation Images ÂŠ David Freeman unless otherwise credited
MATERIAL LIGHT iv
INTRODUCTION – Allan F. Parker
CURATORIAL STATEMENT – constanza isaza martinez
Materiality and the Photograph – Dr Neil Matheson
Artists 12 Holly Birtles 16
26 Louisa Fairclough 30 Helen Goodin 32
CONSTANZA ISAZA MARTINEZ
Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari
Allan F. Parker
Byoung Joon Yoon
Alia Zapparova and Mia Cuk
Julia Margaret Cameron
74 Henry peach Robinson
MATERIAL LIGHT Hegel famously described painting and music as genres dedicated to â&#x20AC;&#x153;the sensuous presentation of ideas,â&#x20AC;? suggesting that important truths could be transmitted using emotive, sensory materials. Although an emphasis on sensory materials is not a requirement for photography or for contemporary art, this exhibition highlights the work of contemporary and historical practitioners for whom it is, or was, a central concern. In parallel to the increasing popularity of digital photography in recent years, there has been a revival of interest in analogue and historical techniques, giving rise to the creation of works that explore the uniqueness and abstract potential of these processes. The continual evolution of the photographic image has also seen the combination of digital and historical processes; in this exhibition we see the use of digital negatives in historical printing processes as well the interrogation of digital technologies through analogue techniques. Also included are contemporary works which employ historical artefacts to evoke the past and signify the relationship of the photograph to history, memory and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role in the recreation and preservation of the past. The availability of both analogue and digital processes allow artists to capitalise on their respective benefits and visual characteristics in pursuit of a range of visual and conceptual possibilities, either in concert or in conflict with the digital world. ALLAN F. PARKER An additional accompanying essay on the exhibition by Dr Neil Matheson is in progress and will be included in the Published Catalogue.
ESSAY BY Dr Neil Mattheson (this placeholder text is taken from a talk by Dr Matheson given in
“Materiality and the Photograph” Analogue: the dematerialisation of the image Dr Neil Matheson is a Senior Lecturer in Theory and Criticism of Photography. He is an art historian with a particular interest in surrealism and dada, modernist and contemporary art. His books include The Sources of Surrealism Lund Humphries, 2006.The Machine and the Ghost: Technology and Spiritualism in C19th-C21st Art MUP – 2013. Gothic Surrealism Ashgate – forthcoming 2014.Introduction: digitisation and the loss of materiality
Over the past decade or so we’ve experienced a total revolution in the way our media – images and sounds – are generated and circulate. Whether in music, film, photography or TV, we’ve seen a broad shift from material forms – whether vinyl records, CDs, VHS tapes or paper photographs – to digital files and signals. All media have been reduced to a shared status as data; ditigal files rapidly transferable through broadband channels. In very 6
broad terms we’ve experienced a shift from analogue to digital forms of media. I want to focus here on the impact of that transformation on photography, where the main shift has been from traditional film cameras, traceable right back to the origins of the medium, to the virtual disappearance of film and its replacement by digital cameras and cameraphones. A similar shift has occurred in the cinema industry with the move to high-definition digital video and digital film cameras. One of the broader consequences of this disappearance of analogue technologies generally, has been a sense of a loss of materiality within our culture. Parents agonise that their children live in cyberspace, in a virtual world of computer games. We increasingly shop online, downloading music, films, and images. And increasingly we read on Kindles and tablets, with predictions that books and bookshops will disappear. Some bemoan the disappearance of the high street, unable to compete with Amazon and online trading. We’ve recently seen photography chain Jessops go bust, as too few buy digital cameras.
HMV too went into receivership because we download music – the music industry wants to preserve it as a kind of material interface, a kind of ‘museum to materiality’, where you don’t actually have to buy anything, but where we can go to gaze at coloured picture vinyl and lovingly touch actual cheap, plastic CDs, somehow reassuring us that somewhere, our digital world has some kind of material correlate. So I also want to consider this loss of materiality as a major aspect of the shift from analogue to digital and to think about how photography might be trying to compensate for that loss. Already, before film has even disappeared entirely, we’ve seen a massive return to disappearing technologies among artists. Artists like Tacita Dean have championed a return to these displaced media, urging that film and the skills associated with it be 2 retained. Outside art, analogue photography has also been part of a retro revival by companies like Urban Outfitters, who have marketed Polaroid film and cameras – Lomo has seen a similar revival. The reasons for this return to analogue are complex. In part we could say there’s an element of nostalgia – a sense of loss in that media with their own distinctive qualities and potentialities are being lost to contemporary artists and photographers. Different films, emulsions, processes, printing papers, etc. all have their own distintive qualities. Some artists have gone back to outmoded processes to explore their possibilities – for example Christian Marclay using the Cyanotype process, or Zoe Leonard transforming a gallery into a camera obscura. Others, such as Fiona Tan, are more concerned with the social uses of images like the family snapshot – what such imagery tells us about how we use vernacular imagery, about shifts in family units, how images function as a kind of ‘social glue’ linking us with others.
This text is an excerpt from a talk by Dr.Neil Mattheson; Materiality and the Photograph” Analogue: the Dematerialisation of the Image
1f Opera Series, Justine, archival pigment print, 2013 1f Opera Series, Duet, archival pigment print, 2013 1f Opera Series, Yuri, Book, silver gelatin prints, 2011
Photography and gestural mark-making collide in these dramatic, large scale photographic prints. Exploring a tenuous relationship with the photographic image, Birtleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work is devoid of a particular physicality. Holly Birtles defaces and manipulates the photographic image using a wide range of media and a complex mix of darkroom and digital processes. In this series she focuses on the portraiture of opera singers during performance. A vital sensory perception has been eradicated from the photograph in the act of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;flatteningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. An elaborate perpetual procedure ironically and faithfully presented as a photographic print homogenised, focused and flattened.
Holly Birtles graduated from The University of Westminster (2008) and The Slade School of Art (2011). She continues to push the flat nature of the photograph via gestural mark-making, additions of clay and digital lumps.
Cracked LCDs 1-3, 5x4 transparencies, lightbox, 2013
In Cracked LCDs Blackmore has been photographing broken Liquid Crystal Display Screens from digital devices such as laptops, phones and cameras; technologies that play a large part in our modern daily routines. These digital forms have almost completely replaced analogue technology in industry and are fast replacing analogue forms in photographic art. Produced using solely traditional photographic equipment, Blackmoreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work catalogues and questions the place of obsolete technology in art and contemporary life. Originally from Dublin, David Blackmore graduated from The University of Westminster in 2005. Currently he is based in London, whilst working part time as a senior lecturer at the University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey.
Image @ Allan Parker
Field No.1, Lambda print from stickered negative, 2013 Hunting, part 2, Lambda print from hole punched negative, 2008 [overleaf] Hunting, part 3, Lambda print from hole punched negative, 2008 [overleaf]
Braineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s primary impulse is in exploring how a photograph can be transformed into an object. Often cutting, drawing with ink, punching holes or overlaying the negatives with adhesive labels, she violates the pristine surface of the photograph forcing the viewer to looktowards the texture of the photographic paper and opens up a newunderstanding of the photographic process and image making.Through her methodology of blocking, erasing and obscuring parts of the image she unsettles our understanding of what is familiar. She teases us with recognisable symbols and visual references that appear to provide us with a certainty of what we are looking at. But we are left to ask; is this a landscape? ls this a photograph? The series The Hunt looks back at Paolo Uccelloâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Hunt in the Forest. The deep black holes create a vigorous dance of a fox and hounds moving across the image. As we peer at the grey and black we begin to fill in the blanks, instilling the black holes with our memories of the countryside. Aliki Braine is a photographic artist and a lecturer in History of Art. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections, has been the winner of several awards - most recently the Matt Roberts Salon Art Prize - and has been featured in publications including HotShoe and Photoworks. She is represented by Troika Editions and lives and works in London.
Phantasmagoria 1, archival pigment print, 2010 Phantasmagoria 2, archival pigment print, 2010
Phantasmagoria explores a state of anxiety caused by the passage of time, specifically in relation to things that disappear through the development of both ideology and technology. Just as the ghosts and demons projected by the 18th century Phantasmagoria or Magic Lantern disappear as the flame of projection is extinguished, this series of images attempt to reflect upon notions of being extinguished, of disappearance and redundancy. The two images here focus on the traces of chemical and silver residue ingrained into darkroom paraphernalia as evidence of the countless images produced and circulated both within a university photography department and the wider world. The image is captured on a large format camera, digitized and then printed onto the surface of matt inkjet paper to highlight a move away from the indexical nature of photographic emulsion to the surface of digital production. Rachel Cunningham is a London based photographic artist. She studied fine art at Middlesex University before working in the photographic industry for several years. Her work has been selected for a number of exhibitions and is held in private collections both in the UK and abroad. rachelcunningham.net
Bore Song, 16mm film loop projected onto float glass, sound Duration: 27 seconds, 2011
From a body of work made along the River Severn. The Severn Bore is a tidal wave that surges up the River Severn. At the time of the spring and autumn equinoxes the bore is at its highest as it roars along the river: With film I attempt to describe distance, time and emotion in physical terms: the filmstrip as a measurement of the time it takes for the bore tide to pass, the length of a breath and the weight of grief. At the edge of the river, a woman sings a single note at the point of the bore tide passing, her voice following the surge of water. In the gesture she performs, she marks my sister’s last breath and my own attempt to throw my grief into the river. The tide carrying breath/voice to the river’s source before it is pulled back out to sea. The film-sculptures are modular and when heard together, Bore Song and Song of Grief form a minor sixth interval. Bore Song is a single take on a clockwork Bolex camera. Louisa Fairclough is represented by Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art London. She lives and works in Bristol. Bore Song has been acquired by the Contemporary Art Society for Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. image (this page and following) © Louisa Fairclough (Camden Arts Centre - London)
Source, C-Type prints, 2011
Helen Goodinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work is predicated on her interest in light and the photographic medium as a scientific process. In Source, Goodin carries out extensive experimentation with light and colour filtration in the analogue darkroom, resulting in a series of photograms. Each photogram is a slight variation in the frequency of light the paper is exposed to, with the resulting colours exploring the subtle variations in the surface of the photographic paper in relation to the changing nature of light.
Helen Goodin is a British artist based in Cambridge. She graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, with an MFA in Photography. After graduating, she was selected for The Photographersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Gallery Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed (2012) and is currently mentored by Susan Derges.
Constanza Isaza Martinez
Untitled, from the Silver Salts series Salt print on watercolour paper, 2010
Constanza Isaza Martinezâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work draws inspiration from research into the history of the photographic medium, particularly nineteenth-century photographic printing techniques. The images remain photographic due to the processes and chemicals used, but also differ from more familiar forms of photography because they are made without cameras or negatives. The resulting works are abstract, unique pieces: without a negative, they cannot be reproduced. They explore the expressive potential of photography, focusing on the surface of the print rather than the picture beyond or behind this surface, and paring down the medium to its most essential components: light and chemistry. Constanza Isaza Martinez is a visual artist, researcher, curator and educator based in London. She received her BA in Photographic Arts from the University of Westminster in 2007, and her MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute in 2012. She co-owns Lux Darkroom, where she teaches historical photographic processes.
ARMENOUI KASPARIAN SARAIDARI
Tracing Back 01, – archival piment print, 2012 Tracing Back 03 – archival piment print, 2012
The project traces back the history of the Armenians of Diaspora while settling in Greece in the 1920’s. The fundamental referent of the project is the artist’s family archive. In her practice Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari recreates images taken from her family’s collection and places them in specific locations related to the settlement period of the Armenian refugees. The black and white photographs that appear enlarged and printed on semi transparent paper bring in contrast present with past. Tracing Back highlights the importance of the materiality of the picture object. The photographic archive here serves a double role; firstly it offers a perspective to knowledge and history, but at the same time each image serves its own role as a component in the picture. The project consists of photographs of fragmented moments with references to the historical events and links to the traumatic experiences of the Armenian Genocide. The performative role of the artist in the creation of the installations is an allegory of the continuous movement of her ancestors through time.
Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari was awarded a Masters Degree in Photography from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in July 2013. Currently she is studying for a Research Degree (PhD) at Central Saint Martins and is funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for her doctorate.
Homo Bulla – Daguerrotype, 2013
Many and strange are the universes that drift like bubbles in the foam upon the River of Time - Arthur C. Clarke
Melanie’s MA thesis compared 17th Century Dutch Vanitas paintings which used the soap bubble as a visual metaphor for the brevity of life, and compared these to multiverse and inflation theory, considering whether the universe is just a quantum fluctuation from nothing. Many physicists use soap and foam to describe cosmological happenings, as if the bubble universe could pop in and out of existence at any time. It is said we are one amongst a sea of bubble universes. In Homo Bulla, Melanie was keen to use the daguerreotype due to its unique reflective properties. As you approach the daguerreotype, the image appears and disappears, and can only be viewed from a certain perspective. Additionally, the use of the daguerreotype refers to Victorian memorial culture, as daguerreotypes were often used to keep portraits of passed loved ones close at hand. The bubble exists for a couple of earth seconds, maintaining a perfect shape, refracting and reflecting it’s surroundings. Melanie’s work encourages us to view the existence of life as something beautiful and precious, existing for mere seconds in the entire timespan of the universe.
Melanie King is a recent graduate from the MA Art and Science course at Central Saint Martins. Melanie is also part of the Space Is Ace art collective along with three other Art and Science graduates, all of whom have a strong interest in astronomy.
Diana, from the series The Time of my Life, photogravure, 2013
This portraiture series, The Time of My Life, examines the textural and tonal characteristics of early photographic printmaking processes. In these photogravure examples, print surface and tactility complements the choice of mature and older subjects. The sitters’ skin, faces and bodies offer a generosity of texture and provide and opportunity for affectively and aesthetically nuanced printmaking. Peter Moseley practices the photographic process of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He investigates aspects of the surface texturality and tonality of early photomechanical printing processes. His works has been shown at the Royal West of England Academy (2012), the Royal Society of Printmakers Painters (2012), Impact 8 (2013) and at two solo shows of portraiture - ‘Take Five’ (2005) and ‘Volte Face’ (2010).
ALLAN FORRESTER PARKER
Someone to watch over me, liquid emulsion on stone, 2013
These aerial photographs of an unspecified country are printed in the darkroom on stone slabs. The work aligns themes of surveillance and warfare with the vulnerability of civilian populations, conflating the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;view from aboveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; with ruins and the detritus of history. The uneven surfaces play tricks with the perspective, the illusion of height and superiority undercut by the proximity of the objects as sculptures.
Allan Parker works primarily with texts and images. He is a graduate of Reading University (Fine Art ) and teaches in the Photography Dept. at the University of Westminster.
Dreaming of Mermaid, from the series Stillness in Time, tintype, 2010
ln her series Stillness in Time, Parkin photographs children using the wet plate collodion process â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a slow and careful process that is the antithesis to the frantic, sometimes pressurized world these children live in. Working in a dark tent, in a garden, studio or field, Parkin pours the collodion on to a metal (tintype) or glass (ambrotype) plate, sensitizes it in a bath of silver nitrate, and places the wet plate in the camera for exposure. Once the image is exposed, it is developed and fixed in the dark tent and then varnished. The collodion process is painstaking and temperamental, with many factors including temperature, the age of the collodion, and the handling of the plates affecting the final outcome. Like Julia Margaret Cameron, Parkin uses the imperfections of the process to her advantage, making each image unique|y`ners, with the trace of her hand imprinted in the surface of each plate during every phase of the image-making process
Deborah Parkin is a photographer based in rural Northumberland, UK. She holds a Ph.D in Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s War Writing and an MA in Holocaust Studies. Parkinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has been published by Galerie Vevais. She has exhibited intemationally and her work is held in collections around the world.
Afterword (Grinding a Lens for King’s College Chapel) DVD with sound, duration 14min, 2012/2013 Observation 123, bromide print, 1997/2013
Between 1985 and 1989, Dr Roderick Willstrop, a now retired astronomer at Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy (IOA) designed and built The Three Mirror Telescope (3MT). Over the first two years that the 3MT, a camera telescope, was operational, Dr Willstrop set about conducting a series of experiments and tests, building up a substantial number of photographic negatives of different regions of the night sky. In 1991 the telescope was modified to capture images digitally, although in 1997, Willstrop refitted the original film carousel so that he could make an analogue image of Hale-Bop, a newly discovered comet, rather than a digital one. The Hale-Bop negative was to be the 123rd that he made with the telescope. Later that year, the 3MT’s funding was withdrawn which ultimately lead to it being decommissioned. Dr Willstrop would go on to become Chair of the Libraries Committee, but the subsequent closure of the darkrooms at the IOA stopped him from making any more prints from his archive of negatives. In total, Dr Willstrop’s 3MT produced a set of 125 film negatives, many of which had not been printed until now.
Sophy Rickett graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2003 and is represented by Brancolini Grimaldi. Her current show ‘Objects in the Field’ is currently on display at Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge.
Family Obscured, duratrans, lightbox, 2011
Family Obscured attempts photographic recycling. Utilizing techniques developed during his earlier work ‘Creation through Destruction’, the unwanted and forgotten negatives from the cupboards and lofts of strangers were subjected to chemical abuse to remove any semblance of what they might have been. The negatives were then scanned and printed as the whole strip, far larger than their familiar 6x4 high-street roots. Whilst the original images have morphed and leaked into one another, individual frames no longer exist. Whilst the process is specific, the contents and outcome are completely random and aim to twist and contrast the original photographic medium. The original prints are likely to be cherished family memories, the chemistry produces a consistent style but with random formations of colours and shapes. Although initially neglected, the destruction of the negative has in turn transformed the original family print as it is no longer a copy that can be easily reproduced. Taylor’s piece is about metamorphosis; of both the negative, from discarded object to an image of abstraction and curiosity and also of the original owners print, from clone to an individual artefact, albeit unknown. The work is currently displayed as two quarters of the whole in a double-sided light-box.
Sam Taylor graduated from University of Westminster with a BA in Photographic Arts. He has exhibited as part of the art collective AgNO8 during the Brighton Photo Fringe and East London’s Photomonth. He lives and works in London.
Let These Lifeless Features Remind You Of Something Alive, Archival photographs, 2013
In Summer 2012, Fedor made two journeys to one of the depopulated rural areas on the left bank of Volga River, 350 kilometres north of Moscow. He visited several abandoned villages located around former Soviet collective farms to document traditional rural houses and their deserted interiors. These looted houses stand in the landscape like frozen time machines, still holding the traces of their absent owners. He chose a selection of family photographs from the decaying buildings which fired his interest in abandoned family archives. He articulates these collections of images as alternatives to official histories that frequently conceal individual memory and personal attitudes. Some of the hand written notes on the backs of the photographs translate as follows: “To my dear nan, from Olechka”, “to long memory from husband Jenya”, “to my beloved grandma”, “In memory of 2nd May 1954. Friends of youth”.
Fedor Toshchev is a Russian visual artist. He got his BA and MA in economics from Moscow State University in 1997 and 1999 accordingly. In 2013, he received an MA in Photography from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
image © Andrés Pantoja
Lustre 1-4, archival pigment prints, 2013
Lustre is a series of twenty photographs exploring the surface of a single sheet of processed chromogenic colour paper. The work explores our engagement with the photograph as an object. By creasing and bending the paper support until an irreversible mark appears, the flat plane of paper becomes a sculpture. In the absence of an image, the traces left by handling are the only meaningful signs. Re-photographed, the paper is returned to its original two-dimensional form. Its emphatic blankness heightens the ambiguity of photographic space. The white surface, takes on an ethereal quality, the illusion of marks held in tension with the flatness of the image. The expanse of white blurs the distinction between the edges of the paper and the edges of the image, playing with our perception of illusion and reality.
Bindi Vora recently graduated from University of Westminster with a BA in Photographic Arts (First Class Honours). She has participated several group exhibitions in London and Switzerland. She has recently been selected for Enter 13 an annual graduate showcase and for the Brighton Photo Fringe. She lives and works in London.
Byoung Joon Yoon
Agency of Light, diptych, C-type prints, 2013
Colour is always affiliated to ‘things’, but does not belong to them. It is not a substantial quality, but a variable, unfixable or temporal property. Each diptych in this series, consisting of a photograph and a photogram of a colour composition created with a simultaneous exposure, is a photographic exploration on ‘being’ and ‘nothingness’. Authenticity and reproducibility, primary colours and complementary colours, and eventually ‘things’ and shadows, are all intermingled with each other, by virtue of the agency of light.
Byoung Joon Yoon, a photographic artist from South Korea, studied BA Photographic Arts in the University of Westminster. His major interest is the materiality of photographic media and its relationship with the representational nature of photography. He currently lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.
ALIA ZAPPAROVA & MIA CUK
Can you imagine a being more crazed with sadness than a messenger who can deliver nothing? - Mark Cousins
Untitled - archival pigment prints, 2013
The glass negatives depicted in this series were found by chance and photographed in sunlight, seeking to re-awaken them in the present. The scenes and figures imprinted on the glass are of unclear origin and their meaning is uncertain; the content seems to have dissolved into an inert materiality. Time has transformed them from images to abandoned objects, but capturing the moment of contact with the sun allows the object to become an image once again. . 61
Alia Zapparova and Mia Cuk are photographic artists based in London. They collaborate on exploring the unmapped surfaces of the city and archiving the insignificant, lost details of its everyday life. www.duststudies.org
Georges Bataille’s Grave, Vézelay, silver gelatin print, 2013
This photograph is of Georges Bataille’s grave, the resting place of the writer who once so eloquently united the worlds of religion, death and love through acts of violence; haunting us during nights of self-induced insomnia and terror. In more general terms, the photograph is an image of death. It opens itself up to nothingness, a dark abyss created by the excess of light hitting the sensitive surface of photographic paper; the ripped and damaged film violently interrupting the depicted scene and exposing the hollow emptiness of the image itself. Bataille’s friend Maurice Blanchot interestingly observed that images and cadavers have a lot in common, both directly bound to something that once was. In their stillness they show us a quite different picture from the image with which we were once familiar.
Tereza Zelenkova (b. 1985, Czech Republic) works predominantly with black and white photography, creating series based on poetic relationships between individual images. She received her MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art in London in 2012. She has several self-published books including Supreme Vice published by Mörel Books. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in collections held by the Saatchi Gallery and Fotomuseum Winterthur. The Absence of Myth, her first solo exhibition in London, opened at Legion TV in October 2013 and is accompanied by an artist book with the same title.
JULIA MARGARET CAMERON
Beatrice Cenci, carbon print from collodion negative, c1869 (printed c1890)
Julia Margaret Cameron’s work can be loosely divided in two strands: the first are portraits of her contemporaries and family members; and the second are allegorical works depicting historical or literary characters. Beatrice Cenci falls into the second category. ln this photograph, Cameron’s niece May Prinsep plays the role of Beatrice Cenci, a sixteenth-century Italian noblewoman whose family were the subject of a scandalous murder trial in Rome. Beatrice, her siblings and mother were accused of assassinating their father, whom they accused of abuse, rape and incest. The public was captivated by the trial, which nonetheless resulted in the torture, conviction, and execution of the Cenci family. The tragic story inspired many artists and writers, including the painter Guido Reni and the English Romantic poet Percy Shelley, who wrote a play about the Cenci family in 1819 after seeing Reni’s portrait of Beatrice in ltaly. The composition of Cameron’s photograph is also based on the Reni portrait.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, carbon print from collodion negative, c1870 (printed 1880s)
The Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson was Julia Margaret Cameron’s close friend and neighbour on the Isle of Wight, and Cameron made many portraits of him during the course of their friendship. Cameron was well-known for her lack of interest in the crisp, technically accomplished commercial photography of her time, preferring instead to make use of the imperfections of her medium for artistic purposes. In this portrait of Lord Tennyson - as in many of Cameron’s portraits - the focus is deliberately soft. Cameron said of her focusing tecnique that when ‘coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.’many of her contemporaries criticised what they saw as her lack of proficiency in the technical aspects of photography. However, Cameron continued to make use of technical imperfections of her wet plate collodion negatives - a notoriously complex process - to allude to the hand of the artist in the making of the image and differentiate her photography from commercial and scientific fields, instead placing it on a par with fine art painting and sculpture.
Julia Margaret Cameron (1830-1901) was at the forefront of nineteenth-century artistic photography, and at the centre of a group of Victorian artists, scientists and intellectuals, many of whom she made portraits of.
image @ Allan Parker
HENRY PEACH ROBINSON
When the Days Work is Done, carbon print from multiple negatives, 1877
‘One ofthe best models l ever employed was an old man of seventy- four. He was a crossing-sweepen I should never have accomplished one of my best works ifl had not seen him sitting at a table in my studio, waiting, till l could talk to him. I not only saw the old man there, but mentally the old lady and the interior ofthe cottage...The old man, by his attitude and expression, gave the germ of the idea; the old lady had to be found, and the cottage built, but they appeared to me then quite visibly and solidly’ Henry Peach Robinson When the Days Work is Done is perhaps Robinson’s best-known work and a clear example of the constructed photograph. From the initial idea to the printing process, Robinson constructed tableaux to match the image in his mind, often using various different negatives - a process known as combination printing - to construct a single image. In this photograph, six different negatives were used; the most easily discerned seam between negatives is the vertical line between the light and dark areas of the backgound.’
Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) was a Pictorialist photographer and writer. Although his work has fallen out of fashion, he was an extremely infuential figure in nineteenth century photography and the undisputed master of combination printing.