Monday, 5 November 2007

Experimental photography

Fox Talbot, Botanical Specimen, 1839
Photogenic Drawing

A BBC4 documentary on the Genius of Photography was repeated tonight. It's second part examined the impact of experimental photography as art - notably for surrealism and dadaism. Intrigued by the experimentation with subject - e.g. extreme close-up and the taken-out-of-context - as well as chemicals, I had a look for some of the images and techniques used.

A couple of names stand out - and stand as exemplars for processes, ideas and practices:

- Fox Talbot's sun pictures of the 1830s where he created light sensitive paper on which he could 'draw' by placing objects on top of the paper and then exposing it to the sun.

- August Strindberg's celestographs, exposing photographic plates to the night sky to capture the cosmos.

- Man Ray's photographic experiments: photograms or rayographs; with the solarisation process which makes human skin appear aluminium-like. But also, his 'straight' photography where abstraction is achieved by omitting scale and recognisable reference points. Most notably in the famous Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, 1920, Dust Breeding

Here's a great article by Ben Lifson, a US-based photography teacher, on working with abstraction to composition. Well illustrated and written, it examines different genres and approaches to explore the potential for abstraction while looking at the composition of various artworks. Beginning with landscapes by Constable and Corot, the article then moves on to abstract photography. It is well worth a read and the illustrations are very useful.

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