The idea of ‘camera-less photography’ seems contradictory. Saturated with lens-created images from television, advertising billboards, books and social networking sites, we consider the definition of photography as ‘images created using a camera’. However, camera-less techniques predate ‘normal’ photography. In fact, the ‘father of photography’, William Henry Fox Talbot, continued to experiment with these methods even after developing the first photographic negative in 1835.
Photographs are often posited as ‘capturing the truth’, as being a ‘true reflection of the world’. In contrast, the camera-less photographs of the Shadow Catchers exhibition seem to capture glimpses of multiple truths, a world of imagination. The show comprises the work of 5 artists with over 20 years experience in creating camera-less photographs. The images are produced by either chemically manipulating the surface of photographic paper, or through a mixture of casting and blocking light onto photosensitive paper. The various works deal with themes such as light, nature, power, puzzles, mystery, absence, shadow and science.
Floris Neusüss opens the show with a reference to the past, ‘Homage to Talbot: The Latticed Window, Lacock Abbey, 2010’ which recalls that first photographic negative of 1835. His shadowy floating female figures then lead onto the work of Pierre Cordier. The altered surfaces of Cordier’s ‘chemigrams’ resemble alien code, microcosms, and even melting ice-cream. They are often intellectually inspired as well as playfully titled.
Garry Fabian Miller’s images are diverse, including anatomically-precise leaves of different shades; colour studies reminiscent of abstract paintings and large-scale cosmic fantasies. Science and the surreal come together in the work of Susan Derges with studies of the life-cycle of toad-spawn, while a series of images depict the same scene during the four seasons, and finally various water ‘photograms’, one showing a river frozen like cracked glass. The symbolic images of Adam Fuss are concerned with the unseen as well as themes of life & death. The show ends with a work from the series ‘In Between’, of an upwards-reaching ladder silhouette. Representing an “emblem of aspiration”, it is a fitting conclusion to an inspirational exhibition.