The Getty Center in Los Angeles is showing Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography until 6 September, an exhibition that focuses on a small group of artists that use photographic materials and processes to produce imagery and objects that are difficult to categorise. Darius Himes, Christie’s International Head of Photographs, believes the show is emblematic of a growing interest in analogue photographic objects: ‘At their heart, these works disclose in new ways the specific materials of photography as well as the processes that create images, while either obscuring the latent image or enhancing it — sometimes the obscuring or enhancing effect is in the eye of the beholder!’ Himes recommends visitors look out for work by three of the artists showing at the Getty: Marco Breuer, Chris McCaw and Alison Rossiter. This trio is represented at Photo London by the New York-based Yossi Milo Gallery.
Left: Alison Rossiter, Haloid Military, expired October 1957, processed in 2014 (#3), Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York © Alison Rossiter. Right: Marco Breuer, Untitled (C-1485), 2014, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York © Marco Breuer
This period saw the invention of dozens of distinct processes, ranging from daguerreotypes, talbotypes and Van Dyke browns, to Woodburytypes, cyanotypes, ambrotypes and more. Yet what makes the early decades of the 19th century so fascinating, Himes argues, is that the beginnings of photography coincided with the rich ferment of the Industrial Revolution. ‘Our collective understanding of the world, on both a micro and macro level, was in rapid development,’ he says. ‘Thinkers, scientists, mathematicians and artists explored the wealth of information that was pouring into the collective consciousness.’
Tate Britain’s current exhibition Salt and Silver: A Rare and Revealing Collection of Early Photography (ends June 7) offers an excellent introduction to one particular technique — salted paper, while at Photo London, Robert and Paula Hershkowitz, private dealers specialising in pre-1860 masterworks, are showing pieces by key pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Lewis Carroll.
Left: © Linnaeus Tripe, Courtesy Robert Hershkowitz Gallery, UK. Right: Samuel Bourne, Lepcha Woman, Courtesy Robert Hershkowitz Gallery, UK © Samuel Bourne
Understanding the background of particular photographers enriches our understanding of their practice. Take one extremely influential exhibition from the early 1970s that has shaped the discourse of photography ever since: New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, curated by William Jenkins at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, which included a group of curious, yet influential photographer-artists. ‘They were less interested in the grandiosity of the National Parks — a space artistically owned by figures like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston — and more intrigued by society’s impact on the immediate surroundings,’ Himes explains.
One of them, Stephen Shore, is making a rare appearance in London to give talks at the National Portrait Gallery and Courtauld Institute as part of his promotional tour for his latest book Survivors in Ukraine (Phaidon) , a haunting visual record of the nation’s Holocaust survivors. Shore’s peer Lewis Baltz, who passed away last November, is represented by Cologne-based Galerie Thomas Zander , as is another New Topographics alumnus, Henry Wessel. A final key landscape photographer from this era, Frank Gohlke, is showing with New York’s Howard Greenberg Gallery.
Amid the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s, the Provoke movement in Japan acted as a brash rejection of artistic and cultural norms. Over the following decades, many photographers from that period have became powerhouses in their fields, with their work becoming highly collectible. One of the most celebrated and controversial is Nobuyoshi Araki, who is represented at Photo London by Taka Ishii Gallery, a vital resource for learning about Japanese trends with its branches in Tokyo and Paris. It is also showing work by other key figures that emerged in that period, Eikoh Hosoe and Daido Moriyama.
Another exhibitor with strong Japanese representation is Zurich’s Christophe Guye Gallerie, which leans towards a more conceptual, contemporary aesthetic, here showing works by artists from a younger generation, including the contemplative Rinko Kawauchi and Risaku Suzuki, noted for his gorgeous meditations on tree blossoms.
Nobuyoshi Araki, Tokyo Story, 1989/2015. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery
Contemporary artists that work loosely within a narrative framework have become highly collectible, Himes advises. They are following in an illustrious tradition that stretches back to 19th century adventure photographers and on through the photo-journalists that found fame in the Second World War, and then in-depth photo-essays linked to lengthy articles. ‘Viewed from a certain vantage point, the entire history of photography is one of storytelling,’ says Himes. ‘The long-form story, sometimes months and years in the making, is well-established and can be a powerful medium.’
Contemporary artists to look out for include Alec Soth, whose latest collection, Songbook, is published by relative newcomer MACK, which has a stand at the fair. Martin Parr will be signing books during the fair’s preview day, while Jane Hilton (see main image) is showing images of the American West with London-based gallery Eleven Fine Art , which represents emerging artists.
Away from Photo London, a work from W Eugene Smith’s 1940s Country Doctor essay is to be auctioned at Christie’s, London, on May 22 as part of the sale 20/21 Photographs: Selected by James Danziger. Work by Simon Roberts, meanwhile, is available through the online-only auction British Modern and Contemporary Photography, until May 21.
W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978), Dr Ernest Ceriani makes a house call on foot, Kremmling, Colorado (from 'Country Doctor' essay), September 20, 1948. Gelatin silver print, probably printed 1960s. Image: 39.4 x 49.9cm. (15 ½ x 19 5/8in.) Sheet: 41.6 x 51.4cm. (16 3/8 x 20 ¼in.) Estimate £5,000-7,000. This work is offered in our 20/21 Photographs: Selected by James Danziger sale in London on 22 May.
Since the early Noughties, we have seen an explosion in the genre, along with the development of scholarship into the roles photography books have played in the medium throughout its history. ‘This has been driven by a wonderful constellation of factors,’ Himes explains. ‘Early in the decade came celebrated volumes by figures like Andrew Roth, Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, plus a whole host of small and smart publishers such as Gerhard Steidl, Michael Mack, Aperture and Nazraeli Press — as well as the publishing and distribution-whizzes at Artbook.com.”
Photo London hosts a commendable range of publishers. Major players Thames and Hudson, Hatje Cantz, Dewi Lewis and Phaidon are represented, the latter showing Parr and Badger’s comprehensive Photobook: A History series. German imprint Kehrer Verlag is bringing a fascinating range of new works by the likes of Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian and Sheila Rock, plus a third edition of the hard-hitting War Porn by Christoph Bangert. The New York-based Aperture Foundation hosts a range of events, including signings from the likes of Sebastião Salgado, and LaToya Ruby Frazier in conversation at the Courtauld Institute.
MACK, meanwhile, has Ciarán Óg Arnold’s memorably titled winner of photography’s First Book Award, I Went to the Worst of Bars Hoping to Get Killed. But All I Could Do Was to Get Drunk Again. You should also check out publications from the Japanese print specialist Amana and the charity Autograph ABP, which promotes marginalised practices.
Main image at top: Jane Hilton, Cowboy, Valley of the Gods, Utah, 2015. C-Type Hand Print. 23 x 28 in / 58.5 x 71 cm. Edition of 7. Courtesy of Eleven Fine Art, London
Photo London is at Somerset House, London, May 21-24
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