A History of Photography in Which the Camera Is Absent   Leave a comment

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 Pages from ‘Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph,’ with photographs by Charles David Winter and Jacob von Narkiewicz-Jodko (photo of the book for Hyperallergic)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

Batchen points out that what helped cameraless photography thrive in postwar art was the ability to layer images into two-dimensional assemblages, something practiced by artists like Man Ray and Christian Schad. László Moholy-Nagy especially excelled at it with his dynamic photograms, some of which are on view in his current retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum.

“Many artists responded by seeking to abandon or overthrow prevailing conventions of reality, conventions associated with bourgeois society and therefore with the established social and political system,” Batchen states. “In other words, seeing itself became a political issue.”

And this augmenting of seeing keeps cameraless photography interesting, with plenty of curiosities packed in Emanations. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 2008 “Lightning Fields” capture electric discharge right on the plates, while Michael Flomen started making in 1999 impressions of the paths of fireflies as they moved on color reversal film, and in 1993 Joan Fontcuberta covered his whole car windshield with film and blasted it with light to capture the dead insects and dirt. The main connection between these historic and contemporary projects is the lack of the camera as a framing device, as well as treating the photograph as a tactile medium, a light-sensitive blank slate on which to capture some ghostly, fleeting impression of the world.

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

Anna Atkins, “Partridge” (1856–61), cyanotype, from presentation album, compiled in 1861, 25.5 x 20.0 cm (courtesy Hans P. Kraus Jr.)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

Oscar Gustave Rejlander in collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron, Untitled (“Kate Dore with Photogram Frame of Ferns”) (1862), albumen photograph, 19.6 × 15.0 cm (courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum)

Pages from 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' (photo of the book for Hyperallergic)

Pages from ‘Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph,’ with work by Robert Rauschenberg (photo of the book for Hyperallergic)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

E. E. Fournier d’Albe, “Shadowgraph of Ectoplasm from the Irish Goligher Circle” (June 13, 1921), gelatin silver photograph (courtesy Cambridge University Library)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

Curtis Moffat, “Abstract Composition” (1925), gelatin silver photograph, 36.5 × 29.0 cm (courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum)

Pages from 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' (photo of the book for Hyperallergic)

Pages from ‘Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph,’ with photographs by György Kepes (photo of the book for Hyperallergic)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph

Len Lye, “Georgia O’Keeffe” (1947), gelatin silver photograph, 42.9 × 35.9 cm (courtesy Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth)

Shimpei Takeda, "Trace #7, Nihonmatsu Castle (Nihonmatsu, Fukushima)" (2012), gelatin silver photograph, 40.0 × 50.5 cm (courtesy the artist)

Shimpei Takeda, “Trace #7, Nihonmatsu Castle (Nihonmatsu, Fukushima)” (2012), gelatin silver photograph, 40.0 × 50.5 cm (courtesy the artist)

Bai Yiluo, "Dead Flies" (detail) (2001), five gelatin silver photographs hung side-by-side as a unit (courtesy Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing and Lucerne)

Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph is out now from Prestel/Delmonico BooksThe Emanations exhibition continues at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (42 Queen Street, New Plymouth, New Zealand) through August 14. 

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